Small pet birds and anything related by Pete Etheridge – aka – 'Stanton Birdman'

It’s that time of year when if you have your birds in an outdoor aviary they will be ready to do what Mother Nature intended; that is to raise offspring and pass there genes to the next generation. With the outdoor temperatures on the increase now is the time of season for your outdoor aviary birds to breed.

I intentionally avoid putting out nest boxes until May at the earliest because, although we have recently recorded the hottest April on record here in the UK this is not always the case, there is normally a risk of frost right until the end of May. This is the same reason why it is unadvisable to plant out your summer bedding plants until the end of may or early June, the possible risk of frost can cause serious damage.

Your birds eggs are likely to be OK as your birds will incubate them themselves, but young chicks in a cold frosty environment is a recipe for disaster.

The size and type of nest box required depends solely on the species of bird you intend to occupy it:

Cockatiels will require an upright box with a removable or hinged lid or flap for inspection and cleaning. The nest box should be approximately 12 inch (30 cm) high, 8-9 inch (20-22.5 cm) wide, 8-9 inch (20-22.5 cm) deep, with a round entrance placed high up about 2-2½ inch (5-6.25 cm) in diameter; remember to have a perch of some sort mounted just beneath the entrance hole. It is advisable to attach some aviary mesh on the inside of the nest box below the entrance hole, this will help as a ladder rather than the parent bird jumping onto the eggs or chicks; but they don’t have such a thing in the wild so it’s not absolutely necessary.

Budgerigars (budgies, parakeets) will require a box of about 9 inch (22.5 cm) long, 6 inch (15 cm) wide, 6 inch (15 cm) deep with an entrance hole approximately 2 inch (5 cm) in diameter on the front top corner. An upright nest box of similar dimensions also works well but the horizontal type seem to be the most popular. Again you will need a removable lid or a door for inspection and cleaning purposes, a perch below the entrance hole, and if using an upright nest box some wire mesh on the inside below the entrance hole will help for the same reason as the cockatiel box above, but again not essential.

Small finches such as zebra and Bengalese (society) will need a nest box that is approximately 5 inch (12.5 cm) in all dimensions with the front slightly smaller in height by about 1-1½ inch (2.5-3.75 cm) to leave an entrance opening at the top front, you can have a perch below the entrance if you like but it’s not needed. Finches will also often take to a small semi-open wicker basket.

Before putting out your nest boxes you must inspect each one carefully for any signs of wear or rot, and if necessary repair or replace them. Also make sure your nest boxes are hygienically clean, so give them a scrub if needed with a mild disinfectant solution, then rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry completely before using them.

Place your nest boxes as high up as possible, after all birds usually nest in trees so like to nest high up. Be sure to fix all your nest boxes at the same height otherwise your birds will squabble over the highest placement. If you have a mixed aviary make sure you do not mix different types of nest boxes in the same place. By this I mean split your aviary into areas, no barriers required, an area for cockatiel boxes, an separate area for budgerigar boxes, and a separate area for finch boxes or baskets. If you have nest boxes for different species in too close a proximity this may result in territorial disputes between different species and can result in destroyed eggs, or chicks getting attacked.

Unless you are breeding for the show bench, for which a totally different approach is required, it is best to let your birds choose their own mates and nesting boxes.

Whilst they are breeding and raising young you must be certain to supply your birds with a constant food and fresh water source, after all they will need all the energy they can get. Also try not to let your birds raise more than 2 clutches per year, 3 at the most as once they have finished they will need to build up their energy and fat reserves to get through winter, so be sure to remove the nest boxes in the autumn (fall) when they have done.

Good luck!

For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.

More information can be found in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now, visit to get your copy.

Follow me on Facebook at!/pages/Stanton-Birdman/178059325577474

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