Breeding – Nests and Brush

by Peter Stanley

The types of nests provided or made vary with the materials used and shapes and sizes preferred.


Wooden Boxes:

Most are simple one chamber rectangular boxes. They are suitable for most types of finches with smaller boxes used for species like orange breasts.  They can either be simply sat on a shelf or easily attached to a wall.


Some boxes used for gouldians have an ante chamber leading into the main chamber.  The last clutch of black headed gouldians I fledged were brought up in the small ante chamber despite me having put grass put in the main chamber as an inducement. It was very crowded with six chicks but they all survived.  This experience fits in with a general observation that birds prefer a smaller more crowded nest than a more spacious one if a choice is available.


Another variation is the next box with a sloping lid usually metal that stops other birds sitting on the lid and using it as a base to fight with the nest occupants.  Another type, seen recently, is one like a parrot box that is deeper, the front lower panel has slope on it and it has some wire stapled on the inside sloping panel for the birds to climb up to the entrance hole.  Which type to use is usually gained from experience. Some birds are fussy and others are not.


Woven Nests:

These are cheap and readily available from the sales table or pet shops and usually made in SE Asia.  There are two basic types -one with a globular shape with no entrance platform and the other which is vase shaped with a flared opening which is mounted horizontally.  They come in various sizes and are attached with wire.  I have not found them very popular with my birds and only orange breasts seem to be interested.



These are dried hollowed vegetable shells closely related to cucumbers and pumpkins and can vary considerably in size.  They are often varnished or painted as ornaments. They make a good nesting receptacle and have the advantage of being waterproof if they are in the non covered in area of the aviary.



Half opened cans with the top turned down ninety degrees have been used as nesting containers.  The disadvantage is they trap humidity and moisture from nestling droppings.  It is essential to put some holes in the bottom of the can.  They are not widely used as better nesting materials are available.


Wire Cylinders:

These are quite popular and can be made into various shapes and filled with grass, bracken or brush.  The material is usually packed in fairly tightly and several holes poked into the material to start off an entrance for the birds to use. If you use a long cylinder it can contain half a dozen nests.  The birds seem to get on well with some nests very close.  I use november grass in my cylinders which are made of 50mm trellis or fencing  wire. They are the most used nests in my aviary.



Pre made fern and plant containers particularly those with one flat side designed to sit against a wall can also make good receptacles for grass and other nesting material.


PVC Pipe:

This is also a common method with short lengths of pipe, usually about 300mm long, to act as brush holders.  They can vary in diameter from 25-32mm holding one stem of thick brush up to the common 90 mm drainpipe, which can hold several pieces.  The lower branches are removed so that the stems can be put tightly in the pipe.


The hard part is attaching them to the wall.  To stop it rotating usually two self tapping screws are put part way into the pipe along the length and a piece of wire wound around the screw heads with enough length on both sides to attach to the wall. A single standard plumbers pipe bracket can also be used but a screw will be needed to go through the bracket into the pipe to stop it sliding through.


Brush or bushes:

This material can also be simply stacked or tied into a corner in the aviary.  I frequently use branches with thick foliage in this way.  The branches are cut long and the foliage where they nest is then about 1200-1500 mm high.  The only problem with some green bushes is that the leaves soon fall off and the initial dense cover is reduced to bare branches.  The native bushes such as the melaleuca, callistemon and banksia tend not to drop their foliage so quickly.  By using dried brush in the first place you can pack it in and make it dense enough to provide nesting sites.  Beware of the fine spiky brush if you have rings on your birds as they get them caught on the fine branch tips and you will find the birds dead hanging upside down caught by their ring.


Planted Shrubs:

In larger aviaries, shrubs or long grasses like johnson and green panic grass are often grown in the dirt floors in the open section of the aviary.  Native shrubs suitable for growing in the aviary open section which do not grow too large and can be pruned include the various species of banksia, callistemon, grevillea , hakea , leptospermum and melaleucas.  A local favourite is melaleuca irbyana.  A full list of plants, ground covers, vines and ferns is listed in volume one of the QFS finch breeders handbook.  Some shrubs are grown in pots and can be rotated if the birds regularly pick at them.  Birds will often nest in the shrubs but unless the aviary is fully roofed the nests will get wet every time it rains.  Whilst that occurs in the wild it is not the ideal situation in an aviary. So if you have shrubs growing in the open section and you find some birds nesting in them it is desirable to fully roof the aviary if it is not already done.  Even if it is fully roofed the other problem is wind driven rain from the side.  Side protection may also be needed on the most exposed side.


Nest position:

This is a much studied area and depending on whether you have a single species or you have a mixed collection the position of nest boxes or nesting material holders is often important.  Dominant pairs will usually go for the highest box.  By placing boxes at different levels, the pecking order is maintained.


It is known that red headed gouldians will dominate black headed gouldians in a mixed colony.  If a placid species that doesn’t exert dominant behaviour is kept, then the boxes can be at the same height.  There should be more boxes or other nest receptacles than the number of pairs to avoid competition.  If adequate wire cylinders or brush is used the birds will make their own nests without interfering with each other.


Stress perching, where barriers are placed along the perch creating individual sitting positions, help in reducing tensions.


When siting the nest boxes or brush holders don’t put them too close to the roof particularly if it is an uninsulated metal roof as the temperature can get very high in summer and nestlings can die. Also don’t place water or feeding stations under the nesting area as birds sitting on the entrance hole perches will foul the water or food.


The other aspect of position is that the birds will sometimes nest in places you don’t expect and they don’t use the boxes or brush cylinders provided.  You can accidently disturb a sitting pair when cleaning out an aviary or moving aviary furniture so be careful when you do it.  It has happened to most of us and it is worse if it is an expensive or rare species.



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