If you have ever seen an African Grey, whether in real life or on the Internet, you cannot help but be entranced by their intelligence, funny mannerisms and endearing but regal appearance. It can easily lead a person to wonder about bringing one of these lovely birds into their family’s home.
Are African Greys Good Family Pets? Yes, but only if the family is experienced and mature enough to handle an African Grey. They are very intelligent and therefore need a lot of mental stimulation. An African Grey that doesn’t get enough of that could develop psychological problems and even start to attack family members.
The African Grey is not like a dog or cat and must be handled with care (e.g. not for kids to play with) and also requires A LOT of playtime as well as mental stimulation. It is not a pet you can simply adopt with no experience. Let us show you in detail what that means!
This Makes African Greys a Good Family Pet
- They are extremely smart (Even smarter than macaws as we show you here)
- They live long lives
- They love to be played with, trained, and spending time the family
- They are very cute and speak really clearly
- They love learning, and you can teach them how to dance (If you are interested in that you should read our article on dancing parrots here!)
This Makes African Greys Bad Family Pets
- They may only bond with one person in the family
- They take a while to ‘warm-up’ to their new owners
- They cannot be left alone for many hours at time (In fact, no parrot should be left alone. We explain why here.)
- They live so long; they may outlive the owners and have nowhere to go after the owner passes on.
- They destroy things using their beak, like furniture.
- They are very expensive (We show you why they are so expensive and what costs you should expect when getting an African Grey here!)
Want to learn what all this means in detail? Let us show you what you should keep in mind when you decide to add an African Grey to your family.
1. Your African Grey Has His Own Personality
Your African Grey will have his own personality, but chances are, he will be playful and loving toward you once you get to know him. Unlike some family pets, African Greys have to get to know their owners first before they start to feel like a pet.
Dogs and cats, for instance, demonstrate loving behavior on the first day of adoption, in most cases. Also, realize that African Greys may bond with only one person in your family.
Parrots have to learn to trust you:
- You must start by spending time around your African Grey. Read a book, watch a quiet television show, and speak with him gently as if you were talking to a friend.
- Offer him toys, and the occasional treat.
- Learn “Bird Body Language” so you know when it is time to back off and give him a break.
- Allow him time out of the cage to walk around and see his new home. Have your family calmly acknowledge him, letting him explore at his own pace.
- Don’t forget treats so he begins to associate his time with you with positivity.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you build trust:
- Never force your bird into doing anything he doesn’t feel like doing. This leads to bites, and serious injury as African Grey bites are harsh.
- Do not yell at your bird, or worse, hit him. Sadly, we have heard of stories of such things happening, and this will absolutely NOT help your relationship.
- Always be honest with your bird. If you say, “Be right back,” come back soon.
2. African Greys Are Extremely Smart
Chances are in your quest to learn more about African Greys and if they are a good fit for your family, you stumbled upon video of members of this species talking.
“Einstein” is one such famous African Grey, his tricks amaze and delight everybody who stumbles upon his videos. African Greys:
- Get to know their owners
- Can imitate hundreds of sounds (Which can be quite annoying as we explain here)
- Are thought to have the intelligence of a five-year-old child
Einstein was treated to hours of training from professionals who honed his skills and taught him all he knows. He also likely learned many of those sounds on his own.
Can your family handle this task daily? Without proper mental stimulation, your parrot may turn to self-destructive behaviors, and will no doubt be stressed out.
This is not like other pets, such as cats or fish, who can be alone for a long while.
One thing that really helps is working with your parrot a little each day to train him or her. For example, you can train him or her to dance to music.
- Make sure your bird is comfortable with you.
- Remember, parrots train best in no more than 20-minute increments.
- Only train on days he feels like doing so.
- Get ready to look a little silly!
- Pick a song with a good beat.
- Allow him to come out of the cage and place him in a comfortable spot.
- Start with a simple move like bobbing the head.
- Make sure he is looking at you.
- Encourage the parrot to copy you. You might say, “Come on, Petey!” in an encouraging voice.
- Whether or not your parrot copies you, offer a treat.
- Be consistent and train every day when he feels like it.
- Always praise good behavior.
3. They Live A Long Life
Can you imagine your African Grey living with you long after the children have left home? (Even though African Greys are not really the best pet for a child.)
How about after you have retired from your job and wish to travel in your retirement years?
African Greys can live for 50 to 70 years if they are properly cared for. Some have even gone beyond this lifespan. Therefore, you have to ask a few important questions:
- Is this pet something I can care for in the coming decades?
- Am I doing this simply because my children are living at home and want pets?
- Are there predators in or around my home (such as a cat) who might shorten his lifespan?
- Can I provide the right setting for this bird to thrive? (Lifespan may be reduced if kept in captivity).
- Who will take care of our pet if he outlives me?
If the idea of caring for a family pet long after the rest of the family has grown up and moved on, this may not be ideal for you. Moreover, older bird owners have to decide where their pet will go in the event the bird outlives them.
4. They Are Really Active
We have already discussed how important it is that you take the time to play and interact with your African Grey on an everyday basis. They rely on you to keep them entertained.
In the wild, these parrots are part of a flock, and you and your family become the “flock” when there are no other parrots around.
That being said, you have to be ready to lead an active lifestyle for your parrot.
If your African Grey’s wings are not clipped, he will need to fly outside, whether inside an enclosed aviary space or even whilst on a bird harness.
If they are, he still needs a place to flap his wings and stretch them out and will still treasure his outdoor time.
You must also be prepared to keep an eye on papers, stuffed toys, and pillows while your parrot is out of the cage.
Unlike cats or dogs, which do destroy things but can be trained not to, your parrot will naturally use his beak as nature intended. They love to shred and chew on things.
Keep the following items on hand so your African Grey can direct his energy to the appropriate place:
- Scrap paper with no colored inks (These can harm a Grey if they shred it)
- Plenty of appropriate parrot toys
- Noise-maker toys like bells, and balls with bells inside (Here is why parrots love bells so much)
- Foraging toys in which you can place treats
- Perches of different materials and sizes (always be sure your parrot’s feet do not touch, as his talons can cause lacerations if they touch).
Your parrot cannot stop doing what he was destined to do naturally but being proactive and keeping things out of his reach that you do not want damaged will be important for both you and your pet.
5. Can You Handle the Care?
Caring for an African Grey is unlike anything else. Much like a cat or a dog, there are daily cleaning tasks that have to be completed along with the need to play and interact with your bird.
Here is a sampling of the care you and your family should expect to perform as you keep your African Grey.
- Changing out cage paper or lining every day (You can use other beddings as well. Read this article to learn more!)
- Changing out food and water bowls each day
- Sweeping and cleaning around the cage for any feathers, droppings or food that has fallen
- Covering the cage or preparing it for your parrot to sleep (Even though parrots can’t see well in the dark, you should still do that. Here is why!)
- Changing out toys that have food, droppings or debris on them
This is just what you can expect on a daily basis of caring for your pet. You must also take time to play, and socialize your bird, too.
Other important aspects of care that you will have to complete include:
- Vet visits, as needed for any illnesses that may arise and once for a general checkup
- Deep cage cleanings, which should be done at least once per month using appropriate cleaning solutions (You can also use vinegar for that, we show you how here)
- Nail trimmings, unless you opt to buy a perch that aids in trimming the nails or have your vet take care of this matter
- Keeping an avian first-aid kit well stocked with all appropriate tools and medicines, and ensuring these are all within their dates
There is plenty more to keeping a Grey-this is just a sampling of what you must be prepared for. To give you a better idea of how hard it can be to take care of parrot in general, read our article on that here!
6. What You Need as An African Grey Owner
For a more widely-kept pet, such as a cat or dog, there are a few things needed that are relatively easy to get, but still necessary.
For instance, dogs can sleep in the house, so a dog house is not always necessary in some cases. Cats sleep anywhere, so a cat bed is an option for cat owners.
African Greys, and all birds, are different. They absolutely need a cage of appropriate size in order to feel safe and secure.
Unlike a four-legged friend, these birds need perches so they can sit in comfort. Sure, they will happily walk on floors and couches, but perches are best.
Here is what you will need as an African Grey owner:
- A cage measuring at least 3x2x4ft, and if you can go bigger, do so. Get a cage with bars wide enough so the parrot will not get his head stuck in the bars.
- Toys, toys and more toys. When you are away, your bird will be active with all his toys inside his cage. Makes sure there are plenty of safe and fun toys around to keep him active as well as cuttlebones or edible safe perches. (We show you some awesome toys here – Surprise!)
- Perches-African Greys rely heavily on their feet and beaks to do all things. You will be amazed at what they do. Eating, climbing, playing and more is done with feet or the beak. Therefore, find perches where your African Grey can sit with his feet about three-quarters of the way around the perch.
- Water and food bowls-multiple sets so you can change them out
- Lining for cage such as cage paper or black and white newspaper.
7. Getting an African Grey for the Right Reasons
Many people desire an African Grey for the following reasons:
- They are cute
- They can talk
- They can do tricks
- They are friendly
These are true of SOME African Greys, not all. African Greys may or may not talk. They may or may not want to learn tricks. Like humans, they have their own personalities and mannerisms.
A parrot is not a toy or an object you can put away when you are done playing with him or her. They will need constant care and may or may not feel like playing when you greet them.
Unlike dogs, who usually are overjoyed to see their owners, your parrot may have some days where he just wants to be left alone, such as during molting.
That being said, there are plenty of right reasons to get an African Grey:
- You are okay with a pet that lives a long time and will be a friend for decades.
- You are ready for a challenge when it comes to caring for this pet.
- You are an experienced birdkeeper.
- You love pets with huge personalities.
African Greys can make good family pets, but only for families who are really into birds. They are not for families looking for a casual pet, such as a fish or a cat, or a challenging pet, like a puppy or dog.
This is for a family who is mature and ready for a complex, but wonderful and rewarding, relationship!