African Grey Parrots are considered the
best talkers in the parrot world. The
Guinness World Book of Records lists one
African Grey as learning 1000 words! They
can live up to 60 years and are highly
intelligent. Their dusty grey coloring with
the flash of brilliant red under the tail
makes them a handsome bird as well.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing
Choosing an African Grey Parrot as a pet
is a decision not to be rushed into. Parrot
sanctuaries around the world are homes to
many unwanted African Grays. They are
demanding of their human owners and with
such a long life span they are a lifetime
commitment. Like all birds they are messy,
but since they are big they are that many
times messier. If not well trained or if
frightened they can bite and that bite is
strong enough to draw blood and even break
small bones. An African Grey will require at
least two hours of your companionship per
day, every day, 365 days a year. If it feels
neglected it will misbehave, scream and even
be self-destructive, doing things such as
pulling out its own feathers.
Some people are enthralled with the idea
of having a parrot so that they can show off
how it talks to their friends and family.
This would not be the reason to purchase an
African Grey. Though they are the best
talkers, some choose never to talk at all.
Do detailed research into what owning an
African Grey Parrot can entail and even
talking to owners of African Greys before
making a decision. If then you've made a
firm decision to buy one, look for a
reputable bird breeder. Taking birds from
the wild is illegal and highly immoral as it
is leading to the extinction of many species
in their natural habitats. Be sure that your
African Grey was born in captivity and hand
When choosing a bird, look for signs of
good health such as clear eyes, active and
curious behavior, clean vent, and no
sneezing or nose dripping. Allow the bird to
sit on your finger and try and get a feel
for its temperament.
African Greys live happily alone, but
like most parrots they will become very
attached to their humans. It is important in
a family that all members spend equal time
with the parrot and become comfortable with
it. If this does not happen and the bird is
allowed to only attach to one person the
parrot may become very jealous and
territorial of that person and will not
allow other people to come near that family
member which could become a big problem.
African Greys need a bird cage large
enough to perch comfortably without touching
the floor or knocking into toys. They should
be able to spread their wings completely.
The smallest cage size would be 32 in
(width) x 32 inches (length) x 48 inches
African Greys need to be outside of their
cage often to fly around and socialize with
their humans. A parrot stand is a good piece
of equipment to have.
Their cage should be kept away from
drafts and strong smells. Insecticides,
aerosol perfumes, air fresheners, strong
smelling cleaners should no longer be used
in a house with an African Grey. These
things can be toxic to a bird with such an
efficient respiratory system. The Teflon on
nonstick pans, if heated to too high of a
temperature, produces a toxic gas very
poisonous to African Greys so it is best to
get rid of such pans before your African
Their cage should have a variety of bird
perches; natural branches of fruit trees are
best. This will ensure that your parrot's
feet remain healthy. A cuttle bone should be
provided for your parrot to keep its beak
healthy and to add calcium to their diet.
The bottom of the cage should be lined
with either newspaper, shavings or sand and
changed every day.
African Greys, like all intelligent
birds, need variety in their diet. If they
become bored with their food they may choose
not to eat. The basis of the African Grey's
diet should be parrot pellets formulated
specifically for the African Grey Parrot.
African Greys also need fresh fruits and
vegetables in their diet. Varying the fresh
food is good. Papaya, oranges, apples,
watercress, mangoes, sweet potatoes, and
shredded carrots are all good food for your
African Grey. Avoid cabbage, avocados,
lemons, and grapefruit. Fresh water should
always be available.
It is good to mix bird vitamins and
mineral supplements with your parrots food
or water once a week to be sure it is
getting everything that it needs.
African Greys should be given a birdbath
in their cage 2-3 times a week to let them
bathe themselves. Fill it with warm water
only, no soaps or detergents. Alternatively,
some birds like to be sprayed with warm
If the cage is equipped with a cuttle
bone, it is unlikely that your parrot will
need its beak trimmed at all. Some people
recommend trimming parrots wings to ensure
that they do not accidentally fly away.
Unless you are experienced at this it would
be better to leave wing trimming for the
avian veterinarian. It is imperative that an
African Grey's wings are not cut too short
as they are a heavy bird and can easily be
To keep your bird healthy, it is
important to thoroughly clean the cage on a
weekly basis with bird cage cleaners.
Monthly, disinfect the entire cage and its
contents after cleaning with a mixture of
3/4 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. Rinse
off the bleach mixture thoroughly and leave
the cage outside in the sun to dry. Any
wooden perches or toys should be replaced
when they become dirty with droppings as
they are unable to be disinfected. On a
daily basis, wash the water and food dishes
with water and dishwashing soap. Remove any
fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables and
proteins, after four hours of feeding.
African Greys need a lot of toys in their
cage. Just ensure that there is space for
the bird to perch freely. Have a stock of
toys so as to rotate them.
Your parrot will need at least two hours
of time with you per day. It can be time out
of the cage flying, sitting being stroked
and talked to or training time.
Many believe that African Greys have the
ability to actually understand what they are
saying as opposed to just mimicking. There
has also been many bird books and bird audio
CDs published about this topic. Irene
Pepperberg, a researcher, claims that her
African Grey Parrot can answer questions
such as "How many red squares?" and can
count and give the correct answer 80% of the
time. Many African Grey owners believe that
their birds understand, at least to some
extent, what they are saying.
For parrots to learn to talk they must be
healthy and they must feel secure with the
trainer. Once this is established the
training can begin. The best way to teach a
bird a new word is to repeat it and and show
the item to the bird. For example, a good
thing to start with is "Sweet". Say the word
and then give the bird a sweet. Soon the
bird will understand that when it says
"Sweet" you will produce a sweet for it.
The next thing would be for the parrot to
learn that it is loved. Scratch the bird on
the head in a manner that it enjoys and then
say, "I love you, Charlie" (if that's his
name). Do this until the parrot repeats and
understands that love means this nice
scratch on the head.
When you are feeding your parrot, it is
important to name the foods. This will teach
the parrot and eventually it will also name
the foods that it wants to be fed. When
greeting the bird, use greetings pertaining
to the time of day such as "Good Morning,
Charlie" or "Good Night, Charlie".
Be careful what you say around your
African Grey, once words and terms are
learned they will be repeated often, so you
wouldn't want the wrong words being picked
up by your parrot!
An African Grey Parrot is a fantastic pet
for the right person and a nightmare for the
wrong one. Do your research, be honest with
yourself about the commitment you are
willing to make and if you find that the
African Grey is the right pet for you, you
will find an intelligent, loyal, life-long
friend in him.