Captive budgies don’t have the same resources as wild budgies.
Budgies don’t need nesting material, but it prevents eggs from rolling around, absorbs moisture, reduces the smell of droppings, and keeps the eggs warm.
These benefits mean nesting material gives hatchlings the best chances of good health and survival.
Why Do Budgies Need Nesting Materials?
Budgies don’t technically require nesting materials. In truth, budgies will feel comfortable having little material in their nesting boxes. In the wild, they rarely line their nests, unlike other birds.
However, it’s still advised that you put something inside because there are many benefits.
Budgies use nesting materials to:
- Insulate the nest
- Absorb moisture
- Keep the eggs from moving around
The female budgie will incubate the egg for approximately 18 days before they hatch. During this time, she may not feel like leaving her nest often, so she’ll defecate inside. After that, it takes about 30-40 days for the chicks to start leaving the nest.
Because the female budgie and chicks stay inside the nest for so long, having nesting material will absorb the waste. This not only makes the nest more comfortable for the birds.
Having material will make cleaning the nest easier, resulting in fewer illnesses for your budgies.
What Do Budgies Use for Nesting Material?
Budgies pick out a hole in a tree to use as a nest. They occasionally line their nest with insulation materials like leaves and twigs but will usually leave their nest bare. Budgies prefer choosing a simple spot over building a complicated nest with numerous materials.
This is because budgies rarely have to worry about predator attacks. Other bird species that either don’t live in flocks or have to hide their eggs in vulnerable spots take the time to make elaborate nests with many materials. Such is the case with the eastern ground parakeet, which builds nests on the ground, where it’s easily accessible.
However, wild budgies live in large flocks, stay up in the trees, and the pairs are usually monogamous. They help each other out with child-rearing and will even help other pairs with their chicks, too.
When the eggs are in the nest, the male will stand guard if the female budgie needs to leave for a while. The male might forage for food and bring it back to the female.
Since budgies rarely have to worry about leaving their eggs unprotected, captive budgies will accept virtually anything you use for nesting materials. This ranges from shredded paper or coarse sawdust.
The species is composed of minimalist nesters, so don’t worry about putting in too many different types of material. As long as you choose something safe for your bird, you’ll be helping it out immensely.
What to Put in a Budgie Nesting Box
The key items to put in a nesting box are:
- Nesting material
- A concave circle
- Mineral blocks
Your budgie will spend a long time in the box and may neglect to take care of herself properly. It’s up to you to ensure she has everything she will need for the following:
- Egg laying process
- Caring for her chicks
You should only place one kind of material in a budgie’s nesting box, be it dry grass or small twigs. This is because budgies are minimalist nesters.
You can choose from the following:
- Dead leaves
- Shredded paper
- Wood shavings
- Coarse sawdust
- Dry grass
Because less is more when it comes to budgie nesting materials, don’t think it too strange if your bird takes out some of the materials you put in.
Give your budgie the material, but let it design the interior however it wants to. After all, your budgie will be the one spending over a month inside the nesting box.
Ensure that your budgie doesn’t remove all of the nesting material. It may be her instinct to remove everything, but the material is necessary because of how different a nesting box is from a hole in a tree.
A square, wooden nesting box is too flat, so there’s always a risk of the eggs rolling around inside as the female budgie moves about.
It’s also important for there to be something for the chicks to hold on to as they grow. Standing on a flat surface can hinder bone growth.
Most nesting boxes will come with a small concave circle at the bottom. This is designed so that the hatchlings don’t have to spend the first weeks of their lives standing on a flat, slippery surface.
If they do, they will develop a condition called splayed legs. When a chick has this condition, its legs point outwards instead of under the body.
A concave circle gives the budgies something to grip as they move about in the nesting box. It also serves as a backup in case the female budgie removes all of the nesting material from inside the box.
If the nesting box doesn’t have a concave circle, you can make or buy one separately.
Mineral Blocks or Cuttlebone
It takes a lot of calcium for a female budgie to make eggs, so she’ll need to consume far more calcium in her diet than usual if she’s to avoid egg binding.
Egg binding is when a female bird has trouble passing an egg through the reproductive tract. It’s a life-threatening condition that you must avoid at all costs. Even after laying the eggs, your budgie will still need extra calcium in her diet for a few weeks.
Small pieces of cuttlebone and mineral blocks can be placed inside the nesting box. It’s important that you only place as much as your budgie will consume on a daily basis.
Switch out any mineral blocks or cuttlebone daily, and check for mold.
What Are the Best Nesting Materials for Budgies?
The best nesting material for a budgie is untreated wood shavings.
Many other materials can be used safely. However, wood shavings are the most convenient (and the least likely to cause problems).
Ensure that you use the right kind, since many unsafe kinds of wood are aromatic, like redwood and pine. However, Aspen pine is considered safe for budgies.
Untreated Wood Shavings vs. Shredded Paper
The most easily accessible material is shredded paper. However, while shredded paper makes for good material, it is too absorbent.
You would have to clean the nesting box more often when using this material, which may not be convenient if you work long hours.
Having damp shredded paper in the nesting box is dangerous for your budgie due to the ammonia. The waste expelled by budgies contains uric acid, and the ammonia in the air can cause respiratory problems.
If you don’t mind cleaning the nesting box more often, the kind of paper you use matters. Ensure that you don’t use any glossy magazine paper or newspaper with colored ink.
Normal newspaper or butcher’s paper is a good alternative to wood shavings.
Untreated Wood Shavings vs. Coarse Sawdust
Coarse sawdust is commonly used to line the bottom of bird cages. However, it isn’t recommended that you use it for your budgie’s nesting box because budgies are prone to nasal problems.
The dust particles that arise when sawdust is spread can cause nasal congestion issues, which is more likely to happen with a budgie that stays inside a nesting box all day.
Untreated Wood Shavings vs. Dead Leaves, Grass, and Twigs
Dead leaves, dry grass, and twigs may be harder to find than wood shavings. If you pick them yourself, you must ensure there aren’t any bacteria that could harm your budgie or the chicks.
Considering that you’ll need to frequently replace the nesting material, having to find and examine every leaf and twig is extremely inconvenient.
They’re less warm than wood shavings, and the material is meant to insulate the nesting box. Having a material that retains heat is more important than replicating wild budgie nests.
Wood Shavings vs. Wood Pellets
Wood pellets are absorbent, retain heat, and can be found in most pet stores or bought in bulk online.
In many ways, they’re similar to wood shavings, so you might think that they make good nesting material. The problem with wood pellets is that many are treated with chemicals.
An artificial binding material needs to be used for wood pellets to retain their shape. You should avoid using them as nesting material, especially given how sensitive budgies are to chemical fumes.
Will Budgies Breed Without a Nesting Box?
Budgies can breed without a nesting box if they encounter some nesting material. Anything that relates to breeding will trigger certain instincts.
That’s why you need to focus your efforts on preventing breeding behavior, especially if you have a female budgie. Females can lay empty eggs, which puts them at risk of egg binding.
Be careful with the cage lining you use and where you place it. A big mistake first-time owners make is placing a lining material on top of the cage’s grate.
Budgies that can access any kind of bedding will think of it as nesting material, which will trigger their desire to breed. This is why it’s important to only place newspapers or butcher’s paper under the grate.
Budgies don’t need nesting materials, but including some has many advantages. That’s why you should provide your budgie with a material that’s absorbent, insulating, and chemical-free.