I had bought an African Grey Parrot from a pet store years ago, he was older and NOT tamed. I had no bird experience. I cared for him well, bought a big beautiful cage for him, bought a big perch for him to use outside of the cage, bought proper food and toys for him, and spent many hours trying to hand tame him...with very little success, my hands were like chop meat.

I gave him his own room, and he would squawk loudly and make a big fuss if anyone entered the room. He was a little bit calmer for me. I ended up, for my sake and his, giving him to a bird loving lady with a lot of experience and a huge aviary in her home with many birds. She loved him and I knew it was the right thing to do, she would love him for a long time.

Some information about African Greys for anyone who's considering getting one of these beautiful and smart parrots for a pet. Full article here.

By Dr. Becker
I was flipping through a recent edition of Clinician’s Brief, a veterinary journal, and came upon an image of an African Grey parrot that broke my heart. The poor little guy was nearly bald, having pulled out most of his feather coat.

The author of the article, Dr. Anthony Pilny, an avian veterinarian, observes that “African grey parrots are commonly presented [at veterinary clinics] for feather-destructive behavior, aggression, inappropriate noise making and/or excessive vocalization, and other behavior problems — usually more so than for medical illnesses.”1

Sadly, this is indeed the situation for many African Greys. These brilliant birds aren’t well suited for captivity, and are often owned by people who simply aren’t equipped to care for their substantial needs. The combination of highly intelligent birds and inexperienced owners often results in a long list of behavior problems, health concerns and unhappiness for both parrot and owner.
Key Suggestions for Proper Care of an African Grey

As Pilny accurately states about Greys:
“This intelligent, complex, and social species is prone to developing abnormal behaviors in captivity. These issues are likely multifactorial in etiology. Clinicians must consider personality, wild ecology, environment, captive care, hormonal influences, and the potential for medical illness as they each relate to treating and preventing behavior problems in African grey parrots.”
Pilny offers five key suggestions for properly caring for a Grey to prevent behavior problems:
1. Number one is to insure that an avian veterinarian is involved in your bird’s care. Parrots aren’t chickens or small mammals. They have a unique physiology that exotic animal vets are well-versed in navigating.
Avian veterinarians are better equipped than general small animal vets to diagnose exotics like the Grey, as well as to understand and interpret behavior problems and recommend appropriate treatment, enrichment methods and behavior counseling. Even better is an integrative exotic animal practitioner who will start with non-toxic treatment options whenever possible.

2. The second suggestion is for owners and potential owners of Greys to be thoroughly educated by avian veterinarians and other knowledgeable sources about the parrots’ needs so they know what to expect and how to meet the birds’ requirements in captivity.
This is a very important step if you’re considering a Grey as a pet. Many potential owners mistakenly believe parrots are easier to care for than other types of pets because they live in cages. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to exotic birds, and especially the African Grey.

3. Pilny’s third point is that the first step in dealing with a Grey’s feather-destructive behavior is a thorough veterinary evaluation, including appropriate blood tests, screening for viruses and possibly, skin biopsies. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to have access to an avian vet, preferably one who has extensive training with African Greys.

4. His fourth suggestion is that potential owners of Greys should be ready, willing and able to commit at least four hours a day to human-bird contact. This should probably be the first suggestion, not the fourth, because I think it will disqualify many potential owners immediately.
The minimum four-hour requirement is NOT an exaggeration. It is an absolute necessity for maintaining an African Grey in good physical and mental condition. Parrots in the wild spend much of their awake time (around 14 hours a day) socializing, so the four-hour minimum is obviously much less interaction than your bird would get in the wild. Every hour over the four-hour minimum you can spend with your pet, the better.

5. Pilny’s final suggestion is that the “high cognitive ability of African Grey parrots should be considered in their captive husbandry as a contributing factor for developing behavior concerns.” More simply stated, if you’re considering a Grey as a pet, you should be prepared to spend almost the same amount and quality of time with your bird as you would a highly interactive, bright, inquisitive preschooler.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, imagine the physical and emotional stress and behavior issues that would result in a 4-year-old child who was locked in her room alone for several hours every day, and you have some idea of what happens to captive African Grey parrots who aren’t properly cared for.

Pilny references a recent article published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior on the prevention and reduction of abnormal behavior in companion African Grey parrots. You can read the full article here.
Adopting an African Grey

If you think you’re up to the challenge of owning a Grey and are prepared to make a substantial and lifelong commitment to it, I highly recommend you contact your local animal shelter and exotic bird sanctuaries in your area.

I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding what you’re getting into when you take on an exotic bird like the Grey. They are not simply colorful, entertaining cage decorations. They are high-maintenance pets — expensive, messy, noisy, time-consuming, unpredictable and sometimes aggressive.

However, these birds can make wonderful companions for knowledgeable, dedicated owners who have the time and other resources required to insure the best possible quality of life for their pets.