I’m sure this will sound familiar for those of you who breed cockatiels. Breeding season is over and now what are you going to do with those nest boxes? Now begins the nightmare of cleaning and sterilizing. If you put up more than a few pair you either make the decision to throw the boxes away and make new ones or resort to the easy way out and buy new nest boxes from someone who has the time and equipment to make them. Just thinking about how dirty the boxes get during breeding season and how much trouble it will be to make sure they are totally clean for next year is enough to make a dedicated breeder cry out for help. If your family is like mine your cries will fall on deaf ears! A familiar comment I would hear was "you want me to clean that with my hands ?!"
A few years ago a very good friend of mine called me with a wonderful new idea to finally put an end to his yearly problem. I’m not sure where Carl heard about this, and I sincerely hope who ever came up with the idea won't mind me letting you in on this great idea. Just think - no more cleaning and scrubbing and worrying if you got those boxes totally clean. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? When Carl showed me this new invention I must admit I had my doubts. In fact, I remember saying, "Okay you try it first and let me know how many problems you have." Well, I can safely report the problems were minimal.
What is this new invention? How does it work? The easiest way to begin is with a picture, which I asked my husband to draw for me since I can't draw a straight line even with a ruler. The "holder" diagram is at the bottom of this article, and the nest box piece is a heavy gauge cardboard box that we purchase from Crown Packaging here in St. Louis. The cardboard box measures 12 x 12 x12 inches, and fits snugly into the holder. I cut an inspection door into the back of the cardboard box and use "good old" duct tape to keep the door closed so mom, dad and babies can't get out. I line up the front of the box with the hole in the holder and cut an opening hole for the birds to enter the box .
Of course the inside of the box is lined with pine shavings. Since the "nest box" is cardboard, there is no need for extra note cards to write down when eggs were laid and the due date for hatching. You can write it right on the box! Now for the greatest part of this new invention: when the babies are ready to be pulled for hand feeding or when they have fledged, you take the cardboard box out of the holder and throw it away. For the next clutch, insert a new cardboard box into the holder and you are all set, no mess, no fuss. Great, isn't it! I can hear you asking what about the birds chewing through the cardboard? It does happen. Mine usually add the shredded cardboard into the pine shavings. Occasionally, I will get a pair who try to chew through the back of the box. When this happens, I get out the duct tape and simply tape over the holes. If they chew too much, I simply put a new cardboard box into the holder and discard the chewed box.
The holder itself is made of plywood. The edges are sanded, and the wood is painted with an enamel or oil based paint so the wood is sealed. Occasionally the birds will chew the bottom of the cardboard box and the holder will get a little dirty, but since the wood has been sealed clean-up is very simple. The holders are held on the breeding cage fronts by using either a heavy duty cup hook or a clothes hanger cut to the proper length and shaped into an S hook. Storage is very easy also - two holders will fit into the space that one nest box usually would take up. The cardboard boxes are stored flat so the space they take up is also minimal. Make sure you store your cardboard boxes in an area that is protected from water and mice. It is also a good idea to store the cardboard boxes out of the breeding room, as this will prevent the boxes from becoming dusty or contaminated with bird droppings.