African greys mostly occupy 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, and their imitation of alarm noises, water drips, and other miscellaneous and pretty funny sounds. Their silver colored 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 is 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 a 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 should I consider before buying an African grey?
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 are able to 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 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?
Besides the much needed cage, a perch, water dishes, African
grey food bowls, toys, cage sand, cuttlebones, mineral blocks, and a bird bath,
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 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
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 often times feel exposed when they are near windows. Often times we think that they like the perceived openness of a window view, but this actually makes them feel exposed if they cannot hide from it. It is recommended that either a towel covers the cage so they can hide, or that canopy like toys are 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 tree tops.
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 means 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 grey eats?
Our customers sometimes ask us if we can just feed African greys human food, or if it really 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 is synthesized from sun exposure, because this affects balding, feather growth, and over all 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, and 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 are 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 grey naturally eat?
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 used to, nature provides a nutritional content they evolved 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 are fats. Low fat content seeds like safflower, millet, canary grass, sunflower, and groat seeds 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 are needed but only in portioned 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 seed 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 she molts. Nuts and legumes also satisfy the protein required for African greys. An African grey food list includes garbanzo beans, lentils, soy beans, 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 grain on the side]
What about carbohydrates for African greys?
Veggies that are healthy 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 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, spelt, 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 are enticed 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 is encouraged to feed a pelleted diet, not because of strong conviction that the diet is optimal, but because it is perceived 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 of 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 and 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 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 really depends on how active your African grey is. How much play time 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 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 absolutely 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 10% of their diets.
A great source of fiber are 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 definitely avoid chemicals, pesticides, herbicides in non organic 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 definitely 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 greys eat oranges?
Absolutely, but small quantities are preferred because of the acidic content that can put their pH out of balance.
What fruits and vegetables can African greys eat?
A short African grey food list of edible fruits:
Melon, kiwi, apples, mango & papaya (skins removed), graps, 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 grey?
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
– Fresh water should be provided and changed every day, to prevent bacteria from accumulating.
– As mentioned above people food is produced for humans, and is not similar to the concentrations birds find in nature
– Fruits and vegetables should only stay for a couple 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 be washed before serving to remove contaminants
Can I just put food in a food dispenser and use a water dispenser when I’m away?
The common danger with food dispensers is that for birds, and especially African greys, new items, new faces, new anything, will take some time to getting used to. Or perhaps your African grey might be afraid of the new dispenser. Leaving your African grey unfed or starving for whatever amount of time you are gone. Usually it is important to test your African grey’s reactions to new equipment, any equipment, toy or not. Please do make sure they can feed themselves alone, or better yet schedule someone to feed your pet when you are away.
Is there anything else that will be needed for my African grey besides Bird Street Bistro?
We recommend that cuttlebones for calcium, mineral blocks for trace minerals, and raw vegetables are purchased 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 grey 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 new food. A routine should be developed 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 required food, this is all crucial for a nutritious, balanced, and healthy diet. Please do make sure food is removed before it goes bad (this is usually about 2 hours after serving), bacteria and fungi can grow in your African grey’s food and the food bowl itself (do remember to clean the food bowl frequently).
What has been learned about our dear African Greys 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 over compensated 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 own diets, based on the amount or exercise we get and what we naturally eat thanks to mother nature”. Taking a holistic approach for our parrots’ diet is better suited 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.