are African grey parrots hard to take care of?

How To Take Care Of African Grey Parrots

Known as the “Einstein of the parrot world,” African greys are the smartest parrots. They require lots of care to avoid boredom, but they make loyal, friendly, communicative, and affectionate pet birds.

An African grey parrot’s cage must be a minimum of 36 x 24 x 48 inches, with 3 perches and a newspaper lining. They need a diet of 70% pellets, with the rest consisting of fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains. African greys need 1 hour of enrichment and 2-3 hours of exercise and out-of-cage time per day.

A question prospective owners want to know is, “are African grey parrots hard to take care of?” They’re recommended for experienced owners. They have complex care needs and can survive in captivity for 80+ years. So, if you’re a first-time bird owner, you should consider getting a beginner-level parrot.

Different Types Of African Grey Parrots

There are two types of African grey: the timneh and Congo. They come from different parts of Africa. They’re similar parrots in many ways, but they do have subtle differences.

Timneh African Grey

The timneh African grey parrot (Psittacus Erithacus timneh) lives in Central Africa, including Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and western African. It’s the smaller subspecies of the two, ranging from 9-11 inches from beak to tail. Its wingspan ranges between 13-15 inches. According to Beauty of Birds, Timneh African greys weigh 300-360 grams.

Timneh African greys are a darker grey than Congos. They have dark grey feathers on the head, back, and upper chest. More dark feathers on the abdomen sit over a lighter grey plumage, creating a V shape. The feathers underneath the tail are dark red or maroon, while the tail is red or brown. The beak has a pink tint with black sides.

Congo African Grey

The Congo African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) lives in smaller coastal areas of Africa, including Guinea, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. It’s larger than the Timneh, measuring 14-16 inches with a wingspan of 18-20 inches. The average weight of a Congo African grey is between 380 and 554 grams.

Their feathers are darker on the head, gradually lightening to a silvery grey towards the chest and legs. The wings are almost black. Where the feathers are darker or the lightest silver, they have a white scalloped edge. The nails and beak are solid black, while the bright red tail contrasts against the rest of the plumage.

The area around the eyes and above the nose lacks feathers, exposing a bright white skin patch. This allows their pink blush to show whenever they’re excited, angry, or scared.

Out of the two subspecies, the Congo African grey is more commonly encountered in the pet trade.

african grey parrots as pets

How Much Are African Grey Parrots?

Congos are less expensive than Timnehs. You should expect to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for a Timneh and $1,500 to $2,000 for a Congo. Factors that affect the price include:

  • Unique marks or features
  • Genetics
  • Hereditary diseases
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Breeder

Usually, older parrots are more expensive because they’ve been trained and socialized. Other expenses to consider when buying a parrot is the cost of:

  • Cage
  • Food
  • Perches
  • Bowls
  • Toys
  • Harnesses
  • Pet insurance and vet care

Do African Grey Parrots Make Good Pets?

African grey parrots are highly intelligent birds that make affectionate, sociable, and loyal pets. However, they’re high-maintenance birds that require entertainment and mental stimulation. As a result, they don’t make good pets for people who work long hours or spend a lot of time away from home. African greys are:

  • Easily bored
  • Loud and vocal
  • Prone to angry outbursts
  • Pluck out feathers when bored

African greys tend to develop a strong bond with one family member, sometimes rejecting the others. It takes time and effort to get African greys to bond with other humans. However, African greys are:

  • Loving: They bond with owners quickly
  • Entertaining: They enjoy playing games and exploring
  • Highly social and enjoy their caregivers’ company
  • Intelligent and capable of learning words

African grey parrots have specific requirements, including:

  • The largest enclosure you can find
  • A balanced, healthy diet
  • Several hours of attention
  • Plenty of mental stimulation

If you have the time and patience to look after an African grey, it’ll make a rewarding pet.

Do African Grey Parrots Talk?

African grey parrots are among the most advanced and talented speakers of the parrot family. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, they can use English speech similarly to young children. Not only do they learn basic words and commands, such as “No,” but they understand numbers.

Many owners report their birds speaking in context and learning words and phrases after hearing them only once or twice. Most parrots reach their talking ability at around one year old, but many develop their skills much earlier.

African grey parrots shriek and scream when they feel threatened, scared, or angry. Similarly, if they’re unhappy with their environment or surroundings, they will show their displeasure with a series of persistent, unpleasant sounds.

However, they don’t spend all day screaming. They’ll only do so when they feel that they need to. As soon as the problem is removed, they’ll quieten down. Don’t pander to these behaviors as your parrot could become badly behaved and act up to get more attention from you.

What Do African Grey Parrots Eat?

An African grey’s nutritional requirements are varied. According to VCA Hospitals, inadequate nutrition is the leading cause of many health conditions. African grey parrots eat pellets, seeds, nuts, fruits, and berries.

Pellets should make up around 70% of their diet. Commercial pellet foods contain the nutrients and vitamins your parrot needs. Different formulas are available depending on your parrot’s age and medical conditions.

Parrots should be fed orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as:

  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Brocolli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Blueberries

In the wild, African greys have access to seeds all year round. However, commercial seed mixes are high in fat and low in essential nutrients. Similarly, African greys are notorious for picking out their favorite seeds.

These birds love eating nuts. However, nuts contain high levels of fat, which can lead to weight gain in captivity. As a result, you’ll need to limit your parrot’s nut intake. The best nuts include:

  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Cashews
  • Monkey nuts
  • Peanuts (roasted)
  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts
can african grey parrots be kept outside?

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. They’re active birds, so they need a playpen top with a tray. Add toys and climbing frames to prevent boredom. Things to consider include:

  • Cage material. Powder-coated cages made from non-corrosive metals, such as steel, brass, or chrome, fare best against their strong beaks.
  • Cage quality. Choose a cage that has thick bars that African greys can’t bend.
  • Perches. Your cage should allow for perches of various shapes and sizes.
  • Dishes. Opt for a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, as they last longer than aluminum dishes.
  • Trays and gates. Make sure they’re removable so that they’re easy to clean and sanitize.

Bar spacing is another essential consideration. Horizontal bars are recommended for African greys, as they allow them to climb up and down the sides, which they love doing. According to the Center for Animal Rehab and Education, the bars should be ¾ to 1 inch apart to avoid injury and prevent escape. 

Cage Lining

African greys, like all parrots, are messy birds. They poop a lot, sometimes defecating outside of their cage. They also entertain themselves by tearing up pieces of newspaper or wood and drop their food.

Newspaper is the safest material for lining your parrot’s cage. It’s easy to remove and replace. Most African grey parrots sleep on perches, so newspaper is only required to keep the bottom of the cage clean.

Perches

Position three perches in the cage:

  • Place one perch high so that your parrot can scale up to it and sleep on it.
  • Place one perch in the middle, away from food and water.
  • Place one perch at the bottom so that it has easy access to food and water.

Plastic perches with rough or sharp edges will cut your parrot’s feet, risking bumblefoot. Similarly, perches covered with an abrasive surface will remove the surface layer of the skin. Wooden perches are the safest kind.

African Grey Parrot Behavioral Problems

Without training or the right living conditions, African greys are prone to behavioral problems, including:

Aggressive Behavior

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

Jealousy

A commonly asked question is, “do African parrots get jealous?” Unfortunately, jealousy is one of their most problematic traits. They become very attached to their owners, resulting in jealousy toward other animals and people.

Jealousy is hard to train out of parrots, but you can reduce it by teaching them not to nip or vocalize at people. Ignoring bad behavior is another effective technique.

Stress

African greys are prone to stress if they lack socialization or mental stimulation. When they don’t get it, they start screaming or displaying unwanted behaviors. Signs of stress in African grey parrots include:

Think about how you can improve the situation. For example, move the cage to a quieter location or provide more toys and perches. Also, play and interact with your parrot more frequently to give it some entertainment. African greys are highly sociable and enjoy spending quality time with their owners.

Feather Plucking

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

Similarly, malnutrition will also cause your parrot to pluck out its feathers. Improving its diet and providing more vitamins and minerals should reduce this behavior.

African grey parrot cage setup

African Grey Parrot Care Information

Now that you understand how to provide the optimum environment for your African grey, it’s time to learn about other aspects of their care needs.

Room Temperature

The ideal temperature for African grey parrots is 70-80°F. They’re okay at normal room temperature.

One Parrot vs. Two Parrots

African grey parrots can live alone but prefer to live with other parrots. However, if you want more than one bird, getting them while they’re both young and raised together in the same cage is advisable.

Sleep Requirements

African greys need between 12-14 hours of sleep. Not all parrots sleep through the night, but they’ll wake up every now and then to see what’s going on.

At night, cover your parrot’s cage with a sheet. This will give them peace, quiet, and complete darkness. Parrots are light sleepers, so make sure you turn off all TVs and electrical devices so that they’re not disturbed.

Beak Care

African greys have continuously growing beaks that need regular filing to keep them healthy. If they can’t do this, they’re at risk of overgrowth. Their beaks may become sharp, long, and brittle. They may even curve inward. African grey parrots can keep their beaks filed down with:

Provide your parrot with the above items and ensure your parrot’s diet is rich in protein, calcium, and magnesium.

Exercise

African greys should get 1-2 hours of exercise daily to keep them fit and avoid obesity.

This starts with giving parrots toys to play with when you’re not around. However, African greys also need to spend time out of their cages. Flying is the best source of exercise for parrots and exploring the room is entertaining.

Cleaning And Bathing

African grey parrots don’t need to be given a bath. Instead, they splash around in their water bowl and groom and preen their feathers.

That being said, helping your parrot bathe is a good bonding exercise. Splash your parrot to encourage it to take a bath, or mist it with a spray bottle. Only ever use lukewarm water for bathing your bird.

African grey parrots are good pets for experienced owners. They need lots of care and attention, so they can’t be left alone for too long. If you have the time to dedicate to an African grey parrot, you’ll have a lifelong companion.