Robins desert,should we remove old nest?

Hi,We have an established robin box in our garden and a pair have been very active for some time but recently seemed to shift their focus from our garden..Usually we know when she is on the nest but not this time.I looked in the box and found 2 cold eggs and 1 dead chick( the cold spell?) which I removed leaving the nest.

Will the old nest be reused or should I remove it to give someone another chance to nest afresh.

The pair still come into our garden to feed but not so frequently.


  • I think opinion may be divided on this one, for me it depends on how clean the nest is - if it looks contaminated I'd take it out, but leave any clean nesting material nearby for other birds to use. However I'd add that technically it is illegal to disturb a nest during breeding season. I don't think those robins will go back to the old nest but perhaps other birds may use it, or take the material for their own nest.

  • Hi Artio

    Nestbox cleaning or maintenance is a job for the autumn and winter, legally you are only allowed to clear out the old nesting material and deserted eggs between 1 August and 31 January. Obviously you cannot keep the eggs, they must be disposed of.

    During the course of the breeding season (March-August for most garden species), robins will attempt to raise 3 or 4 broods if conditions allow often using more than one site. In doing so they may build on top of previous nests or remove unwanted material, replacing it with fresh. Basically during the the breeding season you should leave it to the birds and not interfere at all, emptying the boxes come October though is worth doing to give them a clean slate to start with the following spring.

    Warden Intern at Otmoor.

  • Although in this case I can't see this being anything other than a case of nest desertion, one of the reasons for the legal restriction about when you can remove abandoned eggs from nests (as detailed by Ian) is to prevent mistakes.

    When they are laying a clutch most birds do not brood the eggs until the clutch is complete, and it may only be the female that visits, and then only when she is ready to lay a new egg. This means that it is easy to overlook nest visits, and because the eggs are not being brooded they may feel cold to the touch - so there is a possibility that people may unwittingly discard viable, active nests because they mistakenly think that they are abandoned.