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How to Care for an African Grey Parrot

African Grey Parrots are stunning and intelligent birds that can be great pets in the right home but they require a great deal of love, attention, and exercise. Our Greeley vets share some tips on properly caring for African Grey parrots and what you can expect.

Things to Know About the African Grey Parrot

Weight: 15 to 18 ounces
Length: 13 inches
Lifespan: Can live up to 80 years 
Physical Characteristics: Varying shades of grey on the body; with striking red tail feathers

The African Grey parrot is believed to be one of the smartest birds in the world and is capable of learning over 1000 words and speaking sentences in the correct context. These beautiful and intelligent birds tend to form a very strong bond with one individual and are often remarkably in tune with their handler's emotions. While these traits may seem appealing, African Grey parrots are not recommended for novice pet owners. These birds require a great deal of time with their owners, as well as plenty of puzzles and activities to keep their brains occupied, room to fly, and a reliable daily schedule.

Because of their outsized intelligence, these parrots need 5 hours+ of stimulation every day to keep from falling into boredom or depression.  They are easy to train once one is familiar with using positive reinforcement and operant conditioning as training methods, but inexperienced bird owners are going to need to educate themselves on training techniques in order for the process to go smoothly.

How to Care for African Grey Parrots

Owning an African Grey parrot can be much like having a toddler to care for. These brilliant birds need hours of attention, plenty of out-of-cage exercise, social time with people and other pets, and mental stimulation to thrive.

What Type of Cage Does an African Grey Parrot Need?

Enclosures require enough space for your African Grey parrot to fully spread their wings without touching the sides, and to move around from perch to perch comfortably. Your parrot's cage should be durable, clean, secure, and constructed with non-toxic materials. Perches should be of variable widths, heights, and textures. A concrete perch can help to keep your Grey's toenails tidy. Never place perches over food or water (to prevent contamination). Be sure to place your Gey's enclosure in a warm safe place, clear of drafts, with indirect sunlight. Do not isolate your Grey, these social birds want to be involved in the day-to-day life of their handlers.

What Kind of Diet Should I Feed my African Grey Parrot?

In the wild, the natural diet of African Grey parrots consists of a variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. While seed-based diets may seem like an obvious choice these are not ideal since they permit birds to selectively pick out the seeds they like best, often leading to an imbalanced diet.

High-quality formulated diets in pellet or crumble form should make up about 75% of your parrot's diet. These specially formulated foods prevent picking and can provide your pet with a more complete and nutritionally balanced diet. Dark leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits should make up about  20-25% of your Grey's diet, with treats being limited to 5% or less. Clean, fresh water should always be available to your parrot.

How Can I Provide Opportunities For my African Grey Parrot to Exercise?

African Grey parrots require an hour or more each day of enrichment playtime with owners involving games, puzzles and lessons - but that's not all. As well as enrichment your Grey will also require 2-3 hours of exercise and out-of-cage time every day to help build muscle strength and prevent obesity. Be sure to restrict your African Grey parrot to safe rooms whenever they are out of their cage and always supervise your Grey since they can get into mischief such as eating things they shouldn't, getting into fights with other pets, or knocking things over.

How to Take Care of an African Grey Parrot?

To keep your African Grey Parrot healthy and happy they should be examined by a qualified avian veterinarian once or twice a year. A vet that has specialized training in the care of exotics and avians can help provide your African Grey parrot with the care they need and deserve, as well as provide you with the guidance and advice you need to become the best Grey owner you can be. Routine preventive care including fecal exams, blood tests and vaccinations play a vital role in giving your African Grey their best shot at a long, happy and healthy life. 

Wing and nail trimming will also be required from time to time to keep your parrot looking and feeling great.

Without proper care at home and annual veterinary care African Greys are prone to a number of problematic behaviors and health problems including feather picking, fearfulness, aggression, respiratory illnesses, hypocalcemia syndrome, circovirus (PBFD virus), nasal blockages (bacterial, fungal, secondary to malnutrition), and proventricular dilatation disease (PDD)

What Are the Costs Associated With Owning an African Grey Parrot?

African Greys do not make ideal pets for everyone. If you are out of the house frequently, travel, devote your time to children, or simply do not have 3-5 hours to devote to your Grey each day this is not the pet for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a feathered friend that will be devoted to you and demand your love and attention an African Grey may be the right pet for you. Still, it is important to remember that these birds can live up to 80 years of age, meaning that they often outlive their owners and need to be rehomed.

If you are interested in purchasing an African Grey Parrot your first stop should be your local parrot rescue agency. The volunteers and professionals at a parrot rescue center will be able to tell you about the personality, health, and general background of the birds they are re-homing. Rescue agencies often offer classes for new bird owners and tips and advice on caring for avian companions.

Whenever you see an African Grey Parrot for sale be sure to check out the breeder or seller to ensure that the bird has been treated ethically and is in good health.

You should expect to pay anywhere from about $500 to $5000 for an African Grey Parrot depending on where you are getting your pet from. You should also be prepared to spend in the region of $75-$300 to purchase all the food, equipment, and goodies you will need for your new feathered friend.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Our team at St. Michaels Companion Animal Hospital is passionate about providing comprehensive care for all types of animals including avians and exotics. Contact our vets in Greeley to book a visit today.

Caring for Pets in Greeley

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