Using Metal Nest Boxes

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Q: I have been breeding birds successfully for quite a few years. Many of my plywood nest boxes are beginning to rot. With the present high cost of plywood and the wire to line it, it appears that purchasing manufactured sheet metal boxes has now become a cost-effective alternative.

I am hesitant to invest in these because I have heard that some birds will not go to nest in metal boxes, especially if they have become accustomed to nesting in wooden ones. I’ve heard that they are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Have you ever worked with metal boxes? What are your thoughts on their use?

A: I have always been in favor of using some material other than wood for the construction of nest boxes. Wood has a great propensity to harbor all kinds of negative things, such as viruses, bacteria, molds, fungus and parasites. There is also the problem, as you have mentioned, of wood’s limited longevity. When I was starting out, I had not yet plugged into the “misinformation highway.” No one had told me that birds will not breed or become overheated in metal boxes. I had set up all my macaws and Amazons by using metal drums of different sizes for nest boxes. I painted them white to keep them cool and had great production. Some of these have been in service for almost 20 years and show no signs of needing replacement. As my aviary began to expand exponentially, I had no time to hunt down, clean and refit old grease drums. I checked with the local sheet metal shops, but the prices that they would have charged me for metal boxes were prohibitive. I had no choice but to rely on the standard plywood boxes that the local carpenters were making for all the other facilities that were cropping up in the area.

Last year, I began the process of replacing old boxes. I contacted a supplier of metal nestboxes.I explained that I had no desire to purchase anything fancy. Amazons and conures that have been nesting for many years successfully in standard grandfather-clock-style boxes didn’t need a box with any ingenious designs. They agreed and supplied me with boxes that were identical in style to the wooden boxes that I had been using. Although the boxes came painted light gray, any portion of the box that was exposed to the sun was painted white. As long as the boxes remain white they are cool inside. Gray, no matter how light, does not have the heat-reflective powers of white. Once painted, the boxes must be kept clean or they will become dirty and lose the heat reflective powers of white. Another option is to keep them shaded.

We are now halfway into our breeding season, and I can say that there is not one single pair of birds that has refused to accept their metal box. The only difference is that it takes me much less time to check the boxes for eggs due to the type of sliding inspection door that is employed. I have a clean nest box with a door that will never lose its screws and fail and a box that will not have to be replaced for many years. I am so impressed with the performance and acceptance of these boxes that I will probably never go back to wood