How to Build Barrell Nest Boxes for Macaws

Updated April 17, 2017

Macaws are some of the largest members of the parrot family. Macaws kept as pets include the green wing macaw, blue and gold macaw, hyacinth macaw, and scarlet macaw. Due to their large size, conventional nest boxes do not work for macaws. Because of their strong beaks and tendency to chew, the nest must be made out of something that the birds cannot quickly destroy. Many breeders use large barrels mounted in the aviary for their macaws. Barrels are a perfect size, easy to replace, and easy to clean. Barrels made of metal and wood are ideal.

Locate an empty barrel that is at least 30 inches in diameter. Go to your local brewery and see if you can purchase an empty beer barrel for a reasonable price. If you are not comfortable using a metal barrel, you can contact a winery in your area and inquire as to how to procure a wooden barrel.

Thoroughly clean the barrel using soap and warm water. Scrub the barrel vigorously with a brush to remove any residues or chemicals. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Mark the side of the barrel where you wish to create the door, or entry hole. Generally barrels are mounted in the aviary horizontally. The best placement for an entry hole would be in the middle of the barrel. The hole should be at least eight inches tall, six and a half inches wide, and a rectangular shape.

Use a band saw to carefully saw the entry hole in the barrel. Once complete, check the entry hole for any sharp points or rough edges. Smooth any sharp or rough areas with the file (for a metal barrel) or sandpaper (for a wooden barrel).

Mount the barrel in the aviary. Generally nesting boxes are mounted on a platform in the aviary to provide proper support. The barrels are secured in place with wire. Place in an area that is out of direct sunlight. Take care to place the barrel in such a manner that rain won't be able to run into the entry hole. Fill the bottom of the barrel with pine shavings to serve as bedding for your macaws.

To clean the barrel simply remove from the mount and remove the dirtied shavings. Your barrel may have a removable end or lid, but if it does not, dumping the shavings out through the entry hole and rinsing out well will suffice.

Introduce your macaws to the barrel. Allow them ample time to get used to it, and observe them closely. Make any changes to the placement of the barrel as necessary.


If you cannot locate an empty beer barrel, an empty whiskey barrel, or an empty wine barrel will also suffice. Some breeders also choose to use a barrel created from a galvanised garbage can. Breeding boxes are also available for macaws. Choosing one that is made out of metal will eliminate the probability of the macaws tearing through the plywood material that the box is made of.

Things You'll Need

  • Empty barrel
  • Band saw
  • File
  • Soap
  • Warm water
  • Scrub brush
  • Pine shavings
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