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Old 03-03-2008, 11:48 AM
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Arrow First time parrot owner

Hello All!
My husband and I are planning on adopting our first parrot this week (approx. 6 months old). It will most likely be a Congo African Grey.
We were wondering if ya'll had any pointers for us.

We're making sure to get a fairly large cage and lots of toys.
We've read about their diets but our questions are more behavioral mysteries.

For example, do they bite as frequently as the rumors say?
Are they hard to train?
Is it better to get a female rather than a male?
Are they really loud? and constantly too?
Do they make a huge mess?

And any other info or tips will help.
Thanks in advance!

Sara
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Old 03-03-2008, 02:31 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

Congrats on the new bird! Our first bird is a Timneh African Grey. The only thing we have to compare it to is our second, a yellow-naped Amazon. They are very smart and pick up new words pretty easily (just don't expect it right away, they are like babies and and have to develop their speaking ability). Ours is very much a one-person bird. He/she (not sexed) likes only me even though we socialized him from the time he was a baby. The only time ours is noisy is when he feels we aren't giving enough attention. Sometimes he likes to have some quiet time to himself but when he wants attention, he wants it NOW! We made the mistake of teaching how to whistle. I wouldn't do that again. Their whistling can get really loud! We've been learning as we go with ours (4 years now). If I had it to do over, I'd try to socialize him even more, get more people to handle him so he's not so attached to me.

Julie
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Old 03-03-2008, 02:57 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

Lots of pointers, but not enough time right now ... can I get back to you on this one later tonight?

Off to work ...
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Old 03-03-2008, 03:15 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

Good questions. In regards to if things are as bad as some rumors say it depends on which rumors you have heard.

Parrots can be wonderful pets however they are not for everyone. Auggie has added more to my life than I could ever express but there have been many times where he's been very aggravating.

Do they bite: How much/often they bite depends on many factors of how you raise them and care for them. Note though that ALL parrots will bite at some point or another - and it will hurt. I have a couple scars on my hands; if this absolutely unacceptable then a parrot is the wrong choice. However the way you phrased the question indicates that you know SOME biting may be inevitable. I suspect the rumors you heard may be overstated.

Are they hard to train: as a behaviorist I have often found it is the owners who are much harder to train than any animal. With the right knowledge, techniques, and patience they can be trained well. But parrots in general do take more work than other common pets.

Sex differences: virtually non-existent in my opinion (which here I will admit I don't have species specific experience). Females of course have the risk of reproductive issues such as egg-binding. Behaviorally however individual characteristics outweigh sex characteristics.

Loud: YES. All parrots can be quite loud. As much as I learned before getting my conure this was one thing I was not prepared for. As for the constant part this largely depends on how they are kept. For the most part it will not be constant if you give appropriate out-of-cage time, toys, and entertainment. Most parrots have one or two scream-times per day. Vocal behavior is a normal and healthy thing for parrots and screaming is part of this; you can however work this into a nice schedule.

Mess: YES, another thing I was not prepared for. A dust-buster/hand-vac will be your new best friend - or hopefully second best if the bird is your best. Parrots can be potty trained to go in a certain area, but until then "accidents" will be common, for a while Auggie would go on my shirt, especially clean ones... Now Auggie has relatively rare 'potty-accidents' but they also tend to throw food around a bit so the area around his cage is in regular disarray.

I may make owning a parrot sound miserable and that is not my intent. Despite these concerns bringing Auggie home is one of the best things I have ever done. It is not a decision to take lightly however. A well raised parrot will not bite OFTEN, will not scream CONTINUOUSLY, and will not make a HUGE mess. A parrot can be the right choice for you if you are ok with some biting, some screaming, and some mess - regardless of training and care these are part of parrot parenting.
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Old 03-03-2008, 10:00 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

I agree 100% with you A.D. ... especially the point that when it comes to training the OWNER AND THE PARROT as a unit and not JUST the parrot ...

I would also like to add about the noise level and the overall volume of your house also tends to dictate the volume of the bird (along with all the other things that A.D. brought up) if your house is overall quiet then it is more likely that your parrot will tend on the quieter side ... while if you have lots of noise, lots of activity and lots of everything then your parrot might tend to be on the louder side ...

A.D. covered a lot of the stuff that I was going to say ... I am sure that we all will think of more things as we go along (usually at like 3 am, and we are woken out of a sound sleep and go, "OH YEAH, need to add that in later")

I can't recommend that if you get a parrot another essential purchase (along with cage, toys, etc.) is a Dustbuster/Hand vacuum, makes life a whole lot easier.



SPECIES SPECIFIC INFORMATION: Greys need to be socialized early and often. They tend to be a more nervous bird and earlier and more frequent socialization will help with that ... they are expert vocalizer as a whole (each bird is, of course, individually different) and can mimic just about any sound they find to their liking ... but they are also very intelligent birds (please take the time to look at the work of Dr. Irene Pepperburg and Alex the African grey to understand just HOW SMART these guys are) and with that intelligence comes a great responsibility to the owner to understand that they need lots of toys (of varying types) and lots of daily social interaction ... if you can't give these birds 4-6 hours a day of face-to-face attention and interaction, please do not consider this bird.
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Last edited by TexDot33; 03-03-2008 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 03-03-2008, 10:26 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

African greys are probably more prone to feather plucking than any other type of parrot. One of the most important thing I can stress about getting a baby grey is keep to a routine you can and will continue the rest of that bird's life. Baby greys are irresistably cute and I can't tell you how many times I have seen 2 year old greys brought into the store for help with plucking or even to give up the bird into a breeding program because they seemed so miserable. Invariably as the cute baby began maturing and picking a favorite person (not always the owner) and suddenly wasn't cute anymore. The bird ends up spending more time in the cage, sometimes the cage is even moved to another room to keep the bird from getting "upset". Once plucking has started it is very hard to stop. Even Alex was a hard core plucker.
Getting an african grey is more like adopting a child than buying a pet. You are dealing with a bird with the intelligence and emotional range of a 5 year old.
Ok I'll get off my soapbox. One other thing I will mention about greys talking is while I would say they have the most talking ability of any parrot, most greys don't say their first word untill they are about a year old. Whereas many amazons and macaws learn their first words before then.
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Old 03-03-2008, 10:36 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

While I don't have a grey, I do know a little bit about them.
They can be excellent birds and they are very very intelligent. They can learn to be great talkers/mimic-ers, but this also means they can get loud. They can spend hrs a day just talking to themselves or whoever is around. They also tend to attach themselves to the person of their choice and dislike another member of your family for no reason. They also tend to be very phobic and nervous birds. This means you'll have to work with them from early and continually introduce them to new things and new situations so they learn how to handle change. Otherwise, just rotating the toys in their cage can become very stressful for them. Also, greys are notorious for becoming feather pickers/pluckers. They are going to need a lot of stimulation to prevent them from getting bored.

Although they will require a lot of work (though which bird doesn't?) it can be a very rewarding experience. If you gain their trust you will have a life long friend that will look to you for companionship. You will also have one very smart bird that will probably continually surprise you and you will learn new things from them just as they will learn from you.

You just have to make sure you don't teach them any bad habits, such as screaming for attention or biting will get them what they want.
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Old 03-04-2008, 09:21 AM
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Re: First time parrot owner

I intially wanted a grey. I would read all of the stories online, read about Dr Irene Pepperberg and Alex and how intellegent they are and wanted a grey. Two things made me change my mind, I have a 14 year old son with allergy induced asthma and Greys and Toos (and tiels) have powder down, which was going to be too much for my sons allergies. The other thing was I found them to be too serious for me. I fell in love with a U2 and there again...powder down. So for me the perfect bird choice was an amazon. They are intellegent like the grey and playful and silly like the too. Actually my guy is a big clown.

I believe all parrots make messes. Mine likes to fling food. (as do many others) He threw a piece of pasta halfway across the living room, hitting my daughter in the head. (FUNNY) Anything he eats that crumbles pieces fall, seed guards on the cage help with that while he is in the cage, but outside of the cage, well the mess goes everywhere. (I think that the dustbuster might be my next purchase) Then there is the poop. I have found that if you clean it right away (furniture and floors) it comes up pretty easily. (unless he has eaten something with dye or berries) As far as the cage goes I just use a spray bottle of warm water and let it soak then wipe it up. (and a toothbrush for the perches and between bars)

I have read that with greys you really want to watch what type of noises they are exposed to, because it doesn't seem to take long for them to pick up a new sound. (a microwave beep, fire trucks, smoke detectors, squeeky floors or doors, screaming kids...etc.)

Good luck with your new little guy.
Rhonda
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Old 03-04-2008, 10:04 AM
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Re: First time parrot owner

Everyone has brought up WONDERFUL points about Greys!! I think that you have a lot to read about Phyzy ... hopefully even after reading all of this you can decide that a grey IS the right bird for you and you can meet all of the needs for a grey because they really are wonderful birds.

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Old 03-04-2008, 01:25 PM
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Re: First time parrot owner

Quote: Originally Posted by TexDot33 View Post
if your house is overall quiet then it is more likely that your parrot will tend on the quieter side ... while if you have lots of noise, lots of activity and lots of everything then your parrot might tend to be on the louder side ...


and can mimic just about any sound they find to their liking ...
We have what one might call an "animal ensemble" that performs in our house each night. Rocky ('zon) sings his lovely opera mixed with a little crying infant and toddler babbling. Einstein (grey) adds to that his whistling, shrieking, and chirping. Max (the dog) starts screaming like a crazed monkey (my DH calls it singing but who is he fooling?). It's enough to drive a person insane!

Forget the Dustbuster, WD40 will be your new best friend. Get rid of all the squeaks in your house or they WILL be imitated. If I go anywhere near the back door, Einstein makes the sound the deadbolt makes when I unlock it (then calls or whistles for the dogs - and he knows which one is out there!). He also enjoys imitating the microwave. Rocky, on the other hand, likes imitating a good nose blow. We often hear the "Rocky Phone" ringing in our house. They frequently start making a noise and I can't figure out where it came from until they do it at the same exact time I make the noise with a door or something.

Julie
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