Why You Must NOT Let Your Bird Build Nests

Goffins cockatoo, Theo nesting in her pellet bowl. The bowl has been replaced with foraging toys for her pellets.

“Hormones” may be a bird owner’s least favorite word. It is hormones that bring on the breeding behaviors that cause peculiar routines, odd interests and sometimes intimidating aggression. The likelihood of being bitten increases dramatically and sometimes we react to their behavior in ways that results in problems that last long after the season has passed and the hormones are gone.

The funny thing about the reproductive hormones is that they are self-perpetuating. Certain triggers, such as climate change, will cause the body to send out these hormones when it is determined that the conditions are appropriate for raising young. And as long as the conditions remain suitable, the hormones will keep flowing. It is a cycle that maintains itself until something happens to break it, such as the arrival of a season that brings unhospitable conditions.

For captive birds, some of the conditions in the home appear to be right for breeding year round – ample food and moderate temperature to name a couple of examples. I think one of the biggest factors in perpetuating that cycle of hormone production is our birds’ urge to nest and that presents a huge challenge to us as owners.

Umbrella cockatoo, Linus, “playing” in a paper bag. If I had reached in there to get him out, I would be typing this with one hand.

Almost all parrots are tree cavity dwellers. They are also very adaptable which is why they have been around for so many millions of years. This means that to your creatively thinking bird, nearly anywhere can make do when they are in search of a place to make a nest. It can be any area that offers a small measure of privacy. If it’s dark, all the better.

If your bird hangs out in the closet or has a favorite kitchen cabinet, it is nesting. Under the couch, behind the drapes, in a less traveled corner of a room – also nesting. Behind a favorite toy in the cage, under the couch pillows, in a shoe box placed just about anywhere – nesting.

As you walk through your house, take note of all the places your bird might perceive as a potential nest spot. He or she may not choose to actually nest in all of those places, but as long as the environment provides the means for nesting, it is a trigger that keeps the body supplying the hormones.

Another part of the nesting urge is the provision of nest lining. In the wild, that means wood chewed down to the right texture for bedding in the tree cavity, or leaves and strips of bark. In captivity, that would equate to bits of wood or the shreddable materials from natural toys, as well as fabric and paper if they have access to it.

Removing or blocking access to nesting spots and removing chewed off toy remnants right away is a great first step to keeping the spring hormones to a minimum. If there can be no nest, there can be no babies.

For further information on avoiding or reducing the hormones that overtake our birds and how to handle the birds while they are in the thick of it, click HERE.

5 comments

Janis Warne

I have a conundrum. I have a red-headed conure who is a plucker (she was a rescue bird, and was almost entirely bald when she first came to me 11 years ago). She is better now, some of the feathers have grown back, but she still has a tendency to pluck. One thing that gets her mind off of plucking is ripping apart paper bags and cardboard boxes. I know that this is related to nesting behaviour, and when I first got her, and thought she was a he, I inadvertently set up all the perfect conditions for her to lay an egg. Which she tried to do one evening, entailing a trip to the emergency vet clinic to remove the bound egg. Now that I know she is female, no more drawers, and no touching tailfeathers and back, but I still let her play with bags and boxes, to keep her mind off plucking. However, I clean up the litter every evening (if I try to do it during the day, she attacks the broom unless I banish her to her cage!), and so far, she hasn’t tried to lay any more eggs. I have put duct tape and boards around the bottom of my stove, and any other furniture she can crawl under, and so far so good.

Janis Warne
Tammy Coulter

I have to agree as well. When I’m told no nesting box!!! Ok. But my too’s will make there own out of ANYTHING. My husband built them each out of stainless steel, (he’s a licences sheet metal worker) They hoard all kinds of things in them. With out these toy boxes as I prefer to call them, there’s no saving out house from being eaten. And they are miserable. Not to forget that these boxes mean that anything on the floor of there cages that they like & goes into there toy box, means no more worrying that there nibbling on something they’ve pooped on! There both male’s, 25+ years old. One treats his box like a nest. I nearly had my finger removed just from retrieving his water bowl. Huge ouch!!!! While the other let’s me remove any food that might have landed in his toy box. So it leaves me wondering about all of the do’s & do not rules. What to do…What to do…What to do?

Tammy Coulter
R.Martin

My 14yr Greenwing keeps busy and happy chewing all my old pyjamas!….I agree with Barb.

R.Martin
Kay Young

You should see our kitchen (the birds are all in the dining room). We have floor to ceiling cabinets, well, almost to the ceiling. The last 10 inches are totally covered in paper taped all the way around the kitchen. Any place that’s open is free game to them. The last resort was to just give them the nesting box. Such an incredibly strong natural urge!

Kay Young
Kay Young

I finally gave my 2 tiels a nest, too. They spent all day, everyday getting into every possible nook and cranny. We covered, we removed, we distracted, we kept them in their cage. When I tried to remove a big basket that they had chewed one whole side off of – it was on a shelf so high I couldn’t see what they were doing- I was attacked! I had to wear a big garden hat in the house for a week! They are miserable when I won’t let them out, and she just drops the eggs on their floor. I feel so bad. I just don’t know what to do. With California’s drought and warm weather in Dec and Jan, they haven’t let up since last spring!! At least with the nest there, she laid 5 eggs, and I just exchanged them for fake ones so she won’t lay any more. She sits on them all night and he most of the day. At least my sweet Gabriel is more friendly this way.

Kay Young

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published