The African grey parrot is one of the most commonly kept large parrots in homes throughout the world. They may lack the brilliant coloring of their macaw cousins, but they more than make up for it with their staggering verbal abilities. This makes them a very popular species.
The average African grey’s extensive vocabulary demonstrates the intensity of their intelligence. They are known to give appropriate verbal responses in unrehearsed situations without coaching. Many owners claim to “converse” with their African greys.
However, perhaps an unfortunate side effect to their intelligence, they are known to be excessively fearful and phobic. This hyper-sensitivity to handling and to their environment is often demonstrated with fear based behaviors, such as unwillingness to interact and biting.
Tragically, the unhappy grey eventually gets around to feather plucking. In fact, in captivity the ratio of unplucked to plucked African greys is about three to one: a remarkably high percentage.
Don't Let Your Bird Be a Statistic
Many of the plucked and fearful African greys in captivity come from what most would consider to be good homes with conscientious people who provide good care but have missed or misinterpreted the warning signs.
- Does your bird show reluctance to step up on your hand?
- Does he lunge for your fingers when you reach for him?
- Does he retreat to the corner of his cage when you or another family member come near?
These are all vivid indications that trouble is brewing with your African grey. No doubt you are scratching your head right now wondering where you went wrong, and more importantly, wondering how you can fix it!
How to keep your African Grey from being unhappy
You have a species of bird that is fearful by nature which makes it constantly on high alert and looking for things to be of which to be afraid! It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.
The key to a happy African grey begins and ends with confidence. A confident bird feels secure and trusts that his environment is safe. A confident bird welcomes new toys in its cage, doesn’t have a meltdown during thunder storms, and regards the family dog as a nuisance and nothing more.
You will accomplish this by creating a deep and lasting bond with your bird. Once trust is established, the world is a much less threatening place. Confidence grows as each new experience has a positive result, and the timid African grey discovers there is nothing to be afraid of after all.
Your African Grey is Waiting for You to Show Him or Her the Way
Birds innately recognize the fact that there is safety in numbers. Our companion parrots want and need the security of a trusting relationship with their humans because they consider us flock mates.
The fastest way to a bird’s heart is usually through its stomach; most birds will not pass up an opportunity to earn a treat. This fact makes it easy to begin training with positive reinforcement. Whether it is your intention to train your bird to do elaborate tricks, or whether you simply want to use training as a tool to establish and retain trust; our Reality Series “One Day Miracles” will show you how to change your relationship with your African grey. It will also show you how to help it to become confident and happy.
Follicular damage. I have a red factor African grey and her butt feathers radiate like a gradient pink that softly transitions to grey. When she looses a wind feather its grey and if you look close you can see pink blush in the middle. Funny story, the breeder actually carefully selected her mate so they could have more rare african greys. It’s been like 5 years since his aviary shut down (after the parrot trend died as novelty pets when they got associated to the people impulsively buying novelty pets…) So my parents got both the female and her partner that still feeds her and guarded the nest box… “he” finally matured to the age and decided to lay eggs a few months ago. But, my uncool, and now socially cringy little pet buddy unfortunately has a very common plucking problem. When the feather looks like a shrimp and stands out on other feathers it is follicular damage. If it’s innate traced back to the breeders that made the red factor breed in New Zealand it will be like a blush pink shading that is generically on a part of the body and slowly blends to the other feathers. When you look up red factor you get African greys that are full of these bright shrimp feathers all over, I feel pretty certain these parrots get plucked by people until the point they have follicular damage and turn red so they can be sold for more money.
@Tina Mello Tina, if at all possible, please try working with Cicero to work him up to periods of you being away from home for an hour or two at a time. It sounds like he’s just lacking some confidence, and that’s something you can help build with him. I’m not sure what your situation looks like, but you could also consider having someone check on him daily and spend some time with him.. unless he’s fearful of strangers. If you truly need to rehome him, you have a few options you can weigh. Ruffled Feathers is a permanent sanctuary, so they’ll never adopt out any birds surrendered to them and Cicero would join their flock for the remainder of his years. Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary adopts out (I’ve been wanting to apply as a foster / potential adoption through them). Alternatively you could try to place him in a home yourself — this was how I came to adopt my grey, Oliver, through a coworker of a friend. I wish you luck, and hope your heart finds peace if you do decide to rehome him.
Aloha, thank you for allowing the note I left. I wach many of your YouTube videos. Kudos always. More later time. Mahalo, appreciated. V Inouye
African Grey to rehome. She is 25 years old, I have been her only owner. I have health issues and am looking to find a forever home for her with someone with experience with the breed. If you can match me with someone looking for an AG I would be very grateful. I found you site and have been implementing many of your suggestions. They all work! I am delighted. She loves the homemade baked food recipe and looks forward to her AM meal prior to getting her seed. She also eats Harrison pellets at night. Happy New Year. Please continue what you do for all the birds out here. Kathy
i want to find out about buying a african grey parrot and i am hoping i might get a response i have been almost scammed once i have cage toys food i just need a grey it will help me with bad war memories
I have a CAG. She will be 3 in April. I take her out in the evening as morning I’m at work and I don’t trust her outside alone as I ha a Golden retriever. When she comes out she is happy and flies around. Then she comes to my shoulder and lowers her head for scratches or neck rubs. But then suddenly she starts nipping and biting at my neck and sometimes my cheek. What can I do to stop this. When it happens I put her back in the cage. Thanks
I retired and purchased a baby, male African Grey. I have been home with him for 12 years. Sadly, I must return to full-time work. I have 2 dogs and 3 cats; Cicero gets nervous when I am not home. I am presently considering a rehoming situation; I was wondering if Dave and Jamie could help me. I have researched a few sanctuaries (Ruffled Feathers, Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary); however, I am uncertain if these would be an appropriate setting. I need guidance. Perhaps I should schedule a consultation? Thank you, Tina
Hi, Its been a couple of week I had an African grey who seems really like an angry bird to me, may be about 9 to 12 months old as informed by the previous owner. If I take my hand near to its cage it starts growling. Whenever I pet, it starting growling although it accepts food from my hand but it keeps growling while petting hand at it’s back or head. I am really disappointed with its behavior. Please suggest something. Thanks, Umer
@Hanno, Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so sorry to hear about your Sinja,when i lost Luna it was devastating. My heart aches for her everyday. I am glad you found a new girl and was shocked to learn her name was Luna. We also have a 2 year old grey named Willow who adopted us about 2 months before Luna passed.Willow is my wifes girl. Our ultimate goal is to work with Dave and Jamieleigh and free flight Willow if they will take us. Luna never flew although she tried her heart out.She would sit on my shoulder and flap her wings as hard as she could. When Willow does free fly i am going to nreak down in tears of joy and sorrow because all Luna wanted to do was fly and Willow will fly with Lunas spirit.
@ Rodney Cathey Hi Rodney, I just did your comment here and my eyes are filled with tears. Again. Your Luna’s story reminds me very much of our Sinja’s story. Sinja came to us in November 2020, we found her at a not-so-good breeder’s place, where she was left by the heirs of an elder lady who died, the heirs had “no use” for the bird. We were told by the breeder, that was approx. 25 y/o, stayed at that place for some 6 months. She was almost apathetic when we saw her there for the first time , couldn’t fly at all, feathers plucked, knew only seeds for food, her health generally wasn’t much good. We could provide her a new home for only 15 months, then she got sick and didn’t wake from the anesthesia while our parrot vet was doing surgery. Two months ago we finally found another gray parrot lady who became a new family member, now our little family is complete again, two parrots, two humans. Her name is Luna. My thoughts are with your Luna and you. Take care.
Hello, I have a chatty african grey, her name is Debo and she is almost 2 years what do you recommend?
HELP PLEASE……….. =O( I have a male African Grey Parrot going on 12 years now and within the last 3 years he started plucking and its getting worse I don’t know how to reverse the action and would love some advise on how to do so….Its breaking my heart.
Hello, Luna adopted me last December. She was shipped to Ca from Florida to be a breeder bird but was too small. I never owned birds before but my wife has and Luna was for my wife but she bonded to me. We tried to get Luna to eat the seasonal feeding system but were never able to get her to do it.My guess was she had always had a seed only diet her entire life. We guessed that she was 12 years old but have no idea her band ID was no help. For all of the grey owners out there please get your babies on the seasonal feeding system and have them checked out by a reputable avian vet. I lost Luna this weekend. She had cancer that originated in her preening gland and if this had been caught early enough could have been a different outcome. Luna is at the rainbow bridge waiting for me and i cant wait to see her again. She stole my heart in the short 7 months that we had each other. Rest in peace baby girl.
Do you know where they offer training for African Grey parrots?
Thank you for the information, this will help a lot. We’ve had her for over 10 years, before that she was with a family for 5 years. They never took her out of her cage. She was bald when they gave her to us. She has feathers now. We also have a blue and gold, they hate each other! Charlie is the Grey, they thought she was a boy, after being here fr a few months she payed 3 eggs. Anyway it’s hard keeping them apart. They want to hurt each other. Sorry, I’m rambaling. Thank you again
Hey there. I’ve been watching your YouTube channel for a couple of years now and periodically tried some recommendations. I’ve changed Zac’s diet to the Organic Pellets and Sunflower and Nut Free seed mix to enable us to use treats. I have also bought a clicker but haven’t used it yet. We’ve got a large cage in the hall where all 3 of us pass a lot but bring him down to sit on the coffee tree stand in the living room every night. He is actually female( after laying an egg a few years ago). He talks, dances, walks around the house even with the cats; they’re more afraid of him. When I lived at home 25 years ago I was really attached and had no issues. I left home and married my Partner and have adopted Zac into our home. He can’t fly very well but doesn’t try to unless shocked. When we let him wander the floor he goes for our toes. He loves a head scratch but is always on the verge of Turing round to bit us, or my folks or my Nana; right through the nail and feel enough for stitching. We can move him from place to place using “up-up” onto a stick(perch) to move from place to place. We want Zac to step up, on our hands, head scratch without and inevitable bite. I used to cuddle Zac when I stayed at home, he(she) stepped up and never bit. I’m happy to pay for an ongoing training package to maximise the benefit as he’ll hopefully be with us for another 30 years! We love what you do and could do with your help. Please contact me to arrange a package. Obvs it’ll be Zoom cos we’re in Scotland, Unless you guys are planning a holiday in the UK! Hopefully talk soon. Scott.
thank you i am going to get a african grey and this helped me out
Hello I have had my grey since I was 14 years old (I’m 39 right now) and I got him as a fledgling and I finished weeing him. At about 5 years old he started picking and I brought him to the vet as soon as I saw the trimmed feathers. The Vet just said that he is a feather picker and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.( I don’t think that is true) his diet consists mostly of pellets (I use Pretty bird gold. it is free of dyes and preservitives and he has been on it from the beginning) he gets fruits and nuts (loves peacans, cashues, and almonds) and whatever I eat I usually give him some (I don’t give him anything that contains avacods, chocolate or fruit seeds) he loves cheese, and meat of all kinds. I think when he turned ten years old he started biting Hard and lunging. I remember the times when he’d just sit on my lap and get head scratches and not being a biter. he use to sit on a perch at the table and eat with us but once he started biting that’s when it stopped. the feather picking gets worst during the winter (Right now, he has picked all of his tail feathers, most of his back and chest feathers and some of his wing feathers). He plays with all kinds of toys he fears the vacume cleaner and large boxes. everytime he request for a head scratch, I make a move to do it but get bit soon after I reach over to give him head scratches. I do not trust him any more and neither does anyone else in my family (Except for my sister who he adores even though she pays little to no attenchen to) but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on Argee. I want this to work. So, What needs to be done? what is the first step? I need to regain trust but I don’t know how to start Please help
First, you guys are talented and really know your stuff. I truly admire you. Here’s my problem I hope you can help with. I am a retired prof living alone. An elderly lady asked me to take her Grey because she couldn’t take take of the bird and her ailing husband. I’ve had cockatiels most of my life but not now. Poppy is only a year and a half old. I’ve had her for 6 months. About a month and a half ago Poppy started plucking. She has a large cage which she loves spending time in even though the door is open. She loves being with me. She doesn’t bite. She talks a lot and sings. She is not at all afraid of new toys. She is cautious around new people but not scared. She can ask for things she wants. She willingly steps up and down. I never force her. She came to me with wings cut way too short. He flight feathers are starting to grow in but she doesn’t know how to fly, though she seems to really want to. She appears to be a happy, well adjusted bird. Blood work was clear. The only problem I see is that she doesn’t like to bathe but I watched your video and will try your approach. But she won’t stop plucking and I’m scared for her. Do you have any advice?
I just wanted to give some encouragement to all the fellow CAG family members. We have had our 7 year old little girl, Rosie, for over 6 years. She hasn’t bitten in years, is not phobic or fearful in the least (excluding cork toys) and is extremely affectionate – demanding cuddles several times a day and before bedtime. We had a lot of the same issues many of you had in the first few months after getting her. Our approach, other than following most of what birdtricks’ teaches, was to be excessively patient involve Rosie in almost every aspect of our lives. We both work partially from home, and she is only in her cage/bedroom at bedtime and when we leave the house, so not very much at all. I haven’t had a shower without her in 6 years, and she even has her own spot at the dining table for meal times. We have taken her hiking and she has made a cockatoo friend in our neighborhood, and regularly has play dates with him. She even came to visit me in the hospital every day when I received a kidney transplant. My advice to all of you – consider your bird a family member, not a pet. They are incredible little creatures, and have so much capacity for love, understanding, empathy, and knowledge. Persevere and love your little feather bundle of fun. They don’t care what you look like, what clothes you are wearing, how much you make at your job, or what kind of car you drive – they just care about spending time with you. Good luck and happy birdies to all
Hello i have yet another question i have now had my african grey for more than 3 weeks today i had a visit from a very good friend my parrot seemed fine with it no agressive behavior but he did behave badly with one thing i have a blender and the parrot destroyed the cord of the blender wich is used to turning the blender on he havent done that before he have always stayed away from cords like that we had to remove the blender cause everytime i took him away from the blender he would fly right back to it could this be because he is jealous of my friend because me and my friend was talking he has plenty of toys as well he could play with so im unsure about why he did that
Hi from Mauritius , I just found out about you while researching about African Greys. I owned a baby grey about twenty years ago, but gave it back to the breeder when we had our first child, fearing we would not have enough time fir both. I just got Shadow, a baby grey two weeks ago and enjoying hand rearing him. I look forward to learn a lot more from you guys.
I just adopted an African Grey who is 20 years old. She had one owner who is moving out of the country and could not take her to the new location. She said my name the first night we brought her home! I was blown away. She was alone in her cage way too much and is very phobic of everything. She does not step up for me yet, but she is doing great with target training- and as of today, will even target over my hand (still not stepping up on my hand yet though.) I am incredibly inspired by your work with Bean and hope she will eventually be a confident enough bird to come out and have a life with us. <3
Hello, I’m having similar situation as BROWNING MEJIA. My mom had bought an Congo African Grey named Ozzy from a pet store when he was 5 years old. He is now 20. She said when she brought him home he was very gentle . He would perch on her hand and arm. She said she was able to get him out of his cage. Then she had to leave out of town and had a friend take care of him for about a week. When she came back it was like he was a different bird. She said you couldn’t even touch him without him biting. She would have to put a towel over him to even get him out of his cage , SO I have inherit Ozzy. It seems like he is scared of everything, I have gotten him were he will take food out of your hand now and he lets me rub his head. But I’m the only one that he will allow to touch him. When my husband comes close by he fluffs up and sways . Ozzy will come out of his cage only if no one is close by, But as soon as he see you he heads back in his cage. I was just wondering if you would have any suggestions on how to get him to be more comfortable when he is out of his cage and any suggestions on how to get him to quit biting?
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