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The African Grey Handbook, Parrot Care, Diet and Tips

The African grey mostly occupies the West-Central areas of Africa. This includes the countries of the Congo, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast. Although they are spread out throughout many countries including countries where they are kept as pets, they are an endangered species. If you have a grey parrot, they are very special indeed! They are known for their intelligence, warmth, kindness to their owners. Their imitation of alarm noises, water drips, and other miscellaneous and pretty funny sounds. Their silver color feathers camouflage with cloudy skies, and their tail feathers are sometimes red. The more expensive African greys are entirely red (but still called African greys). They require a lot of care and attention, and hopefully, this small handbook can help! African greys just like all other bird companions have emotional, physical, and nutritional needs. Daily outside-cage playtime, exercise, and healthy food are crucial for their well-being. If kept in cages all day they will experience loneliness which can turn to feather plucking and night frights where they bash around violently at night. We will go over some tips for African grey parrot care in the following section. We will cover a few things in this small guide, including considerations to make before purchasing an African grey, African grey parrot care, why you should be concerned about what your African grey eats, what the best African grey food is, and an FAQ section at the end.

What Makes an African Grey Parrot Different From Other Birds?

African grey parrots are uncommonly intelligent. In fact, bringing one into your home can often feel like you're bringing a new human into the mix! Some research shows that African grey parrots operate at the cognitive level of a six-year-old human! This news may be exciting if you're looking for a bird that will be a true companion and mind match! However, it's important to know that owning an African grey can be overwhelming if you've never owned a bird before. In fact, African grey parrots are not typically recommended for people with particularly busy lifestyles. What's more, these precocious beauties typically have life spans lasting between 40 and 60 years. It's important to really grasp the responsibility of making a lifetime commitment to loving and caring for an African grey parrot. It's also important to really consider your noise tolerance. African greys have a reputation for being noisy. Someone who is sensitive to sounds may not find life with an African grey to be enjoyable. In addition, boisterous greys can be disruptive in homes where infants or children routinely take naps. Just make sure you're prepared to tolerate and enjoy lively chatter from your extroverted, opinionated African grey before you make the commitment!

There Two Types of African Grey Parrots

African grey parrots are divided into two subspecies. They are the Congo African grey and the Timneh African grey. Both look very similar. The main way that you'll be able to tell which variety you have is by looking at the size of your African grey. A Congo African grey will almost always be larger than a Timneh African grey. Congos typically reach between 12 and 14 inches in length. Congo African grey parrots have wingspans that extend up to 20 inches. They typically weigh in at about 16 ounces. A Timneh African grey parrot is slightly smaller. You'll typically see them measuring in at around 10 inches in length with wingspans of 14 inches. The typical Timneh African grey weighs around 11 ounces. Both Congo and Timneh African grey parrots share the same intelligence levels and talking abilities. The only difference that can be observed in regards to speech ability is that Timneh African greys tend to begin forming sentences for the first time at around six months of age. It typically takes a Congo African grey a full year to form a sentence.

How Many Words Can an African Grey Parrot Say?

It's not uncommon for these tremendous talkers to learn up to 1,000 words! In addition, African grey parrots can recognize and identify as many as 50 objects. That's not all! Your African grey will probably be able to master several different voices. Some parrots also like to mimic household sounds like telephone rings, microwave beeps or alarm-clock tones. Consider yourself warned!

Do Only Male African Grey Parrots Talk?

You may be familiar with the fact that males are more likely to sing or talk in the bird world. This is true across many different types of birds. However, the African grey parrot is a clear exception! No observable difference is found in speaking abilities between male and female African greys. Additionally, male and female African grey parrots look identical.

Is My African Grey Parrot Guaranteed to Talk?

No, there's no guarantee that an African grey parrot will talk. However, the odds are very high that your African grey will at least master a few words. Even African greys that never form full words or sentences will at least mimic sounds. It is often the case that an African grey learns to be an avid talker through solid coaching and teaching from its owner. Yes, you'll need to devote time and attention to teaching your parrot to talk. This often includes spending time speaking with your parrot or repeating words and phrases.

Do African Grey Parrots Need to Be Bathed?

Yes, regular baths should be part of the loving, attentive care you provide for your African grey. Bathing softens the dirt that catches on the feathers and skin of an African grey. Parrots that aren't bathed regularly can experience dry, itchy skin that causes them to pluck incessantly. Bathing is also important because it helps to remove any of the general toxins that can accumulate on feathers. Unfortunately, parrots ingest environmental toxins that are buried in their feathers whenever they do preening rituals. African greys enjoy a reputation for loving baths. Of course, that's no guarantee that yours is a true water baby. The good news is that it's easy to create a very gentle, inviting bathing environment for an African grey. Most African grey parrots are happy to simply bathe in a shallow, size-appropriate bowl or basin. You can soothe and clean your parrot by gently misting them with water from a spray bottle. Always use lukewarm water that you test on your own skin. African greys simply can't hide their feelings when enjoying baths. You'll know that your feathered friend is delighting in a bath when you notice him spreading his wings and jovially shaking his body. Never continue with a bath if your bird appears stressed or unwilling. Simply allowing the sound of trickling water to fill the room may slowly encourage your parrot to join in the fun. In addition, placing some healthy, vet-approved greens beside the bathing basin may inspire your bird to join in the fun. Many parrots actually enjoy getting caught up in the fun of nibbling playfully while bathing! The last thing to say about bathing an African grey parrot is that you should never use a hair dryer to dry feathers. This is actually dangerous for parrots. Simply patting your African grey with a soft towel will be sufficient.

What should I consider before buying an African grey Parrot?

If you are considering purchasing an African grey, do remember they will become a part of your life. So it is important to think about your daily life if you will be able to let it out of its cage every day. If you will be able to clean the African grey and clean up after it every day, and if you can feed and play with it every day. This takes some emotional effort from the pet owner’s part. So we recommend reflecting throughout your day and seeing if it is possible to responsibly fit an African grey in your daily routine. Many times pet birds are left abandoned and end up in bird rescues. African grey parrots are quite large for children, so parents considering buying one for their kids. They should look for birds with smaller claws and beaks such as cockatiels or parakeets. They also require a lot of time to bond, meaning African greys usually bond with the parent rather than the child when taming.

What else do I need before adopting an African Grey?

Besides the much-needed cage, a perch, water dishes, African grey food bowls, toys, cage sand, cuttlebones, mineral blocks, and a birdbath, you will also need a steady supply of food. A suitable cage will be larger horizontally open than it is tall, this is because birds can fall from their perches while asleep. Larger and more temperamental birds can chew locks open, but providing plenty of chew toys. They will help your pet companion keep their impulse to sharpen his or her beak away from things. Regardless, it is common that they will chew things around the house from time to time so it is important to watch that they do not bite or eat toxic materials. African grey parrot cages must be wide enough for them to spread their wings and fly around from spot to spot. If your African grey is harming itself, bashing itself against the cage, or if you find it bleeding out of nowhere it is either because it is not receiving enough attention and exercise, or they may experiencing night frights. This means they may be flying violently against the cage at night. Playing with your feathered friend can help prevent this so will leaving a dim light at night so they can see their surroundings. These items are very important to keep your African grey safe, even more, crucial will be the food that will keep your bird companion’s wonderfully silver feathers radiant.

A few African grey parrot care tips

A minimum of one hour a day of playtime is required for your African grey to flourish, but just because this is the minimum does not mean it should be the goal.
This can mean allowing them to fly around your home while being supervised, allowing them to use your finger as a perch, or gently cuddling with your African grey. Playing “warm potato”, can help your African grey become accustomed to the entire family or housemates rather than just yourself as they are known to usually do. This involves everyone in your home taking turns whistling or singing with the beloved grey, teaching new tricks or words, or even just letting it be near you for some time. African greys oftentimes feel exposed when they are near windows. Often we think that they like the perceived openness of a window view, but this makes them feel exposed if they cannot hide from it. It is recommended that either a towel covers the cage so they can hide. that canopy like toys is draped in a location in the cage so they can hide whenever they please. This anxiety occurs because in the wild they feed in the safety of treetops. A natural African grey habitat means a lot of water, especially as in the tropics constant storms usually wash African greys. The high-fat diets that are usually given to them, the oils in our skin, and the reduced frequency of washing mean we need to wash our hands before touching or playing with our pet friends. A final African grey parrot care tip is that veterinary appointments should be regularly made at least once yearly. This can include vaccinations, examinations for parasites or yeast infections, blood testing, and nail trimming.

Should I be concerned about what my African gray eats?

Our customers sometimes ask us if we can just feed an African gray human food, or if it matters what we feed them something besides African gray pellet food. It is a very important question, and it is good that people ask this because this is the beginning of asking. What good African grey parrot food is or what the best African grey parrot diet is. Many times we do not think about this because big food manufacturers already answer things for us, or at least they try to. They answer these questions we would normally have with assumptions about bird owners. This is something we will cover in one of our sections below, “The problem with all-seed diets.” A large part of African grey health is what they eat, simply enough. Yet this is one of the things many pet owners are not proactive in enough. Food impacts your bird’s health in the ways described below. African greys that are kept in domestic settings many times are given seeds and only seeds, but this is not the best for them. Wild greys expend much more energy than their domestic counterparts. This is something that must be kept in mind when we provide food for our friends. Because African greys can and do develop heart disease if only given all-seed diets. An overload of their bodies with fats. In the section below, on all-seed diets, this will be discussed in more depth. Another example of a consideration we have is how much Vitamin D synthesize from sun exposure because this affects balding, feather growth, and overall well-being. All the parts of a parrot’s diet will have an impact on their health, this goes with an African grey parrot’s diet as well. Too many fats will result in heart disease, including atherosclerosis, and related conditions such as obesity can arise if given too much junk food or if there is no time for your African grey to play outside its cage. So an African grey parrot’s diet will certainly affect them. It will affect how long they will be with us. In nearly 60% of bird autopsies, there have been signs of nutritional deficiency, according to Valerie Campbell D.V.M. These deaths could have been prevented, but luckily now we know-how with new knowledge from new developments in avian veterinary medicine and science. Our increased interest in pet birds is helping us to learn new ways to feed our feathered friends. So in part, it is through a lack of knowledge that results in African grey malnutrition. The board of certification for avian veterinarians and the Association of Avian Veterinarians have only existed since the early 1990s! Before then we thought that processed foods, pelleted foods, or all-seed diets. could provide for all African grey nutritional needs. But now with the increased interest for greys. Their diets, and their well-being, we can help our friends live longer and happier lives.

What exactly does my African gray naturally eat?

bistro beak grey
In the African tropics, grey parrots eat what their environment provides. They make use of vegetation, seeds, fruits, nuts, and insects, as well as berries. They form flocks and go into smaller groups to feed.

Does this affect what I should feed my African grey?

Looking at their evolution, we can learn what their nutritional needs are. In nature there is a balance they are using too, nature provides a nutritional content they evolve into. The best African grey food will mix the nutrition of fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. These are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. The first building block is fats. Low-fat content seeds like safflower, millet, canary grass, sunflower, and groat seeds. They are a better alternative because they can be measured more accurately. But please bear in mind that seeds are only one side of nutrition. All-seed diets have serious negative effects on African grey parrot well-being.

The problem with all-seed diets?

Seeds only provide fat. This means parts of nutrition such as calcium or protein are missing from the equation. Fats need but only in portion quantities. The best diet for your African grey will be about 10% to 20% in seeds. Any more than this can lead to nutritional deficiencies, infections, or other health problems. Some bird owners purchase seeds genetically modified for cooking oil production. This leads to heart problems for our bird friends, this over-feeding of fats leads to obesity. Which then leads to other well-being problems. Seeds produced for our consumption are not healthy for birds because of higher fat concentrations. You’ve probably heard of speed junkies, well now you can tell your African grey, “Say no to all-seed diets!”

Amino acids (protein) and fats through legumes and nuts

Protein helps your feathered friend’s feathers grow. Insects, nuts, and legumes make up the usual protein in a wild bird’s life in nature. It prevents balding, it promotes seasonal molting and natural development and keeps your African grey’s feathers beautiful. An African grey will experience a few molts throughout their lifetime, the first begins when your grey is still young at about 8 months, then again at 11 months. This second molt will last for 2-3 years. After the second molt, molts should be about every year or so. Protein will be crucial for your pet grey whenever he or
healthy parrot food[/caption] she molts. Nuts and legumes also satisfy the protein required for African greys. An African grey food list includes garbanzo beans, lentils, soybeans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and split peas; nuts can include pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. Please bear in mind nuts are very fatty, they must be portioned carefully when feeding African greys. Protein should be 10% to 16% of a daily African grey parrot diet. A balanced diet will protect our dear African grey friends against diseases such as gout, vitamin D toxicity, or iron toxicity. If you’re looking for a healthy and wonderfully nutty yet balanced nutritious mix your African grey will always be thankful for, try our Cinnaspice Delight Mix. [picture of vegetables, chard, kale, broccoli, etc with fruits and with the grain on the side]

What about carbohydrates for an African gray?

Healthy veggies include lettuce, spinach, corn, carrots, broccoli, kale, and chard. Darker leaf vegetables will be healthier and more nutritious than pale ones such as lettuce or celery. Healthy fruit options include pineapples, mangoes, melons, bananas, tangerines, apples, and coconuts. Purchasing organic options is crucial because of the high herbicide and pesticide content in conventionally grown organic produce which can kill African greys, especially at younger ages. Apples, peaches, and cherries contain seeds with cyanide which must be removed. To maintain a good balance, approximately 10% of an African grey’s diet should be in fruits, and 50% in vegetables. If your pet grey begins to have watery stools, this is because of the sugar in fruits. Too much sugar will affect appetites and moods, so serve sparingly! Enzymes, vitamins, proteins (amino acids), and other nutrients contained in veggies, fruits, and other food cannot be replaced by synthetic foods, they can only come through fresh and raw foods. Millet, buckwheat, oats, rye, barley, wheat, quinoa, spelled, Kamut, amaranth, and rice are all a wonderful carbohydrate source. A few ways folks prepare these are through soaking, cooking, sprouting, or by letting their African greys eat them raw. However you decide to serve, remember to wash to remove pesticides and micro-contaminants. A nutritious and tasty catering for your African grey and many other of these goodies can be found here!

The problem with an all-pellet diet

An easy fix many African grey owners encounter and entice by is the all-pellet diet. The all-seed being one of the two evils to many when creating recommendations, the lesser evil is the all-pellet diet. But neither has to damage the well-being of our African greys! According to Pamela Clark, CPBC, CVT: “Many avian veterinarians believe that parrot owners should be encouraged to feed a 100% manufactured diet to their birds because the majority of owners are not capable of providing a good diet otherwise. I never fail to feed saddened when I encounter this ideology. For it essentially removes the benefit and privilege of choice from the parrot owner. In other words, the owner encourage to feed a pellete diet, not because of strong conviction that the diet is optimal, but because it is perceiving as the lesser of two evils.” Pamela Clark, CPBC. CVT. This view comes from manufacturers with a somewhat understandable view of the average consumer and our chaotic schedules. Nearly 60% of domestic bird autopsies show malnutrition signs. Whether African grey pellet food contributes to this, we cannot speculate. African grey pellet food is an easy fix for many people because it can keep some parts of nutrition going, but not fully. African grey diets that contain only pellets have some nutritional problems. The most striking of these is a lack of enzymes in the synthetically made and processed pelleted foods. The absence of these enzymes means kidneys, livers, and stomachs will go to ruin. It will later impact the rest of their health. Gout, vitamin D toxicity, and iron toxicity can impact your African grey because of the high amounts of protein in African grey pellet food. We do not subsist on protein bars or vitamins, and neither should African greys. There must always be a balance in nutrition. Luckily we have options here to keep our bird friends healthy! Looking at how African greys survive in their natural habitats, feeding throughout the tropics of Africa. We can begin to understand a balance for a healthy diet. While noting the very different lives our African grey friends live. Through this lens, we try to provide our friends with wholesome and delicious mixes that will keep your African grey delighted.

African grey food Frequently Asked Questions

An FAQ on African greys and African grey diets include:

How much does an African grey eat?

Depending on the size of your African grey, they will eat about ½ to ¼ of their body weight. On average African greys weigh about 526 grams, an African grey will then eat about 131.5 to 263 grams of food per day. And this depends on how active your African grey is. How much playtime you provide, and how much you interact with him or her. You can measure our Tropical Feast on the Fly mix, to about 2.5 cups of the mix (for one day) per every 250 grams of weight to keep your African grey wholesomely happy!

What is an African grey’s favorite food?

African greys love to munch on seeds, nuts, and berries. But please do remember they should all be small portions of their diet. They also love sweet fruits such as mangoes and oranges (with skins removed), and cored apples. Fruits should account for 10% of their diets. A great source of fiber is bananas. In chickens giving fiber prevents feather plucking and aggression such as cannibalization. Other sources of fiber are legumes and grains.

What foods are bad for African greys?

African greys should avoid chemicals, pesticides, herbicides in nonorganic foods. Toxins such as aflatoxins must be avoided, these are found in peanuts, and they were unfortunately discovered when 100,000 turkeys died. The usual suspects of deadly foods for animals also affect birds. Foods with caffeine such as chocolate, tea, or coffee itself must be avoided. Avocados, onion, garlic, tomato leaves, potatoes, and other foods with solanine should also be avoided. If a pet owner is ever in doubt, research and ask your veterinarian. You can also read this post on what not to feed your feathered companion. Junk food is just as deadly, and just like it’s bad for us, it’s bad for them. This includes fatty foods such as butter or potato chips. Salty or sugary foods like candy are also not the best of ideas for your African grey’s health. These are bad enough for humans!

What to feed my African greys?

Someone who owns an African grey should feed the full spectrum of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, spices, and other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. We have a section above called, “What should I feed my African grey,” which addresses this question.

Can African grays eat oranges?

Absolutely, but small quantities are preferring because of the acidic content that can put their pH out of balance.

What fruits and vegetables can African grays eat?

A short African grey food list of edible fruits: Melon, kiwi, apples, mango & papaya (skins removed), grapes, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The seeds in apples, apricots, pears, peaches, and cherries, must be removed because of the cyanide in seeds. A small African grey food list of vegetables include carrots, yellow and butternuts squash, collard greens, broccoli, kale, peppers (green, red, chili), celery, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, peas, leaf lettuce.

Does my bird need extra vitamins, minerals or amino-acids?

The best African grey food will mix vitamins, minerals, amino acids (proteins), and spices. Grains, legumes, seeds, veggies, fruits, and other sources such as mineral blocks or cuttlebones will provide these. If you would like to make feeding your African grey a delight for your pet friend and yourself, consider buying one of our rich mixes of carbohydrates, proteins (amino acids), vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals, and spices

What pointers should I remember about feeding my African gray?

A few pointers below:
  • Do not use gravel and grit as African greys remove the hull of seeds before ingestion. Grit can cause digestive problems
  • Freshwater should provide and change every day, to prevent bacteria from accumulating.
  • As mention above people, food products for humans, and is not similar to the concentrations birds find in nature
  • Fruits and vegetables should only stay for a couple of hours at most in their food bowls. They can spoil and contaminate the home of the African greys and the African greys themselves
  • Seeds should only account for a portion of your African grey’s diet
  • All food should wash before serving to remove contaminants

Is there anything else that will be needed for my African gray besides Bird Street Bistro?

We recommend that cuttlebones for calcium, mineral blocks for trace minerals, and raw vegetables are purchase and fed to your African grey. Putting vitamins in your bird’s water supply will help nutrition. Sunbathing for about 5 to 10 minutes a day will help your African grey maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and allow their bodies to synthesize calcium so their feathers keep growing beautifully.

How can I get my African gray to eat this? They just will not eat it!

Just like children (and adults), it will take time for African greys to get used to the new food. A routine should develop so they can expect when they will receive food. Once in the morning and once in the early evening will work just fine. Dicing their food into pieces helps new food blend in. If you find your African grey ignoring their food, that does not mean you should give up! Be persistent when introducing require food, this is all crucial for a nutritious, balanced, and healthy diet. Please do make sure food is removing before it goes bad (this is usually about 2 hours after serving). Bacteria and fungi can grow in your African grey’s food. The food bowl itself (do remember to clean the food bowl frequently).

In Conclusion

What has been learned about our dear African Gray dates back to science and research that is still comparatively young? Out of ignorance parrots were first fed an all-seed diet and thought that as optimal. After the harm from an all-seed diet became apparent, we overcompensated by introducing super charged pellets. Now the results of a pellet only diet are starting to come to light. The best approach is to step back and think. “what would we do with our diets, based on the amount of exercise we get and what we naturally eat thanks to mother nature”. Taking a holistic approach to our parrots. Diet is a better suite to provide our avian friends with the best life possible. It may be a daunting task at first. But that’s why Bird Street Bistro takes a different approach to parrot food. Bird Street Bistro goes back to the basics, going back to what mother nature has provided us. Pure. Simple. All-natural parrot food. Please do leave a comment, share this post, and let us know what you think. We love hearing from our customers it gives us wings! Consult your avian veterinarian to determine your bird’s individual dietary needs. Please do leave a comment, share this post, and let us know what you think. We love hearing from our customers! It gives us wings! Have a wonderful day.