The African gray parrot is an intelligent bird capable of building a strong bond with individuals. Today, our Hopkinsville vets explain what you should know about having an African gray parrot as a pet.
African gray Parrot Facts
Weight: 15 to 18 ounces
Length: 13 inches
Lifespan: can live up to 80 years
Physical Characteristics: Body has varying shades of gray, with striking red tail feathers
The African gray parrot is capable of learning over 1,000 words and speaking sentences in the correct context. These are just two facts that contribute to its reputation as one of the smartest birds in the world.
These intelligent, beautiful birds tend to develop a strong bond with one person and are often remarkably in tune with their handler's emotions.
While these traits might seem appealing on their face, African grays are not recommended for novice pet owners, as these birds need much time with their owner, in addition to lots of activities and puzzles to keep their brains occupied, a reliable daily schedule and room to fly.
Due to their outsized intelligence, your flying friend will need 5 or more hours of stimulation each day to keep from falling into depression or boredom. They are easy to train once one becomes familiar with using operant conditioning and positive reinforcement as training tools. However, inexperienced pet owners will need to learn about training techniques to manage a smooth process.
Caring for an African gray Parrot
Similar to caring for a toddler, you'll need to give this bird plenty of social time with people and other pets, mental stimulation, plenty of exercise out of their cage, and hours of attention for them to thrive.
Your African gray will need enough space inside their enclosure to fully spread their wings without touching the sides, and to move comfortably from perch to perch.
The parrot's cage should be secure, clean, durable, and constructed with non-toxic materials. Perches should be of variable heights, textures, and widths. A concrete perch can help your gray to maintain tidy toenails.
Never place perches over water or food (to prevent contamination). but do place your gray's enclosure in a safe, warm place clear of drafts, in indirect sunlight.
Do not isolate your gray, as these social birds like to be involved in their handler's daily life.
In their natural (wild) habitat, the African gray's diet consists of a variety of vegetables, nuts, and fruits. While seed-based diets might seem like an obvious choice, these are not ideal since they allow birds to selectively separate the seeds they prefer, often leading to an imbalanced diet.
High-quality formulated diets in crumble or pellet form should make up about 75% of your parrot's diet. These specially formulated foods prevent picking and can provide your flighty friend with a more complete, nutritionally balanced diet.
Dark, leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables should make up about 20 to 25% of your African gray's diet, with treats being restricted to about 5% or less. Your parrot should always have fresh, clean water available as well.
Exercise & Enrichment
African grays require an hour or more each day of enrichment playtime with owners involving games, puzzles, and lessons - but that's not all. As well as enrichment your gray will also require 2-3 hours of exercise and out-of-cage time every day to help build muscle strength and prevent obesity. Be sure to restrict your gray to parrot-safe rooms whenever they are out of their cage and always supervise your gray since they can get into mischief such as eating things they shouldn't, getting into fights with other pets, or knocking things over.
To keep your African gray Parrot healthy and happy they should be examined by a veterinarian qualified to care for avian and exotic pets once or twice a year. A Board Certified Avian & Exotic Animal Specialist will be able to provide your African gray with the care they need and deserve, as well as provide you with the guidance and advice you need to become the best gray owner you can be. Routine preventive care including fecal exams, blood tests, and vaccinations play a vital role in giving your African gray their best shot at a long, happy and healthy life.
Wing and nail trimming will also be required from time to time to keep your parrot looking and feeling great.
Without proper care at home and annual veterinary care African grays are prone to several problematic behaviors and health problems including feather picking, fearfulness, aggression, respiratory illnesses, hypocalcemia syndrome, circovirus (PBFD virus), nasal blockages (bacterial, fungal, secondary to malnutrition), and proventricular dilatation disease (PDD)
African gray Parrot Cost
African grays do not make ideal pets for everyone. If you are out of the house frequently, travel, devote your time to children, or simply do not have 3-5 hours to devote to your gray each day this is not the pet for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a feathered friend that will be devoted to you and demand your love and attention an African gray may be the right pet for you. Still, it is important to remember that these birds can live up to 80 years of age, meaning that they often outlive their owners and need to be rehomed.
If you are interested in purchasing an African gray Parrot your first stop should be your local parrot rescue agency. The volunteers and professionals at a parrot rescue center will be able to tell you about the personality, health, and general background of the birds they are re-homing. Rescue agencies often offer classes for new bird owners and tips and advice on caring for avian companions.
Whenever you see an African gray Parrot for sale be sure to check out the breeder or seller to ensure that the bird has been treated ethically and is in good health.
Prices can vary widely depending on where you are purchasing your pet from. Ask your local exotic vet for a ballpark range of how much you should set aside to purchase food, equipment, and goodies you'll need for your new feathered friend.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.