Caring For African Grey Parrots
Quick Facts About African Grey Parrots:
Life expectancy: 50 years.
Adult bodyweight: 400-450g (Congo), 300-320g (Timneh).
Origin: Central Africa.
Sexual dimorphism: No
There are two types of African Grey Parrot. The Congo Grey is more common as a pet bird, and is larger and a lighter colour than the charcoal grey of the Timneh Grey parrot.
African Grey parrots are known for their intelligence and highly sensitive and intuitive natures. They are excellent talkers and can have a large vocabulary, often used in context.
Grey parrots are very sociable and require a lot of attention and human interaction. As they are such long-lived birds, owning an African Grey is a serious commitment, but these parrots can make excellent life long companions.
Cages should be as large as possible, and at a minimum should be 61 x 91 x 122cm with a playpen top with a tray. African Grey parrots are very active and social, so need to spend a lot of time out of their cage. A cage with horizontal side bars is preferred to allow climbing. There should be no openings or gaps between the bars large enough for your African Grey parrot to put their head through, or small enough to catch a limb in. A good guide is that the bars should be spaced about 2cm apart. Rectangular cages are recommended. Round cages with curved sides are not comfortable for parrots.
Cage Equipment - perches, feed dishes and toys!
African grey parrots are highly intelligent, and so need lots of toys both inside and outside their cage to keep them entertained. These parrots love to chew on things so chewable leather toys, newspaper and cardboard to rip and foraging toys are all very popular. Ensure toys are regularly rotated.
Bird Vet Melbourne recommends that your pet African Grey Parrot should have at least two perches of varying diameters in the cage. Natural wood perches are preferred to prevent foot problems and also for your bird to chew on for beak maintenance. Avoid sandpaper perches. Perches should be placed at opposite ends of the cage, allowing your African grey parrot to fly between them. Ideally place the widest perch in the highest position.
Food and water dishes should be made of stainless steel, and positioned to avoid contamination with droppings (i.e. not directly under perches). Hooded dishes should be avoided as they can make feeding difficult and may prevent bathing. Place feed and water dishes at opposite ends of the cage to encourage exercise.
All parrots kept indoors should be provided with artificial full spectrum light (UV-A & UV-B) or access to sunlight outdoors to allow normal vitamin D metabolism (and breeding behaviour). If placing your caged African grey parrot outside, ensure the cage is secure, will not fall over, and is protected from predators.
African Grey Diet
Feeding a balanced diet is very important to prevent health problems in birds. Avian vets at Bird Vet Melbourne recommend feeding your pet African grey parrot a mixture of the following every day:
- Good quality bird pellets or crumble should be available at all times, as these are formulated to contain low levels of fat and have a high vitamin and mineral content. Pellets should form around 75% of the diet. Suggested brands include Harrisons, Murphy's, Vetafarm and Passwells. See here for tips on getting your pet African grey parrot to eat pellets.
- A range of fruits and vegetables should always be available and must be changed daily. Dark leafy green and red/yellow vegetables (e.g. spinach, silverbeet, pak choi or other Asian greens, broccoli, green beans, carros, sweetcorn, butternut pumpkin, capsicums, and sweet potatoes should form around 20% of the diet.
- Sprouting grasses and native tree flowers provide both entertainment and high nutrition levels.
- Mixed seeds - no more than 1-2 teaspoons per day. Seeds are low in calcium and many essential vitamins and minerals, and high in fat.
- Small amounts of human foods such as pasta, oats, toast and eggs can also be fed occasionally.
- A cuttlefish bone or chalk perch is recommended to provide calcium.
Fresh water should always be available. Food and water should be changed daily.
DO NOT FEED: Chocolate, avocado, alcohol or coffee to your African grey parrot as these are toxic and can be fatal.
Common Health Conditions
- Psittacine beak and feather disease, caused by circovirus, can cause skin and feather issues and general failure to thrive.
- Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that can affect the respiratory tract and cause breathing difficulties and occasionally neurological signs.
- African grey parrots are prone to developing hypocalcaemia (low blood calcium levels), the cause of which is often unknown. Diets low in calcium, such as those high in seeds, may predispose birds to this condition. Hypocalcaemia can cause neurological signs.
- Feather destructive behaviour (feather picking) is common in African grey parrots and may be related to their sensitive nature and high intelligence levels.
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