African Greys are rewarding pets to own because they require a heavy amount of involved care.
But are they good birds for beginners, or do they require an experienced handler?
African Greys aren’t a good choice for beginners due to their highly intelligent and sensitive nature. They require a great amount of mental stimulation, are very sensitive to their environment, and do best when cared for by an experienced birdkeeper.
Why African Greys Are Best for Experienced Birdkeepers
African Greys are fascinating avian creatures — and for the right owner — can make for wonderful pets. However, they require a great amount of care and considerable attention.
Even minute changes in the environment can cause behavioral problems in an African Grey. That’s why they aren’t best for beginner bird owners.
African Greys also don’t like much close physical contact, which may disappoint a beginner bird owner looking for a companion they can spend significant cuddle time with.
They prefer a light amount of petting, head-scratching, and non-physical interactions.
With the training of an experienced birdkeeper, an African Grey can grow an impressive vocabulary and learn to use its words appropriately.
Some African Greys have even shown an ability to count and understand the concepts of categories.
African Grey Temperament
African Greys are brilliant birds that can be pretty charming in their ability to communicate, but they can also quickly become unhappy if they don’t have enough stimulation or their environment changes, even in a small way.
Known as “The Einsteins of the Bird World,” these birds need extra special care and attention.
The two types of African Grey are the Timneh and Congo. The Timneh is resilient in the face of chaos whereas the Congo is more sensitive. Both are good companion birds but have different needs.
It’s generally best to avoid big environmental changes when you’re caring for an African Grey. Make sure that you’re also providing plenty of mental stimulation in the form of toys and interactions.
They need a large cage or aviary and a considerable amount of time outside the cage, so only consider getting an African Grey if you have plenty of space.
African Greys are also known for their ability to pick up speech and mimic many of the sounds they hear, from human speech to the microwave’s ding.
How To Take Care of an African Grey
Since biblical times, humans have kept African Greys, and it’s no wonder why; these birds are beautiful, intelligent, and loyal companions.
However, they also require special care, and you need to consider these needs before getting one.
Here’s a list of guidelines that explain how to take care of an African Grey and will help you understand why they’re best for experienced owners.
- Don’t trim the African Grey’s wings, at least at first. They need to learn to fly at a young age. Without their flight wings, they will have a hard time learning how to take off, land, or do other basic maneuvers. Once they’re older, they can tolerate a slight trim in their flight wings, but this should only be done by an experienced professional after consideration.
- Allow your African Grey to fledge to prevent it from falling. These birds have heavier bodies than most and can easily suffer injuries from the force of a fall. It’s essential to allow the African Grey’s wings and flight instincts to develop so they can steady themselves.
- Avoid letting your African Grey perch on your shoulders, which is a slippery surface for them. Instead, offer your hand, and keep your shoulder beneath your hand height to discourage climbing.
- Clip your African Grey’s nails regularly to avoid painful wounds or scratches on your skin. Be careful not to cut the nails too short, as this can destabilize your bird.
- Find a perch that allows your Grey’s feet to wrap almost all the way around it for added stability. This is especially important if you’ve clipped your African Grey’s nails.
- Cover part of your African Grey’s cage with a towel or blanket so that it can choose to hide when it wants to. This is very important if your bird’s cage is near a window.
- Watch for signs of anxiety in your Grey. Respond by whispering in soft tones and offering your bird a place to hide. Avoid exposing your Grey to loud noises or heavy activity, and know that if you’re feeling anxious, your Grey will feel anxious, too.
- Pick a birdcage that’s wide but not tall. Tall cages can increase the fall risk for an African Grey, and wide cages will provide enough room for them to stretch out and feel less confined.
- Place your Grey’s perch towards the bottom of the cage so that the fall risk is minimal.
- Provide your African Grey with a water bath, or bathe it regularly with clean water. This will remove excess dirt and oils, which build up on the feathers, especially when its diet is high in fat, and it’s being handled regularly.
- Wash your hands before handling your Grey to avoid introducing grease, oils, pathogens, or synthetic substances like lotion to your bird’s feathers.
- When your Grey is anxious or stressed, try using a “shooshing” noise or whispered clicking to calm it down.
What Does an African Grey Eat?
An African Grey needs a balanced diet of seeds, berries, and grains and ideally eats in a way that mimics their natural foraging instincts.
LAFEBER’S Nutri-Berries Bird Food is a perfect example of good food for an African Grey; they’re nutritionally complete and offer an interesting shape for foraging and beak play.
African Greys also do well with supplemental vegetables in their diets, such as fresh kale and cooked sweet potato.
These vegetables can prevent vitamin deficiencies common in African Greys, especially if they’re not fed a diet based on nutritionally complete pellets.
What Are Some Common Health Concerns for the African Grey?
Common health problems in the African Grey include deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium, which you can help solve with dietary supplements.
They’re also susceptible to feather picking, especially if they’re not getting enough stimulation.
African Greys seem to be vulnerable to respiratory infections, psittacosis, and psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD).
Where To Get an African Grey
African Greys are native to the African savanna, coastal mangroves, and the edges of forest clearings in West and Central Africa.
Because these birds are constantly threatened with extinction, trade of them is banned by the United Nations.
However, they’re bred in captivity by responsible breeders and can be found in several places outside their natural habitat.
African Greys aren’t typical at an everyday pet store. Instead, you’ll need to find a responsible African Grey breeder or visit a specialty avian pet store.
You may also have some luck finding an African Grey at a bird rescue or sanctuary for exotic birds. In any case, make sure that you do your research and find someone responsible to adopt one from.
African Greys are best raised by experienced birdkeepers, not beginners. This is because they’re highly intelligent and sensitive birds.
They also have the potential to be excellent communicators and charming companions but can be difficult to handle when their needs for mental stimulation aren’t adequately met.