AFRICAN GREY PARROT (Psittacus erinthacus)

These parrots have been kept as pets for centuries

The subspecies Timneh (P. e. timneh)
- from Sierra Leone and parts of Guinea, the Ivory coast and parts of Liberia. They can be easily distinguished from the more common nominate race by its maroon rather than scarlet tail feathers and the horn coloured beak instead of black. It is also slightly smaller and darker in colour. Invariably they are less costly. The Timneh needs the same care but their accommodation could be a little smaller in size.

African Greys are renowned for their ability to mimic hundreds of words, that is the reason people are drawn to them. This should not be the main reason to buy any parrot. The main desire for owning a parrot should be the desire for companionship with a beautiful intelligent creature. Mutual companionship will ensure a long and happy relationship for the owner and parrot.

Most African Greys including the Timneh are talented mimics.
Hand-reared baby Greys leaving professional breeding programmes for their new home can often already wolf-whistle and say "hello" sometimes they even mimic the telephone. But these birds will really begin to show their true abilities as mimics from around nine months of age and onwards. At this age they are more confident. Although they may not at first appear to learn anything new, they will once settled start repeating phrase after phrase sometimes mimicking something new each day.

This is why the African Grey has become one of the most popular kept parrot pets in the UK and around the world. If you are considering the purchase of an African Grey as a pet the best place to purchase one is from a professional breeder or a reputable knowledgeable pet shop.

Be sure that you can handle the bird yourself before buying. Get a vet to check it over as soon as possible. The best parrot will always be a hand-reared baby bird from around 12-20 weeks of age.

A Life time companion
African Greys have the same life expectancy as humans and have been recorded to live in captivity for 80 years.

Are you worried about a quiet African Grey?
One of the first things to consider is whether the parrot is hand-reared, or if a wild import. A wild import can be quiet and shy because it is frightened and when approached may growl.
These factors are very important when considering why your 'Grey' is quiet. If you acquire an older African Grey, which has been previously owned, it can act like a wild import for some considerable time until it feels secure with you.

An article from the expert advise section of Bird Keeper, May 1996, in answer to a question from an African Grey owner who wondered why their African Grey did not talk, states: "I think the reason why it is quiet is because it has so much freedom. Greys - quite often only talk well if they are kept in their cages most of the time."

In our many years, breeding, hand-rearing and homing hundreds of African Greys we found that the people who didn't follow our advise which was the same as the Bird Keeper magazine, were the ones most likely to be phoning up asking why their Grey didn't talk! African Greys, quite often, only talk well if they are kept in their cages most of the time*. Give them too much freedom and they will not talk as well or not at all. If your bird does not make any noise even when kept in a cage most of the time then it may mean that it is like that by nature, it does not mean it's unhappy.

*NOTE WE RECOMMEND THAT WHILE YOUR AFRICAN GREY IS IN IT'S CAGE it will need plenty of fresh water and food, interesting bird safe toys which are changed regularly so as to keep the birds interest level high at all times. The cage should be large so that the parrot has plenty of room to move and also stretch it's wings. The perches and cage should be kept clean. Vary the diameter of the perches and include some that are made with branches from fresh fruit or nut trees, including the bark, which are well cleaned with bird safe cleaning substances. Parrots love chewing off the bark on natural branches and the varying diameters of the perches within it's cage will exercise it's feet.

Your parrot will love the safe and interesting environment of his cage which is his home that you provide for him. He will be safe from the perils that are around every human home*. Your African Grey will really enjoy times out with you, which should be at least twice a day and for as long as possible. Some birds become restless after less than 30 minutes of fussing and free flying, others may appreciate longer times, depending on their character or mood of the day. These times of sharing are indispensable for you both. Importantly you should always be with him during this time and can make sure he is safe whilst out of the cage. We do not believe that parrots should be left to roam freely around a house environment with its many hidden dangers. We believe that parrots should be closely supervised at all times when they are out of the cage. Their times out of the cage should also be a time of bonding between owner and parrot.

*Hidden dangers in homes.
We know of a case where an African grey which was supervised, but unattended for a short period, flew into a bath which had recently been filled with hot water. The bird was scolded and died. It is impossible for an owner to supervise a parrot for every minute that it is kept outside of it's cage especially when that time is a long period.

Somebody who purchased a Black Headed Caique from us, allowed it out of the cage for a lot of the time. On one occasion it walked into the room where he was, then stood behind him. Not knowing, the owner stepped back and crushed the bird to death.
We know of numerous events where pet birds have flown away through open doors or windows, mostly resulting in the birds not being recovered. A large parrot can fly long distances even with correctly clipped wings, wings which allow the bird some controlled flight. The only way to avoid a parrot flying is to severely clip it's wings, stopping the bird from flying at all!! This is totally unnatural and causes stress to the bird! This list could go on and on!

People who leave a parrot out of a cage most of the time tend to have their wings clipped to such an extent that it is unable to fly, in their attempt to hopefully avoid some of the dangers for their parrot as mentioned above. Parrots which have their wings severely clipped, can injure themselves when startled by attempting to fly and then falling to the ground uncontrollably. Some people do not clip the parrots wings but chain one leg of a parrot to a parrot stand instead. When a startled chained parrot attempts to fly it is likely to injure itself when flapping around in distress.
Partial clipping equally to both wings (by a qualified person) is not a bad idea because your parrot will be able to fly with control within the confined space of your home.

Our desire is always for the welfare and safety of the parrot, this is paramount in our thinking

As stated there is no guarantee that a 'Grey' will ever talk or mimic, despite their wonderful reputation for talking, there are still some that never talk.

Patience is always important with any parrot, but especially with 'Greys'. Let us share a case history with you. We sold one of our own baby hand reared 'Greys' to a customer who desperately wanted a talking parrot. He would phone up endlessly and say that all the bird could say was 'Hello' which it already did when we sold him at 14 weeks of age. We said be patient 'Grey's' need time to settle in and get used to you it's only a baby and 'Greys' don't normally get really going until around 9 months. Well we kept in touch by phone and when they visited to buy seed etc. and finally at around 7 months or so the customer reported that their parrot had now started to repeat things.

He told us later that the parrot was learning something new each week. Remember 'Greys' maybe slow to start with but they can learn enormous volumes of words and phrases over time and they will grow more confident with the encouragement that you give them.

We can confidently say that most everyone of the baby 'Greys' we raised and hand-reared ourselves left our premises already saying 'Hello' and often knowing more - like their names and mimicking the telephone. Baby Hand-reared birds make excellent pets and good company. One customer had her 'Grey' shouting all four of her children by name for dinner within two months of purchasing the baby parrot - now that is success!

An African Grey might choose to whistle etc. this is true 'parrot talk'. Remember at the beginning of this article the main desire for owning a parrot should be the desire for companionship with these wonderful creatures.

Breeding: Adult Greys (usually these are not hand-reared often imported birds) can prove to be nervous birds and may take several years to adapt to new surroundings before they start to breed. Hens generally lay two to three eggs in a clutch.

African Greys are now being bred in much greater numbers in the UK. If you want to keep them as aviary birds you will need to be careful when purchasing them from an importer. It is important to check for suitability of age and condition before making a purchase. They will need the correct accommodation and as they come from a warmer climate they will need to be acclimatised.

If you are considering breeding African Greys anywhere in the world then
click here for more information.


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