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are African grey parrots hard to take care of?

How To Take Care of African Grey Parrots

(Last Updated On: June 16, 2023)

Known as the “Einstein of the parrot world,” African greys are among the smartest parrots. They require considerable care and attention but make loyal, affectionate, and communicative companions.

Prospective owners want to know, “Are African grey parrots hard to care for?” African greys (Psittacus erithacus) are recommended for experienced owners, NOT novices or beginners.

If an African grey is left alone frequently, exposed to an unreliable and ever-changing routine, or lacks mental engagement, it’s likely to grow unhappy and develop behavioral problems.

African greys have complex care needs and long life expectancies. So, if you’re a first-time bird owner, consider a beginner-level parrot if you lack someone experienced to guide you.

Do African Grey Parrots Make Good Pets?

African grey parrots are highly intelligent birds that make affectionate, friendly, talkative, and loyal pets. However, they’re high-maintenance, requiring entertainment and mental stimulation.

Consequently, they don’t make good pets for people who work long hours or spend significant time away from home. African greys can display negative behaviors, including the following:

  • Attention-seeking by vocalizing loudly.
  • Angry outbursts of emotions, like jealousy.
  • Self-harm, like feather and skin picking.

African greys often develop a strong bond with their primary caregiver but are accepting of others members of the family once they become familiar.

African greys exhibit many positive behaviors, including the following:

  • Entertaining parrots who enjoy playing games.
  • Loving and affectionate toward owners who meet their care needs.
  • Learning words/phrases and fun tricks.

Dedicating sufficient time to look after and spend time with an African grey parrot is essential.

african grey parrots as pets

How Much Are African Grey Parrots?

The average asking price for an African grey is between $1,000 and $3,000.

The factors that affect the cost of African greys include the following:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Hereditary diseases.
  • Genetics.
  • Unique markings.
  • Breeder or seller.

Usually, more mature parrots cost more because they’ve undergone basic training and socialization.

Do You Need a License to Own an African Grey Parrot?

Although African greys are endangered, most states have no U.S. ownership restrictions if you purchase one from a licensed breeder.

Importing an African grey parrot involves applying for a VS Import permit from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Also, the bird must be quarantined for 45+ days to ensure it’s not carrying any infectious diseases.

The safest way to legally own an African grey parrot in the U.S. is to locate a reputable breeder and purchase a bird directly from them. This way, you’ll have a parrot with a clean bill of health.

Where To Get An African Grey Parrot

You may find an African grey parrot for sale in a small, independent pet store, but they’re less commonly found at large retailers like PetCo and PetSmart due to their advanced care requirements.

Look online for breeders in your area. Also, perform due diligence and background checks on these breeders, ensuring they’re licensed and have a good reputation among past buyers.

Another option is adopting an African grey parrot from an animal shelter, which is often less expensive. African greys can live for 40- 80 years, often outliving their owners.

Ask volunteers (staff) if the African grey has been rehomed due to past behavioral issues so that you understand the scale of your challenge.

What Size Cage Does An African Grey Parrot Need?

The minimum size of an African grey parrot’s cage is 36 x 24 x 48 inches.

According to the Center for Animal Rehab and Education, the bars should be ¾ to 1 inch apart. This will prevent escape, enable your parrot to climb, and be easier to attach perches and feeders.

African greys are sensitive to noise and movement in their environment. They can become stressed when overstimulated by their surroundings, so position the cage in the corner of the room.

Cage Lining

African greys, like all parrots, are messy birds. They poop often, sometimes defecating outside their cage, drop a large percentage of their food, and enjoy destroying things with their strong beaks.

African grey parrots also release dust from their wings. This is a powder down that coats the wings, insulating the feathers and keeping the bird warm.

While parrot dust is easy to clean, be mindful of anybody with breathing problems. Parrot dust can trigger asthma attacks or lead to a respiratory condition called Bird Fancier’s Lung (BFL).

Newspaper and paper towels are safe for lining the cage, as they’re quick and easy to replace.


Position 3 wooden perches at different levels in the cage to allow climbing.

Plastic perches with rough edges will cut the parrot’s feet, risking bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis). Similarly, perches covered with an abrasive surface will remove the surface layer of the skin.


African greys grow bored easily, so they’ll need interesting toys to keep them entertained and engaged. This includes bells, rope swings, climbing frames, and mirrors.

What Temperature Do African Grey Parrots Like?

African grey parrots hail from the hot climes of Africa, so they prefer an ambient temperature of around 72–80OF. Avoid positioning the cage in a draughty area or direct sunlight to avoid heatstroke.

Some exposure to the sun is highly beneficial, as parrots need UV light for vitamin D3. Parrots can’t utilize calcium without sufficient vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and feathers.

What Do African Grey Parrots Eat?

According to VCA Hospitals, inadequate nutrition is the cause of many health conditions. For example, seed-based diets are a leading cause of hypovitaminosis A (vitamin A deficiency).

An African grey’s nutritional requirements are wide-ranging, so they eat pellets, seeds, nuts, fruits, and meat. Pellets should comprise around 70% of their diet, containing the essential nutrients a parrot needs.

Parrots should be fed orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables because they’re a good source of natural antioxidants. Good choices include the following:

African greys enjoy eating nuts. However, nuts are high in fat, which can lead to weight gain in captivity. So, you’ll need to limit a parrot’s nut intake. The best nuts for African greys include:

  • Pine nuts.
  • Almonds.
  • Macadamia nuts.
  • Cashews.
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Walnuts.
  • Hazelnuts.

How Often Should an African Grey Parrot Be Fed?

African grey parrots should be fed twice daily, once in the morning upon waking up and again in the evening around an hour before bed. This will mirror a parrot’s routine in the wild.

You can offer some vitamin and mineral-rich snacks during the day if it’s a healthy weight.

What Should African Grey Parrots Not Eat?

An African grey must never be offered the following foods or drinks:

  • Chocolate.
  • Coffee.
  • Alcohol.
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Stones (seeds) from fruits, like apricots, apples, and peaches.
  • Avocado.

All of these foods are toxic to parrots. For example, the seeds of stone fruits contain cyanide.

Feather Care

African greys molt their feathers around once a year, usually at the onset of spring.

This molting will remove worn, damaged feathers and encourage the growth of brighter, healthier replacements. Also, let the parrot bathe regularly to keep the feathers clean and healthy.

How do you bathe an African grey parrot? Most birds take care of bathing if you provide them access to a bowl of clean water, and some parrots even join their owners in the shower.

You can also mist the parrot with lukewarm water or wipe away food debris with a towel or washcloth.

Beak Care

The beak of an African grey never stops growing, so it may need to be trimmed to prevent overgrowth, misalignment, and malocclusions. For example, scissor beak can prevent parrots from eating.

African greys love to chew things in their cage, so chew toys can file down, polish, and sharpen the beak.

Adding a cuttlebone and feeding nuts with tough shells will be beneficial. Also, a vet can trim a bird’s beak or, as per the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine, apply a dental composite in extreme cases.

Claw Care

Captive parrots aren’t exposed to abrasive surfaces as much as wild parrots, so their nails can become overgrown and misshapen. Unfortunately, this can prevent them from performing essential tasks.

A vet can trim the claws, but providing ways to wear down the claws naturally is recommended. For example, wooden perches (or pedi perches) can help reduce the length of the claws.

Do African Grey Parrots Talk?

African greys are among the parrot family’s most advanced and talented speakers.

According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, African greys can speak English similarly to young children. Following training, some birds can learn hundreds of English words.

Many owners report their birds learning words and phrases. Parrots may appear to talk in context, but they don’t truly understand the meaning of what they’re saying.

When Do African Grey Parrots Start Talking?

Most African grey parrots begin talking once they’re 12–14 months old. At this point, an African grey will start mimicking words and sentences you teach it, or it hears in its environment.

Are African Grey Parrots Noisy?

Expect to hear African grey parrots vocalize throughout the day. If an African grey realizes that screaming gets attention, the volume can become a problem.

When Do African Grey Parrots Sleep?

African grey parrots are diurnal, so they sleep overnight.

An African grey parrot must rest for 10-12 hours. If a bird doesn’t get enough sleep, it’ll be irritable during the day, while prolonged insomnia can lead to similar health issues experienced by humans.

African grey parrots need routine, so maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Ensure the parrot has a quiet place to sleep at night where it won’t be disturbed. While some owners like to sleep next to a parrot, this is inadvisable due to the risk of accidentally crushing the bird.

Should I Cover My African Grey at Night?

A parrot’s cage should be covered at night. African grey parrots will struggle to sleep if exposed to artificial light at bedtime, as circadian rhythms will regulate the bird’s sleep-wake cycle.

You don’t need to get a special cover for the cage because a towel or blanket will suffice.

How Does An African Grey Parrot Exercise?

African grey parrots must exercise outside the cage for 2-3 hours daily. This will enable the parrot to maintain a normal weight, preventing weight gain and obesity. It’s also essential for their mental health.

Flight is the most natural way for African greys to exercise, so avoid clipping a parrot’s wings unless essential to its safety and welfare. Instead, bird-proof your home before allowing exploration.

African greys also love to climb the walls of the cage, traverse between perches at different levels, and play interactive games where they can utilize their high intellect.

African grey parrot cage setup

How Long Can African Grey Parrots Be Left Alone?

As an African grey likes spending time with its owner, leaving it alone in its cage for a prolonged period isn’t an option. As per PloS One, solitude causes significant distress and accelerates aging.

Once an African grey has settled into a home and has a routine, you can leave it alone while you attend work. Anything longer may be anxiety-causing, potentially leading to behavioral issues.

Do I Need Two African Greys?

As African grey parrots require so much attention, owners with sufficient space may wish to adopt 2 parrots. African greys are social birds that may prefer sharing a cage with a same-species companion.

If you decide to get 2 African greys, seek out birds that were born and raised together from a young age because this enhances the chances of the 2 birds bonding and living harmoniously.

Always treat both parrots equally to avoid jealousy, even if one appears needier.

What Are The Signs of A Happy African Grey Parrot?

When an African grey parrot is happy and contented, it’s likely to display the following signs:

  • Vocalizations: You’ll hear whistles, chirps, or happy sounds, especially at the start of the day.
  • Active and curious: It’ll flap its wings, fly, climb, play, and explore its cage.
  • Eating well: Happy parrots will be excited about their favorite foods and drink enough water.
  • Feather health: An African grey should have vibrant, strong, and healthy feathers. Birds will regularly preen their feathers, avoiding harmful behaviors like feather picking.
  • Social behavior: An African grey is happiest in the company of humans and same-species parrots. It’ll show care and affection through nuzzling and preening companions.
  • Alertness: You should observe a curiosity about what’s happening in their environment.
  • Body language: Its posture should be upright, and its feathers relaxed. You may see an African grey wagging its tail or bobbing its head, which are signs of a contented bird.

While all parrots have unique personalities, these behaviors provide an insight into their happiness.

African Grey Parrot Behavioral Problems

Without training or the right living conditions, African greys can develop behavioral problems, including:

Aggressive Behavior

African grey parrots aren’t naturally aggressive but can become so when scared or hurt. They’re easily agitated by other pets and may vocalize and display stress symptoms when they get too close.


Unfortunately, jealousy is one of the African greys’ most problematic traits. They become very attached to their owners, leading to unwanted behavior toward people and other animals.


African greys are prone to stress when they don’t get sufficient socialization or mental stimulation. The signs of stress in African grey parrots include:

Consider how you can improve the situation. For example, move the cage to a quieter location. Also, play and interact with an African grey more frequently to entertain it.

Feather Plucking

Self-mutilation is painful for parrots, so why do African grey parrots pluck their feathers? This behavior is linked to diet, stress, and depression. When unstimulated, they turn to feather plucking to self-soothe.

Malnutrition can also cause a parrot to pick its skin and feathers. So, improving its diet by providing more vitamins and minerals can reduce this behavior.


African grey parrots have an extensive vocabulary but can be prone to repeating profanity. For example, Lincolnshire Wildlife Park recently had a problem with swearing and obscenities from African greys.

African greys will continue using words that garner a reaction, so be careful how you respond to inappropriate language. If you ignore it, the parrot will likely grow bored and find something new to say.

How To Get An African Grey To Like You

Forming a successful bond with an African grey parrot is rewarding because these intelligent birds make loving and affectionate companions. However, you must work to gain the parrot’s trust.

Spend as much time with an African grey as possible, as this will strengthen the parrot-owner bond. Parrots are social and emotionally advanced animals that crave one-on-one time.

Parrots need routine and can grow distressed by the slightest change to an established schedule.

Take the time to train the parrot, regularly playing games and teaching the bird new tricks and words. The more time you dedicate to an African grey, the stronger the bond will become.