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

Posts tagged ‘bird breeding’

Cage or aviary – what is the best option?

This depends entirely on your own personal preference and what plans you have for your bird or birds.

I’ve recently sold some baby budgies and have been asked this question a few times and have always responded with the same answer.

If you want a companion bird, ie. one you can handle, tame and possibly train then go for a cage.  If on the other hand you would like your bird to live out as natural existence as possible then go for an aviary.  This is the basic jist of it but of course it does depend on your budget and the space you have available.

The majority of my birds live in a large outdoor mixed aviary at the bottom of the garden, but when I have babies to deal with I put them in a cage once they have flown the nest to try to keep them as tame as possible ready for sale.  This also makes them much easier to catch once new homes have been found for them.

A caged bird will become much tamer and more human-friendly because it will undoubtedly interact with people more often.  Whereas a bird in an aviary will live in a semi-wild state and will only be used to its main owner.

I do believe however that if an adult bird is taken from an aviary to be re-homed in a cage then this can have a psychological effect on it; after living semi-free in the aviary for so long this would be like a prison sentence to the poor bird.

On the other hand if a baby bird is first housed in a cage and has never known the relative freedom of an aviary then it will accept its existence as normal.  This will not then affect the bird psychologically in any way.  If the previously caged bird is then given the freedom of an aviary then initially it will wonder what’s gone off and will tend to stay put to start with.  After a day or so however it will then begin to explore its new environment and will soon get used to the change.

Unfortunately this wouldn’t work the other way and a previously free bird that is now caged will undoubtedly become depressed.

To summarise moving an adult caged bird to an aviary will generally be fine, but moving an adult aviary bird to cage is not a good idea.

The only exception to this rule is if the bird becomes ill it will and should have the solitude of a cage whilst it recovers from its illness, this also quarantines the bird so that if the illness is infectious then the risk of the other birds catching it will be dramatically reduced.


The flutter of tiny wings

I will be giving more details about the Australian grass parakeets soon, as promised, although somewhat delayed due to my other commitments.

Thought I’d take the opportunity to do a little upgrade post about the bird situation at home.

Stanton Birdman currently has 5 baby budgies for sale to good homes only.  They have now been taken from the aviary and placed in a cage ready to go to eager buyers.  There was 6 to start with from 2 clutches but one has already been claimed, a beautiful bright yellow from Squeek’s first clutch of the year, go to my earlier post to learn a bit more about their upbringing and a photo of them when they were younger.

To try and make sure they go to good homes I am asking £10 each for them.  I am only selling them locally however to minimise the phychological damage that they would suffer should they have to travel far to new homes.  If you would like any and live fairly local to Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, UK then please email me at

Of the 5 that are left, 2 are from ‘Squeek’ (hen) – not sure who Dad is –  and the other three are from ‘Blue’ (hen) and ‘Pied’ (cock), my most prolific breeders.

This year's first babies ready to go

Check the picture to take a look at them now but please excuse the quality as I only have my mobile phone’s 2mp built-in camera to take photos with.

They are all strong and healthy birds that are eating well and ready to go, but as they have not yet seen their first molt I can’t tell which are female and which are male.

So far there’s no cockatiel chicks (although they’ve laid eggs) and no Java sparrow chicks (they have laid eggs also), the Bengalese (society) finches and the zebra finches appear to be struggling with the concept of egg laying – the nests are built but no eggs laid.  Meanwhile both ‘Squeek’ and ‘Blue’ have already laid again, but I will only allow my birds to raise a maximum of 2 clutches each per year.

On a similar note, ‘Squeek’s’ baby from last year – another beautiful bright yellow – which I decided to keep myself because of her colour has also laid eggs but no chicks yet, so good luck to her!

Apart from the budgies the other birds seem to be struggling but I live in optimism.

Small pet birds – cleaning out nest boxes

'Squeeks' chicks

Spent a full hour today cleaning out nest boxes and faeces off chicks feet.

First I took down one nest box at a time, but only the ones that contained hatched chicks (just 2 fortunately, or not depending how you look at it).

I opened the end panel of the nest box, took out the three chicks that were in there and put them safely in a cardboard box.  Then I removed the concave insert and was forced to scrape the dried up faeces off it with a wallpaper scraper, and then I had to also scrape part of the inside wall for the same reason.

After returning the concave insert I got to work on cleaning my baby budgies feet.  To do this I had to soak each foot in turn for about a minute in luke warm clean water (no additives or detergents), whilst trying not to give the baby budgerigar a bath in the process.

Then I needed to carefully prise the dried faeces off the chicks feet and claws – difficult to do without a soaking first, the soaking of the foot loosens the dried up faeces so it’s easier to remove, but still challenging as it is important not to injure the baby bird in any attempt to clean.

When done i dried the chick by padding down any wet with a piece of kitchen roll (highly absorbent and does a better job of drying and soaking up any dampness) before returning the baby budgie to the nest box.

I then had to repeat the process with the other two baby budgerigars from that nest box, then repeat the whole thing with the other nest box that also contained three budgie chicks; much to the annoyance of the parent birds who were often squawking at me for disturbing their babies. 

Fortunately my birds never seem to hold a grudge whenever I do this and are soon my friends again, especially if I bribe them with some treat.


If you are breeding your pet or aviary birds this is a process I’m sure you will be familiar with, if you’re not familiar with this then you should  be!

Until they fledge and leave the confines of their nest box naturally all their activity is within there, including going to the toilet.  Bird droppings, whether from adults or chicks, will dry up into solid clumps that can be very difficult to remove.  Even more difficult when trying to remove it from a baby birds feet and claws, which will undoubtedly get clogged up and can in worst cases cause a permanent deformity in your birds as they grow.

So be sure to check your nest boxes regularly and do whatever cleaning is required!

How to give your pet aviary birds the right start for the breeding season

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.

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