The African Grey Parrot is a wonderful and highly intelligent bird. African Grey Parrots require a serious commitment and are great lifelong companions. Anyone who has an African Grey or who has had one will tell you that you can't really consider an African Grey Parrot a pet because the privilege of living with one is truly a unique and unforgettable experience.
There are two general types of the African Grey Parrot – the Congo African Grey and the Timneh African Grey. The African Grey Parrot species originate in the lowlands of western and central Africa from northern Angola to Guinea. The Congo African Grey (CAG) and the Timneh African Grey (TAG) are actually located in different regions of Africa.
African Grey Parrots are loving, playful, have the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old, and bring joy and laughter into the lives of all who have the pleasure of knowing one. African Greys are known as the "Einstein's" of the parrot world because of their incredible talking ability.
African Grey Parrots are very sociable and require a lot of attention and interaction.African Grey Parrots can be loving and playful and then in the next moment turn demanding and standoffish. As they are very sensitive and intuitive to what is going on around them in their environment, we as their companions must also be in tune to their needs and wants. Take the time to observe your African Grey as it plays, explores and interacts. African Grey body language, from the eyes, posture and reactions, is very telling.
A suitable cage for an African Grey Parrot is at least 2 feet deep by 3 feet wide by 4 feet high (61 x 91 x 122 cm) and has a playpen top with a tray. African Grey Parrots are very active and need a lot of "out" time. Its important to make sure that there are toys both inside the cage and outside in the playpen area to keep your African Grey busy.
It is best to get a cage that has horizontal side bars to help these nimble climbers get their exercise as they climb up and down the sides. A cage with too few horizontal bars has shown to contribute to a lack of motivation and curiosity. You should avoid a round cage as converging bars can trap toes or feet. A square cage also provides more room for your African Grey Parrot.
The cage you select is going to be home to your African Grey Parrot for a long time, so dont skimp – obviously you want something that is going to last so make sure you check it thoroughly. When selecting your African Grey cage keep in mind the following:
Quality of the cage –The bars of the cage should be too thick for the African Grey to bend and where the bars join should be smooth. No sharp edges, flaky finish or easy to disassemble. We're dealing with Einstein's here!
Material of the cage – the cage should be made from noncorrosive metal. Powder-coated cages typically stand up best to the test of the African Grey Parrot's beak and are usually very safe. Other acceptable metals include steel, brass or chrome. Zinc, which is toxic to birds, are in shiny welded wire and hardware cloth and cages that have these substances should not be considered for your African Grey Parrot.
Bars of the cage – There should be no openings or spacing between the bars large enough for your African Grey Parrot to put their head through or small enough for them to catch their toes. Typically, a good rule of thumb is the bars should be spaced about ¾ - 1 inch apart.
Perches of the cage – the perches that come with the cage might need to be replaced. African Grey Parrots love to grip the perch and flap their wings so make sure that you have a variety of easily gripped sized perches available for their use. For them to be able to grip the perch the opposing long toes need to extend at the least a little more than halfway around.
Trays and Grates – Make sure the trays and grates are removable so they are easily cleanable.
Dishes – Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are easier to keep clean and last longer than aluminum dishes. If the cage comes with aluminum dishes, you should replace them.
The cage should be kept clean by wiping it down with detergent and water or a bird safe disinfectant solution. Newspaper seems to be the safest bedding as organic bedding can cause illness and death if ingested, also the dust associated with them can be harmful.
The location of the African Grey cage in your home is very important. African Grey Parrots are flock members and like to be where the action is. They need the human interaction and their curiosity to know what is going on makes the place where the cage is essential to their health and happiness. Most African Greys cages seem to live in dining and living rooms, but remember not to expose the cage on all sides so they will still have a secure feeling when in their home.Fighting Hunting and feeding
A variety of foods is important to providing the diet and nutrition that your African Grey Parrot needs to have a happy and healthy life. There are many differing opinions and thoughts on African Grey diet and nutrition and there is no exact formula for feeding your companion parrot. Provide the most balanced diet for your African Grey as possible.
As a base, a pelleted diet is the best way to go for your African Grey. Preferably, an organically processed pellet, and not one that has additives, such as artificial coloring and flavoring. Seeds are high in fat and are not considered a healthy diet for your African Grey Parrot. Do not give vitamin supplements to your African Grey without talking to your avian veterinarian. Most African Greys on a pelleted diet do not need them.
Good vegetables choices for your African Grey:
Sweet potatoes,Carrots,Yellow and Butternut squashes,Collard greens,Broccoli (good source of calcium),Kale (also a good source of calcium),Peppers – green, red, chili,Celery,Zucchini,Cucumbers,Green beans,Peas – garden and snow,Leaf lettuce.
Good fruit choices for your African Grey:
Melons,Kiwi,Apples,Mango and Papaya,Grapes,Oranges,Berries – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries.
A common deficiency found in an African Greys diet is Vitamin A or beta-carotene, so it is important to provide beta-carotene vegetables on a daily basis. Calcium is also extremely important, as it is the predominant mineral in birds bodies. It is essential for healthy bones, nerve and heart function, muscle contraction and blood clotting. An avian veterinarian should check your African Grey yearly for calcium levels.
Water is a very important part of your African Greys care. Make sure they have fresh water in a clean bowl on a daily basis. If you question the water quality, give them bottled spring water – never distilled water as that has all the minerals and nutrients taken away.Eyes
Pinning: African Greys and other birds are able to control their irises and you can see their pupils rapidly enlarging and shrinking. This is called "pinning". Eye pinning goes along with what is happening in the immediate environment and body posture. If your African Greys body is relaxed and its eyes are pinning it usually means they are interested in or concentrating on something. However, if your African Greys feathers are puffed out and their eyes are narrowed and pinning.Head and Beak
Preening: African Greys and other birds "preen" their feathers. This means they clean them by taking each feather and sweeping their tongue along it. You will also see them rub their heads against the base of the tail. This is where the preen gland is located and an oil is emitted that they will then rub onto their feathers.
Fluffing or Ruffling: Your African Grey will fluff its feathers when it is relaxed, as a way to relieve tension, if it is cold, and even during the preening process which helps it to remove dirt or feather dust. If your bird remains fluffed for a long period of time and is unusually quiet, fluffing can also be a sign of illness and you should contact your avian veterinarian.
Flattened Feathers: When African Grey Parrots are afraid, they will flatten their feathers.
Body Quivering: An all over trembling body means your African Grey Parrot is afraid of something. This is usually accompanied by wide, staring eyes and deep breathing.
Chest Quivering: Unlike the entire body quivering, if your African Grey's chest only is quivering, they are feeling emotion. Some experts believe it means a sign of happiness and contentment.
Chicken Scratching: African Grey Parrots will "chicken scratch" at the bottom of their cage or on the carpet. This is a normal behavior for them as in the wild, they do this to loosen dirt and mud.
Standing on One Foot: African Greys are very relaxed when you see them standing on one foot with their other foot tucked under its breast.
Wing flapping: Flapping their wings, or flying in place, is a great form of exercise for your African Grey. It can also be used to get your attention or just to display happiness. African Greys and other birds often lift their wings as a means to stretch or to cool themselves off.
Hanging upside down: African Grey Parrots love to hang upside down.
The health of your African Grey Parrot is obviously of paramount importance to everyone in the "flock". As owners, we must be in tune with our African Greys and aware of how they act on a day-to-day basis so we know when things aren't normal. In this section, you will find information and guidelines on things to look for that show your African Grey is healthy and signs of a potential / possible illness in your African Grey. You will also learn how to put together an emergency kit for your bird, and potential household hazards and toxins for your African Grey Parrot.
In the wild, the instinct of a African Grey and other birds is to hide their illness so they appear healthy to predators and their flock. A predator will attack a sick or injured African Grey and the other birds in their flock might drive away a sick African Grey to avoid spreading an illness to the rest of the flock. This natural instinct is still present in our domestic birds and they will often hide symptoms of disease / illness until they are seriously ill. It is up to us to be observant and attentive to our African Grey Parrots so we know when something doesn't seem "quite right".
If there is any question, don't wait, contact your avian veterinarian. You know your African Grey better than anyone and know what is normal for your own bird. Don't ever hesitate to call your avian veterinarian if in doubt about your African Grey's health.