I usually use wooden nest boxes for my breeding birds, but I'm wondering if metal nest boxes would be better (they're easier to disinfect). Also, some companies make plastic boxes. Would those be all right to use? Some species of birds are strong chewers, and I am forever replacing the wood nest boxes. Will birds use metal and plastic boxes as well as they do wood? Which do you use for your birds?
Bird breeders cannot tell for sure what type of box a pair of birds will want to use for nesting. When a pair of birds is determined to set up housekeeping, they will use anything — some even nest on the floor of their cage if no box is provided. When trying to entice a reluctant pair of birds to nest, I have found that wood nest boxes are a bit better. As a pair of birds chews and gnaws on their wood box, it can stimulate them to truly go to nest and lay fertile eggs. This cannot be done with metal or plastic boxes, because the birds cannot chew on them (unless wood is attached to them).
I use wood nest boxes and, yes, these get replaced frequently. A wood box usually needs replacing long before it needs disinfecting. But, if not, you can disinfect a wood box using a bleach solution or other bird-safe disinfectant. Soak or spray the disinfectant on the box, inside and out. After thoroughly rinsing with water, the box can be left in the sun to dry for a few days, or however long the drying process takes.
Metal Nest Boxes Pros & Cons
Metal boxes (and some plastic) last longer, because most pairs cannot destroy this type of nest box. Be very careful when using a metal box, because in the hot summer months eggs and chicks can bake in them. I used to use metal boxes for some of my African greys. One summer day it got to about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When I checked the well-shaded aviary in the middle of the afternoon, I found that the inside of the box had gotten so hot that one chick died and others were close to dying (this was before I started to hand-feed all my greys from hatch).
Metal boxes do not cool down readily and large birds generate much of their own heat, which stays inside the box. The outside of the metal gets hot as well, unlike a wood box. On a hot day, chicks and eggs can be lost, even if the box is in a well-shaded area. I also had a friend that worked during the day, and a similar thing happened to him. His African greys were in a metal box with eggs, also in the shade all day, but the box got so hot that the eggs "cooked" and were lost. The pair was all right.
Wood boxes do not seem to get that hot if shaded, even during the very warm summer months. Now, I only use wood boxes for all our African greys, conures, Brotogeris, Pionus and most other birds. The only pairs of birds we sometimes use metal boxes for are our blue-and-gold macaws and cockatoos because they chew so much, so fast. All their eggs are removed at the time they are laid. I place lots of wood and wood chips inside the box to stimulate the birds to nest. They use their metal boxes, so we have not thought about changing to wood.