I have been asked on a number of occasions about how to build a bird nesting box. Designs, specifications, materials… and I just don’t have an “all-in-one” answer! There are so many variables to this:
Type and size of bird?
Inside or outside the cage?
Wood, plastic, metal?
Is it for an outside aviary?
So I’ll give you some tips on how I’ve build my boxes, and some ideas on how you need to design them.
WHAT KIND OF BIRD
Finches can use a very small sized box, but you will have better luck using a woven type of nest. These are readily available in pet stores, and are made from bamboo, straw, hemp or other grasses. You supply the finches with a nesting material and let them finish their own nest themselves. This material can be cotton, grasses, straw or shredded newspaper.
Cockatiels are a bit fussy. They seem to want a fairly large box, but if the hole is too small they may not care to enter it. They don’t want to mess with widening the hole. I generally make a 12×12 box with a fairly large hole near the top.
Parakeets will be more then happy with any small box. I build them about 7×9. But I’ve had them nest in some extra cockatiel boxes with no problem.
Conures and Quakers need a slightly larger box, and more rectangular (shoebox shaped). Put the hole on the back side of the box so they can nest toward the front, and away from the hole. Note that Quakers will want to build their own nest, so supply them with material such as twigs, shredded newspaper and straw or grass.
Larger parrots will want to use a “boot” box. This is an “L” shaped box that they will enter through the top and crawl down to the bottom front. Since parrots are instinctively used to having nests in hollow tree branches, they will not want an oversized box. Make the hole a little small and let them adjust it to their liking. I prefer an 18x18x12 size.
Large macaws are a bit difficult to please. I’ve read about people using 36 gallon plastic garbage barrels, old wood barrels, or whatever they can find. My birds were kept in an 8 foot flight cage, and I wanted my nest box inside the cage, and be able to move it around. It had to withstand the constant bird chewing, so I decided on a 48x48x24 box mounted on wheels. This was a “boot” shaped box, and it worked great for us.
Birds will chew up their box. This is a basic breeding instinct and part of what triggers their breeding cycle. Therefore, many breeders try to avoid metal or plastic material. If you use these two materials, supply some wood for them to chew on inside the box.
Metal absorbs heat! If this is for an outside flight it will become very hot in the summer. If inside and exposed to the sunlight, it will also overheat. Keep this in mind if choosing metal.
Plastic is very easy to clean but will not hold up to chewing. Expect to replace these boxes frequently.
Wood is easy to work with and build, and fairly inexpensive. The only real disadvantage I have is cleaning it, as it’s very porous. You can’t wash it as this will result in mold growth. Therefore, once it becomes very soiled and chewed up, it’s best to just toss it out. I generally use ½ inch plywood, but with the larger parrots you will need to use at least 5/8 inch to withstand the chewing. Sometimes, placing metal trim around the door will prevent excessive chewing.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE CAGE
This is the tricky part. If mounting on the outside of the case, you need to keep in mind the weight of the box. Most 12×12 boxes will outweigh the cage and cause it to tip over, unless the case is fairly large to begin with.
I like to build the door on the front of the box, never on the top. It’s not as scary for the birds to have a front door open. Since the eggs will be on that side, they would tend to move back and away from the eggs. Opening the top will scare them as they don’t know where to run…and this panic would injure the chicks.
For example, on a 12×12 square box, I would take the front panel and divide it into two pieces. Take a hinge and put it into the middle so the top portion will swing down. Place a handle on the top, and a cabinet latch to hold it in place when closed.
If it must be placed inside the cage, you need to figure out how to get into the box to monitor it. Unless this is a walk in flight cage, you are going to have great difficulties doing this.
The most preferred material for inside the box is clean newspaper. Pine shavings are fine but do create a dust problem that could injure your chicks. Never use corn cob, kitty litter, or tissue paper. Cedar chips produce mold easier and can create respiratory distress in the birds.
More bad ideas I’ve heard of is dog food, oatmeal, popcorn and bird pellets. When they become wet from the droppings they are a great haven for bacteria.
[tags]parrot nesting, nesting boxes, parrots nesting, bird nesting box[/tags]
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