How to tame a Robin

Robin Red Breast, even his name sounds adorable. Erithacus Rubecula to give him his proper title, sounds grand and pompous, so unlike his seemingly friendly, mischievous character. My Robin is called Christopher, but then I imagine most are.

Who hasn’t seen a robin on their garden fence and stopped for a moment to watch and smile? Or cocked an ear to listen to the pretty year round birdsong, particularly in the dusky evenings when he likes nothing more than to sing by street light.

Who would have ever thought that this timid little creature could be tamed, would feel safe enough to perch on his human’s shoulder and take food from his hand?

It happens and is relatively simple to do.

Here’s how..

Get to know your robin

Robins are territorial and will return to your garden time and time again.  They nest on low ground somewhere concealed, they love a climbing plant that they can nestle inside, hidden from predators.

The Robin is comfortable busying themselves in your garden, watching you put the hard work in turning the soil over, for them to swoop at the first sign of ‘lunch’ wriggling in the ground!

Robins are timid, they will flee at any sign of a challenge. So any attempt to makes friends will be strictly on his terms, when he is good and ready.



When to tame a Robin?

Early spring is a good time, last year’s bulbs are poking their heads through the ground so you naturally find yourself in the garden anyhow. The bright yellows, vivid purples and soft oranges, along with the aroma of his treats, attract your robin too.

He is full of the joys of Spring, he found a mate at the start of the year and the chicks are due to hatch any time soon. He is on the hunt for food to keep the wife and kids happy!

Bribery works every time!

Robins are no fools, you want him to land on your hand then you’d better have a particularly tasty treat awaiting him.

Fruit suet blocks work well, as do fresh pieces of fruit or nuts. But a robin will sell his soul to the devil for a juicy mealworm! So stock up on these treats and it shouldn’t be long before you have a visitor to your garden.  

Once he’s there just carry on about your business, they are clever little creatures and will soon realise that you offer no threat.

Now it’s time to act…



The Hand of Friendship

Begin with throwing him a worm every now and again, getting closer to you over time and making the whole trust issue a slow and gradual process.

Wander into the garden with the mealworms in your hand and stand in full view of your bird whilst still being in a more sheltered area, maybe next to a fence with climbing plants, or beneath a tree.

Then… .here’s comes the science..

HOLD OUT YOUR HAND

Yep, that’s it. Arm outstretched, palm up, treats on show.

And wait. Patiently. Quietly.

Don’t get too disheartened if he doesn’t come. It’s a slow, trust building relationship, as with all fledgling friendships.



The First Time

Magical, that’s the word that springs to mind. This tiny bird landed perfectly on my fingertips, so feather light and fleeting that if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might not have believed it happened.

He stabbed a worm with his sharp beak and then spread his majestic wings and  flew away, blowing my hair with the strong gush of air he created. A second or two and it  was over.

And that’s how simple it was.

And I was hooked. So I persevered.

The Next Steps

It’s very much more of the same and within a short span of time you should find your new friend will come with ease, almost as if he’s waiting for you, tapping his watch and shaking his head like an annoyed Boss when you’re two minutes late to work!

The experience becomes no less entertaining, even therapeutic and often breath-taking.  I   find myself chatting away to Christopher as I garden, what must the neighbours think?!

We have reached the point where he is comfortable enough to sit on the kitchen windowsill when he sees me in there and a couple of times he has been chirruping on the backdoor step when it has been open, not quite tough enough to cross the threshold yet. Lunch time!

He spends longer in my hand now too, so I can actually admire his beauty. He has landed and stayed awhile on my shoulder a few times, I think he likes the vantage point where he gets first glimpse of any grubs!



Dynamic Duo

I have researched this at some length to see if it’s a regular occurrence, and apparently, it is.

Others have managed to take it much further, the actor Mackenzie Crook, writes  lovingly of his little robin, more creatively called “Winter George”, who perches on his shoulder as he prepares family meals and has brought the wife around for dinner! Amazing.

I hope you give this a try, it is so uplifting.

I will persevere with Christopher, I won’t stop until I become the Batman to his Robin!

24 thoughts on “How to tame a Robin”

  1. I have a robin who taps at the window and stays in my garden all day, obviously the food I put out is ALL and ONLY for him! He is quite tame but timid at the same time

    Reply
  2. I have been feeding a Robin for 8weeks he was feeding the female but has been on his own for a couple of weeks he is here waiting on a morning and comes and goes all day I haven’t seen him for two days is this usual

    Reply
    • Please can anyone answer this
      We raised a robin who had been left by its mother, and is now a juvenile
      She’s been coming for food each day since she was able, and waits or calls for our attention.
      She was fine yesterday evening.
      But there’s no sign of her this morning.

      Reply
  3. I’ve not noticed a robin in the garden, up until a week ago when I stumbled across its nest, nestled in a corner where the meter readings are taken, in a thick leafy bush.

    Now, the past few days I’ve been gardening, I’ve realised I have a stalker while I did some weeding, and today, power washing the pathing stones down, Mr. Robin has been dancing around me, even with all the noise and dragging furniture around, seems very inquisitive to my movements.

    Mealworms being delivered tomorrow. 😆

    Reply
  4. Last year I was washing the car wearing a reddish orange top when i felt something land on my head and begin vigorously pecking. A passerby momentarily stopped and asked “Did I really see that? Was that robin attacking you? ” In hindsight I think he must have thought I was a rather large robin invading his territory.

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  5. Thanks Walter. I have a friendly but wary juvenile that’s happy to sit (stand) on the corner of my chair near the feeders and nibble his personal fat ball.
    I’m looking out for meal worms but no one seems to have any right now.
    He invited himself into the house and did a full tour before leaving again. He’s so curious I’m sure he’ll be in again soon.
    I say “he” but who knows!

    Reply
  6. I have been hand feeding a little robin at my allotment..he observed for a few weeks and now when I arrive he is there within a minute or two..he lives mealworms and often takes 3 or 4 at a time..a lovely experience..with a little patience and trust.

    Reply
    • I have a Robin who has been my companion throughout Covid. One day he even followed us in the house! I have seen and fed him every day. Sometimes we just sit together for ages a foot apart just talking, well me talking and him making the odd song or whistle. . I think he just likes company. In the last 3 weeks k he has a poorly foot. Seems ok and I wish there was something I can do. Aside of that he is well and stll my shadow. I mist admit that i do love him or her. And wish he would live and be around for years to come.

      Reply
  7. Personal experience. I hand fed a baby robin that fell off its nest. The whole family members got involved and all contributed to raising it. I had purchased a big size cage for it to be comfortable. And it was! O called it ÑOÑO. And he answered to that name. When I came home from work I would call out: ÑOÑO, and it would fly to me and would pwrsh on my finger.. When I felt it was time to let it fly away I opened the upper part of the cage BUT IT WOULD NOT GO OUT OF IT. When it finally did I believed the story was over.. Next day on the morning it WAS BACK INSIDE OF THE CAGE.. After it was fed and took a bath it flew out again an AGAINd the same was repeated day after day until we never saw him again after the season was over. UNFORTUNATELY I moved to another address and never found out it came back to “his house”.

    Reply
  8. I am not usually the gardening type, but during the months gone by of lockdown I have spent more time tending to The garden. I was so surprised to see a robin sat next to me about a meter away the other day, and even more surprises that he was in no way afraid or startled by my movements, he just sat singing and watching for a good hour! I put this down to fluke and never imagined the next day he would return but this time come to my boots whilst I sat for a break. After one week of feeding him and gaining his trust, every morning when i go to the garden I give a whistle and
    Within minutes there he is sat next to me , and then today he-fed from my hand! My heart melted I am in lice with this perfect new little friend ❤️

    Reply
    • I keep chickens in the back garden. They have a coop inside a covered run and their own wee flower garden with wire screens in front of the flowers so they can’t get in there to eat them. This is my second year of having a Robin over winter in the run. I see him in there when I go in to let the chooks out and the apex of the coop has a row of tiny wee poops on it so he’s roosting on it. Quite clever, he’ll be getting the heat rising up from the hens. He has chicken food and water in there and I’ve put a bird table in the garden for him. He’s around a lot, bouncing from plant to plant, in the chicken run, singing on the roof. It’s very stormy today so I’ve fixed a Robin nesting box inside the chicken run and put tumble dryer fluff at the bottom and added two perches made from twigs. Cannot wait to see if he takes to it. His name is Merle

      Reply
  9. I have a little Robin visiting my garden. It may sound crazy but it seemed every time I was thinking of my Dad (who has passed), I would suddenly feel a sense of calm and when I’d look around I’d see my little Robin. I decided to put out feeders for him which is attracting more birds which I love. I’ve also just bought a bird house but no one has taken up residence yet. My Robin comes closer every time I’m in the garden so I feel he’s starting to trust me. I put some seed on my hand the other day and moved closer to him very slowly but he flew away. Miserable rainy weather at the moment but I’m hoping to try again when the weather stops. Would love for him to land on my hand to feed. Fingers crossed.

    Reply
  10. You’ve heard of a bald eagle? Well i have a bald robin!! He was either born that way or escaped the clutches of a cat perhaps? I would dearly love to tame him as he would be great to photograph more closely. I shall order mealworms too. Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
  11. I noticed a plucky little Robin in my garden almost a year ago. After observing him closely at the feeder at my window for around a month, I attempted to feed him by hand, which miraculously worked first go. The magic of such a small and beautiful creature being so trusting, the light scratch of his twig light toes on my hand as he stood for almost 15 seconds was indescribable. Took me back to childhood when I aspired for such things.
    He now comes inside the house for his breakfast at weekends. I feed him outside my patio door on weekdays before I go to work. During the summer, when the back door was open a lot, he would often come right into the house for a nose around. I absolutely love having him around.

    Reply
  12. Why is the robin not coming to my bird table which has meal worms on? I know that there is a pair around as I have seen them and hear them everyday…?

    Please reply to this message on here so I can see it
    mt 🙂

    Reply
    • Some Robins are shy! I would try putting up some feeders with a good quality mixed seed in to try and encourage them!

      They may not like the bird table and be put off by the Blackbirds who are bigger.

      Reply
  13. The first pic of the robin on your hand is soooo cute!!!! LOVE to have a robin like that….I have a bird table out in my garden with meal worms on and the black birds love them….Why are the robins not coming???….they are around as I have seen them and hear them everyday???

    Please could u help?
    mt 🙂

    Reply
  14. I have a mother Robin near my garden and im starting to wonder if I can “Tame” a mother robin. And I’m nervous that when I talk to her she leaves her eggs alone. Is it normal or rare that you can befriend a mama robin.

    Reply
    • Taming any Robin can be hard, but wouldn’t recommend you try it too much around nesting time in case she does get spooked and leave her eggs

      Reply
  15. I had a trusted robin family for sure last year. They nested about 8 feet away from where I sit and chill. I checked on them now and then. I knew a parent was going back and forth so things seemed good.One of the littles ones didn’t make it. As I saw the others were gone. It wasn’t attacked just deteriorated in the nest. The nest was inundated with bugs. I researched and decided to rid of the nest as well.

    This year a new nest in the exact place( among so many new ones. Is there a chance it’s the same robins.

    Reply

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