Every time I get an email from someone inquiring about my birds, I am reminded of the things I have learned along the way. I think I shall write on this, and then my day starts..
I am trying to keep a promise to myself that I answer some of these questions to the best of my knowledge and experience in the hobby. Am I an expert? I do not think so, my years in the hobby are small compared to many, and this is simply what I have settled on in my aviary. Is there a possibility that things may change? Always, one has to be willing to see if there is something that may improve the health of the birds, the mortality rate of babies, even the length of productivity in their birds.
One thing we all need to keep in mind, while we are designing our aviaries. We all think in terms of streamlining so it is better for us, easier for us. We really need to think in bird terms, what is better for the birds.
Nest boxes, everyone has a different idea of what a nest box should be. If your productivity is low, maybe instead of blaming the birds, (big fat hens or lazy cocks) Maybe, just maybe we need to look at our nest boxes.
Budgies are domesticated far removed from the wild. However, that does not mean that they have completely lost their natural instinct.
As an example, when do our birds come into condition? Generally, when the weather cools off and the humidity rises.
What happens? Your hens start chewing on wood, everything in sight. Many breeders I know put wood branches, logs etc into the cages for the hens to chew on, as this brings them into condition. This is an age old instinct. Give your hen a soft log and she will dig a hole in it for her nest, by the time she gets that hollow dug out, she will be ready to lay eggs.
We put chips aspen, pine or some sort of wood in our boxes, why, for bedding yes, but what do most hens do immediately? Throw it out, it’s part of the natural process, she has no log to chew or hollow, so she gets her nest ready instinctively. In a log the wood would make a soft surface when she got through (old rotted wood) but in a nest box, the surface is hard so we bed more. A log would have dampness to it, holding the moisture to keep the eggs from drying out. Wood chips do the exact opposite.
What do we do to combat that? We run humidifiers in our aviaries. Some of us dampen down the chips. I am still looking for the ideal way to keep the condition perfect.
The idea is to keep it natural as possible. Within limits of course.
Choosing nest boxes
I have tried several different styles. It seems a large number of breeders are using plastic these days; there is nothing natural about plastic. I hear rave reviews, “it’s so easy to clean, no mess.” Easy for the birds or us? Plastic does not breathe, it is slippery, and can pick up odors. I tried plastic nest boxes they had the box in box with wood floors. The year I used them, I had the worst cases of French Molt I have ever seen. The birds that had French Molt all came out of the plastic. I had disinfected the boxes, put them in the sun, and used Virkon S in them. My experience with plastic was not good. I got rid of those boxes, although some may have great success with them, I prefer wood.
Wood boxes have drawbacks, they warp, and (from dampness- that’s a good thing really) they chip and wear out. It’s okay, they need to be replaced anyway. The birds chew them – also a good thing right? Are those really drawbacks then?
I use wood for those reasons, I choose to make my own boxes, they mount on the outside of my cages – I prefer on the side. I use the 18×30 cages.
The boxes themselves are huge 7.5 wide, 11 to 12 high and around 11 long. They have two slides on the back making it easy to view momma and the babies I can slide the bottom one up for clean out also, I do not put a perch inside. The front part has a 2×4 to raise the level a bit the back a concave. I bed deeply with aspen, it’s heavier than pine, packs down a bit better, less chance of suffocation of the babies. I use a door knob cutter to cut the hole for the parents that is nice and roomy. Some have small holes along the back side near the top so they breathe better. They have worked for me.
Again this is not the only way. Others will disagree. I just suggest if your numbers are down, and birds are not breeding you look at the set up of your breeding cages nest boxes, entire aviary and see if it is designed for you, or designed for the birds.
April Bird-Stieglitz ©08/07/19