How to Build Your Own Breeding Cages

By John Bernardes

     Imagine looking through a bird magazine or a bird supplier’s catalog.  Your eyes look over a beautiful bird-breeding unit that holds 12 separate breeding cages or  3 long flight cages.  You become frustrated because you really wish that you had this beautiful wall unit. With a deep sigh you continue to flip through the catalog because you know that there is just no way that you can afford it. This scenario is exactly what happened to me.

     My love for birds has spanned some 20 years now.  I have had the luck of having a pair of canaries breed for me now and again but I’ve never had a serious breeding program.  Just recently I have decided to begin breeding canaries  seriously. Besides obtaining a few good pairs of canaries I knew that I was going to need some breeding cages if I were to have a serious go at my latest endeavor. 

     After looking at different models of breeding cages I realized that a major obstacle wasn’t deciding which system to buy but how I was going to afford one. The model that I was interested in cost approximately $750.000.  Normally this could be worked out because my wife has a great understanding for my passion for pets. I just could not afford it for various economical reasons. What should I do?  Well, I decided I was going to build my own breeding cages.

     Before I explain how I built my cages I just want to mention that I have absolutely no skills in carpentry so if I was able to build this system I have confidence that anyone else can too.  Secondly, this article is intended especially for beginners like myself who are only starting out in the hobby.  It would be much wiser to build your own cages at a fraction of the cost of some of the ones on the market. The reason being is that if for any reason you lose interest in the hobby you might feel terrible knowing that you wasted $750.00 or more on cages that now only take up space.

     Ready now?  Let’s get ready to build!

  • The tools needed for this project are:
  • 1 circular saw
  • 1 power drill
  • 1 rivet puncher
  • 1 roller
  • 1 paintbrush
  • sand paper
  • 3 clamps
  • The materials needed for this project are:
  • 1 sheet of plywood ¾ inch thick
  • 1 sheet of plywood ½ inch thick
  • 1 sheet of plywood ¼ inch thick
  • 12 Abba cage fronts
  • 12 Abba cage trays
  • 24 food dishes
  • ¾ inch wooden dowels
  • 3/8inch wooden dowels
  • wood glue
  • 18 rivets
  • 9 small strips of metal about 2 ½ inches x ¼ inch
  • 1 gallon of light colored paint eggshell texture
  • 1 box of wood screws
  • 3 10 feet strips of wood 1 inch by 2 inches
  • 1 quart of black enamel paint (for wood)

               Picture #1

The first step is to cut your ¾ inch plywood into 4 strips of 82 inches length by 12 inches width and 2 strips of 66 inches length by 12 inches using your circular saw. Next, with the help of a friend use the 2 strips of plywood 66inches by 12 inches to be used on the sides and the 4 strips of 82 inches by 12 inches to be used as tops for your cages.  What you end up with is a shelf system that looks like diagram A. You should space the shelves 15 ½ inches so that you can fit the cage fronts, the strips of wood and the cage bottoms. To save yourself a bit of work use your power drill with a Phillips screwdriver bit to screw your pieces together. At this point your cages should look like diagram A.

     Next screw your ½ inch thick piece of plywood onto the back of your unit so that it fits nice and snug.

Now would be a good time to cut your 1-inch by 2-inch strips of wood so that they are 82 inches in length. You will need 6 pieces of these strips.  Three of these 1 inch by 2-inch strips will be placed flush to the tops of each of the shelves. The other three strips will be placed at the bottom side of the shelves leaving enough room to fit the cage bottoms.  Refer to the picture below.



     Once you have these strips in place you can now drill holes so that you can fit the cage fronts on. Make sure you leave enough space in between each cage front so that you can fit the dividers. Next you can cut out your cage dividers. The measurements are ¼ inch plywood 13inches by 13 inches.  The dividers can be made to hold on tightly by attaching the small pieces of metals to the backside of the dividers. Drill a hole to the back of the cage where each divider will be placed.  With the metal piece attached to the divider you can now push the divider through the two cage fronts.  The metal piece should fit into the hole so that the divider can fit nice and tight.  Use your rivets and your rivet puncher to attach the metal piece to the wood divider.  You will have a space on the bottom of the divider big enough so that the birds can see each other but not pass through to the next cage. If you prefer to get rid of the space you can cut a small wood strip and glue it underneath the divider running along to the back of the cage. Using your clamps will help to keep the wood in place while the glue dries. If you look at the picture above you will notice that these glued wooden strips also act to keep the cage bottoms separated. This makes it easy to slide the cage bottom in and out when cleaning.

     At this point you should attach your dowels in the cage.  The dowels will act as perches for your birds.  I used two different sized dowels 3/8 inch and ¾ inch thickness so that the birds will be allowed to exercise their legs. A total of two perches for each cage were used.  Attach the perches by cutting them to size and attaching a two ended nail on one side of a perch and notching the other end to fit onto the cage front. If you drill a hole to the back of the cage you will find that it is quite simple to fit the perches to the cage in this fashion.

     At this point you are almost ready to paint your cage.  It might be a good idea to sand down any rough edges on the cage before you paint. When you paint your cage make sure you use a good quality water based paint with perhaps an eggshell finish. The eggshell finish is good because the paint holds up when you need to wipe the cages with a damp cloth for cleaning.  The outside edge of the cage and the 1-inch by 2-inch wood strips can be painted black with the enamel paint to give a good contrast. This helps to make your cage look sharp.  Try to paint your cage and dividers a nice bright color.  I chose a light blue because it was a bright color and I happened to already have the paint.  The picture below is a picture of the completed cage.



     As you can see the cage looks pretty good when it is finished.  Unfortunately because I lack space I had to make my bird room in the basement. If you notice I attached proper lighting in front of the cage so my birds get uvb and uva rays.  There is also a basement window on the right hand side that helps with some light.  With a timer I will be able to bring my birds into breeding condition with no problems.

     Below is a picture of a Border canary that I obtained from a club member.

     The cage is typical of the box cages that are still being built and used in England, quite fitting for my Border and his friends.  If anyone has any questions on how to build one of these cages I would be quite happy to accommodate them.  Simply leave me an e-mail at and I will answer any questions that you may have on the construction of one of these cages. I enjoyed building this cage for a couple of reasons.  The first being that I was truly amazed that I was actually able to build it when I put my mind to it.  The second reason being that I saved tons of money. I spent only $210.00 on the materials for the cage. Not bad when you consider that I was going to purchase one for $750.00.