Wrens are fun and perky backyard birds, and while they readily use birdhouses, offering the right type of wren house can attract these birds more easily and encourage them to take up residence to raise their families.
Why Wrens Need Houses
Wrens are cavity-nesting birds, but while some wrens build their own elaborate structures, a few wren species will eagerly investigate artificial structures. House wrens, Carolina wrens, and Bewick's wrens will all use birdhouses. Wrens can also be competitive and will aggressively chase away other birds from their nesting sites, so more open sites, including houses, will give them more opportunities to find just the right spot to settle down.
A male wren may build up to 12 nests for their mates, but only one will serve as a home for the hatchlings. Once the female wren has selected her preferred spot, she will then add a soft lining to cushion her eggs.
Wren House Dimensions
Wrens are adaptable birds and may nest in a wide range of unusual places, including in garden pots, mailboxes, drainpipes, garden boots, or other unique options. Providing a house with the proper dimensions to suit these little birds will keep them safer and minimize the risks they face from hazardous nesting sites, predators, or invasive birds.
- Entrance Hole: The proper entrance hole size permits wrens to enter but will help keep other species, including house sparrows and European starlings, from taking advantage of the house and evicting the wrens. Because wrens use a wide range of nesting material that can include larger twigs, however, a slightly larger entrance hole can be useful for the birds to actively build their nests. Ideally, the entrance hole should range from 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
- Entrance Height: Wrens are active climbing birds and can happily use taller houses, but the ideal height of the entrance is 3-6 inches above the floor of the house. A lower hole can endanger nestlings that might topple out as they grow, but too tall of a reach can trap nestlings inside a house even when they need to leave and enter the outside world.
- Interior Floor Space: A square interior floor measuring four inches on each side is the best spacing for all types of wrens. These birds can have substantial broods, often from 3-8 or more eggs at once. The wide floor space can accommodate multiple hatchlings without overcrowding or smothering them, but still keeping them close enough to comfort and warm each other.
- Total House Height: The overall height of a wren birdhouse should be 6-8 inches tall. This provides sufficient space for the birds' safety and comfort while brooding, but without being so large that more aggressive birds or other predators can invade the house.
Many wren houses are diamond-shaped with wide sides that offer young birds more space to grow while still keeping them snug and allowing for adequate nesting material, but wrens may nest in houses of any shape if the overall dimensions are suitable.
Wren House Placement
Even the most perfect house won't attract wrens if it is put in the worst place. Proper birdhouse placement for wrens means positioning the house 4-10 feet above the ground, ideally attached to a wall, pole, or post for stability, though some wrens don't mind hanging or swaying houses. The house can be attached near a porch or deck since wrens don't typically mind being close to human activity, but it should be kept away from the busiest places. Nearby trees or shrubs will provide good shelter for the birds as well as a ready foraging space, but the house should not be buried deep in the foliage. The entrance should be angled away from prevailing winds, as wrens can be sensitive to cold, and placing the house where it can get some sunlit warmth early in the morning but will be shaded during the hottest part of the day can help birds better regulate their temperature.
Tips for Wren Houses
Wrens can be hyperactive and may investigate a new house quickly, but if they aren't nesting right away, it is possible to encourage even more interest in available houses. To bring wrens to a birdhouse:
- Remove perches that could be used by invasive birds or predators, endangering brooding wrens and their nestlings.
- Put houses up early so curious wrens can investigate the structure as soon as they are ready to nest, which can be very early in spring.
- Ensure the house has adequate ventilation and drainage holes that can accommodate a large brood while minimizing discomfort and contamination.
- Offer a wide variety of nesting materials for wrens to choose from, including feathers, fur, grass, twigs, and leaves.
- Clean out old nests so the house remains clean and clear for the next wren family to enjoy.
Wrens can be lively backyard residents and many birders enjoy watching both adults and fledglings explore their surroundings. By providing the best wren birdhouses, any birder can invite wrens and their families to become regular guests.
Audubon. “House Wren,” November 13, 2014. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/house-wren.
“Carolina Wren Life History, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.” Accessed August 11, 2021. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Carolina_Wren/lifehistory.