Wondering how to take care of an African grey parrot now that you own one? Your parrot will probably live 40 to 60 years in captivity, so learning how to take care of it now will not be a waste of time.
The African grey parrot is a beautiful bird, with its soft gray body, black bill, and bright red tail feathers. It is gregarious, with a baffling ability to mimic not only your voice, but also sounds in its environment such as a beeping microwave and pouring water. When it learns to speak, it lacks the characteristic tinny sound of most talking birds. Instead, it mimics not only your words, but also the quality of your voice.
Expect your African grey parrot to be very companionable. African grey parrots in the wild live in flocks of as many as 200 birds. A single African grey in your home will consider you the flock and want to get involved in family activities, including holidays and parties. It will love a perch near the table where you eat. It will instruct your daily grooming from atop a T-Stand in the bathroom. Best of all, if you give it quality time with you on the couch every day, it will devote itself absolutely to you!
This delightful bird can meet some of your needs, but you must meet its needs.
How to Take Care of an African Grey Parrot’s Cage Needs
Like you, your parrot needs a home. It needs a proper cage.
The right cage will be at least 32” wide x 23” deep and 4’ high without a stand. The cage should have a play top where your grey parrot can exercise and entertain itself. Hang a canopy of toys in the top third of the cage, and fasten more toys on the play top.
A local pet shop, if not dedicated to parrots, may have no cage big enough, with a playground top, but you will find just what you need at Windy City Parrot, where I found this in a choice of six colors.
How to Take Care of an African Grey Parrot’s Food Needs
Since your African grey parrot will not be foraging for food as it would in the wild, it is up to you to provide food that is both nourishing and delicious. You will not go wrong if you begin with bird food meant specifically for African grey parrots. Both the Timneh and Congo African grey parrots eat similar diets, so any pellets marked for African grey parrots will provide basic nutrition.
Filling the parrot’s dishes with pellets and leaving them until the dish is empty is lazy and not good for your African grey. Your parrot needs pellets, but it needs other things, too.
- Begin its day with a teaspoon or two of fresh fruits or vegetables. Leave them in the dish no longer than an hour so they will not grow bacteria.
- Clean the fresh food dish and fill it with pellets. Check the packaging to find the right amount for an African grey the age and weight of your parrot.
- In the evening, remove remaining pellets, clean the dish, and give your parrot another teaspoon or two of fresh food. Remember to take away any remaining fresh food after an hour. Leave no food in the cage overnight.
Water is, of course, essential to your African grey parrot. Wash the water dish each morning, and fill it with fresh water. If your tap water is not good, give your parrot bottled spring water. Never give distilled water. The process of distillation removes every mineral and other nutrient from the water.
How to Take Care of an African Grey Parrot’s Emotional Needs
You and I have emotional needs: independence to run our own lives; companionship of people we like; and brain stimulating challenges or entertainment. Even as two-year-old toddlers looking for independence, we had emotional needs… and how did our parents meet those needs? If they were good parents, they did not make every decision about our lives; never give us toys; never play with us or let us have playmates, etc. They did not lock us in a room alone while they went out for the day.
Your African grey parrot has the emotional needs of a 2-year-old toddling human. You will want to meet these three major emotional needs with patience and understanding.
- Independence. A parrot in the wild has no one ordering its life all day. It can and does make its own decisions as to what it will do. It chooses where to fly, when to play, what jungle “toys” it wants, what to eat, etc. Give your parrot control over its own life whenever you can do so safely and appropriately. Even if your parrot makes bad decisions, be kind and understanding with your corrections.
- Companionship. In the wild, your parrot would have a large flock of companions with whom to fly, chatter, eat, and play. You and others in your home will become its flock, and its needs include chatting and interacting with you all. Social media may satisfy you and your children, but it will leave your parrots’ needs unmet. Your parrot needs real, not virtual, social interaction on a daily basis.
- Brain Games. The African grey parrot is “… the genius of the bird world,” says Dr. Evan Mavromatis, avian veterinarian. “… they are so incredibly intelligent — on par with a five- or six-year-old child!” Meet the emotional needs of your little “genius” with educational toys / puzzles that stimulate brain activity. Remember. Confine Einstein to a room with no brain stimulation and he will not be “Einstein.”
Consciously meet your African grey parrot’s emotional needs with independence to leave its cage and make decisions, companionship, and educational brain games.
The how-tos of taking care of an African grey parrot do not end there, but these will help you get started. Future blogs will talk more about this fascinating parrot.
While you wait for me to post more, tell me what you would like to know about African grey parrots – or about parrots in general. For example, “Why would my African grey parrot stop talking?” Comment below.