African Greys are one of the most popular companion parrots available. They are highly intelligent birds. They have the ability to imitate human speech and just about any other sound they so choose.
The amazing thing is that African Greys often use words and sounds in context. For instance, when you stand in front of the microwave the bird starts making the beeping noise for 2 minutes and then the sound of the microwave running.
Or maybe every time you give it a banana slice you say, “Don’t you shake your head” because he flings it as he eats. Your bird may say that to you the next time you give him a banana slice before you can say it to him.
There are two types of African Greys. The Congo Grey and the Timneh Grey.
Types of African Greys
- Congo Greys: The Congo Grey is larger than the Timneh. It has red tail feathers and a black beak.
- Timneh Greys: The Timneh Grey is smaller than the Congo. It has more of a maroon-colored tail, and its beak will have some reddish-beige tints in it.
African Greys are considered by most companion bird owners to be moderately noisy. Most don’t have a morning and evening screaming session as some parrots do unless they are imitating other parrots they live with.
Don’t get me wrong. African Greys know how to make loud noises, and will emit a loud shrill and make loud noises when they so choose. If they are angry at their toy or think your not paying enough attention, they may choose a loud vocalization to express their feelings.
African Greys may not have the reputation for being the cuddliest parrot, but they can cuddle with the best of them. Most of it depends on how they are raised as a baby and how they’ve been treated since then.
They often have a favorite person, and that will be the person they will cuddle with. Experts suggest that you socialize your bird when you bring it home so that it will be comfortable with many people handling them.
Even still, that is no guarantee. Some birds just pick one person to like. My mother’s Congo Grey lets some of us pick him up and he threatens to bite others. Everyone loves him and treats him kindly. It’s his choice.
Often a bird will not “like” someone because they feel that person’s apprehension. Encourage people to relax when they handle your parrots. If they are really nervous, it might be best for them to wait until they have more confidence.
A bite from African Greys may spoil their future handling of that bird and other parrots too.
African Greys are very sensitive to their environment. Unfamiliar sounds, toys, household items, people, animals and the like will often scare them.
To help avoid having an African Grey that is scared of everything, try to introduce them to new things and people as often as you can.
Changing their routine will help too. Don’t let them become such a creature of habit that any change will stress them out. Some day you may need to change their routine or take them to someone else to care for them. If they are stuck in a rut, you may end up with terrible behavior problems.
Known Behavior Problems
Some African Greys have a tendency to feather pick. This is where the bird chews his feathers in a destructive way. Some become bald from the neck down.
Many have found that stress, boredom, and dietary problems play a big role in this problem. Follow the advice above and reduce any stress you can.
Feed them a diet that is healthy for their type, preferably organic. Chemicals in foods or that were fed veggies or fruits while they were growing can affect your parrot’s behavior!
One of the pellets we carry doesn’t even have artificial vitamins in them. This is highly recommended for birds with allergies or feather destruction issues.
Provide lots of stimulating toys for African Greys and change them out regularly to keep them from getting bored.
African Grey Diet
Experts say that a third of the African Grey’s diet should contain healthy pellets. We like the Totally Organics Pellets because they are 100% organic and don’t even have artificial vitamins in them. This is important if you have a bird with allergies.
I suggest that you pick one that is organic and not artificially dyed. Anything artificial has to be cleansed by the kidneys before it can be used. A lot of pellets are just junk.
If you want to learn how to switch your pet bird to pellets please read the linked article.
The next third to one-half of their diet should consist of a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. Again organic is always best. Who knows what chemicals were fed or sprayed on that other stuff!
Some African Greys are prone to low blood calcium, so try to incorporate plenty of calcium-rich foods. Some suggestions might include broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, green peas, carrots, green beans, almonds, and walnuts.
CAUTION: Never give your parrot alcohol, avocado, or chocolate – these can kill your parrot! Also avoid asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, caffeine products, junk food, milk and cream, raw potato, and rhubarb (including the leaves).
No matter what the pellet manufacturers want you to believe, parrots that have a variety of fresh healthy foods are much happier and healthier.
The remainder of the diet should consist of some seeds, nuts, and a little fresh fruit, organic if possible.
When fresh fruits and vegetables are not possible, dehydrated fruits and vegetables are great! Many birds love to crunch on dried fruits and veggies.
The best thing about them is that they don’t spoil, so you can leave them in the cage for hours or even days. This is handy when you are trying to get them to accept fruits and veggies.
When you are going to be home with them, you can moisten them with warm water to provide fresh-like fruits and veggies. Boy does this come in handy when you are traveling or on an outing!
We provide bath water in the morning and sometimes in the evening on warm days, but we only leave it in there one to two hours so that they don’t drink nasty water all day.
Do invest in a water bottle. You will avoid lots of potential health problems by ensuring they have clean water to drink that hasn’t been bathed and pooped in.
If your parrot has not used a water bottle before, you will need to provide both a water bottle and a dish until you see that they are drinking from the bottle.
Lixit makes a glass water bottle that has a wire instead of a spring that keeps it on the cage if you are worried about safety. (Some birds get their foot or beak stuck in the spring attachment on other bottles.)
The minimum requirements for an African Grey are 24 x 24 x 28 inches, with the bar spacing no smaller than 3/4 of an inch.
As mentioned earlier, provide lots of stimulating toys and healthy things to chew for African Greys. Buy a cage with a safe coating on it, because African Greys will use their beak to climb around the cage.
Consider getting a cage with a playpen on top for them to play on when you are home. The more room they have the happier they will be.
Every parrot enjoys time out of the cage with their human flock. Some parrots even enjoy time on a large playstand with other parrots.
If you have a parrot that is hand tame, time out of the cage is very important. For the safety of the parrot and for the sake of your furniture, a sturdy playstand is essential.
Playstands with food cups, toy hooks, and castors on the bottom are the best for everyone’s enjoyment. Some playstands have optional seed skirts that catch the food that falls to the floor of the stand and rolls or bounces.