Screaming African Grey


New member
Apr 14, 2009
Winnipeg, Canada
African Grey Congo
Named Rafiki
My 12 year old Grey has a problem with screaming, he screams at our 3 year old and upsets her and he screams for attention from me.

I'm afraid it's going to get worst because I'm due to have a baby in May and won't be able to give him the attention he needs when the baby is born.

The screaming has become a big problem and we don't know how to fix it.
I don't want to give him up because i got him before we started having children and I had him for such a long time.

not sure what to do, need advice please.
Hi, welcome to the forum.

I am so sorry you're having to go through this with your african grey. When did this behaviour begin?

How do you handle it now, when he screams?

The best way to handle it is through positive reinforcement. Reward him when hes not screaming, and ignore him when he is screaming.

Also exercising the bird daily may help. A simple step up for a short couple minutes can help keep the bird in place.
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Screaming started just after our daughter was born 3 years ago, at first I thought he was upset because he wasn't getting enough attention but it's still going on.

When he screams we take him to his favorite place in the house which is the bathroom to calm him down which works, don't know why he loves that room but he does.
Most times when people come to me with pet training issues the first thing they have to realize is that they are the one being trained.

Animals do what works. If screaming gets him what he wants of course he will continue. He should be ignored or given a time out when he screams, but as soon as he is quiet for a short time THEN you can bring him to his favorite place. Over time you can up the requirement of how long he must be quiet to get to go to his favorite place.

People are too good at ignoring good behavior - they ignore a quite parrot or a dog sitting nicely out of the way, while they react to the dog who jumps up on the furniture or the parrot who screams.

Pay attention to when he is being good (aka quiet). As cliche as it has become it is great advice to "catch them being good."
My guess is that yor are correct, it is a jealousy issue!

Obviously when you have a child your attention is now divided a little between Rocker and your new daughter. Rocker didn't like that, and can't understand why your aren't paying attention to him as much as you used to and it's only going to escalate with your second child. This happens a lot with Cockatoos and many of them get rehomed for this issue.

How do we fix it, well this is a very "slippery slope" and as Meghan has suggested positive reinforcement IS going to be your best option! Rewards and attention when he is quiet and ignoring the bad behavior. You need to think of Rocker in the same way that you think of your three-year old. When she does/says something that you do not want to reinforce you ignore it, when she's doing things that you want to (like potty training) you praise and reward lavishly. The one thing that you must be extremely careful of, is just like a three-year old, negative attention ("Rocker, shut the %#*&$%^*@&^# UP!") is still attention.

Another thing that might help is to establish a predictable routine for the entire family. For example my girls (Hamlet and Mac) know that in the morning they are going to get cuddle time and hang out time with either my wife or myself or even both depending on the day, and they are also going to have shower time as well (if I haven't taken a show by like 11 am because I am being very lazy they start to get antsy and after the shower they calm right down). Establish a routine where Rocker gets some one-on-one time with you (maybe while the children are napping) and this might also help with the yelling.

Also please make sure that you have lots of interesting toys, foraging and other wise, in his cage, this will help to distract him a little when you aren't paying attention to him.

That's all I can think of, but I am sure that our resident "animal behavior" expert Auggie's Dad can chime in here with more that maybe I have over looked/not thought of.

Welcome to the forum, and congrats on the new baby ~ my wife and I are expecting our first around Halloween. It's very exciting!
fyi - You can't reinforce silence. If you reinforce silence, your parrot will think you are reinforcing what he's doing at that moment and it will confuse him. Are you reinforcing that he just scratched his head, that he just yawned? You have to reinforce something concrete. What you want to reinforce is every time he makes a desireable sound, or teach him an acceptable sound he can use to get you to come to him. Any time he makes an acceptable vocalization or speaks, THAT'S what you want to reinforce. You can also reinforce him playing with toys. Also, if he's used to being reinforced when he screams, there will be an "extinction burst" where it will get worse before it gets better. If he screams for 20 minutes and you give in. Next time he'll figure he has to scream for 25 minutes to get your attention. Not reinforcing screaming means no attention at all. It means not saying no, not making eye contact, not muttering under your breath. If at all possible, leave the room. He'll learn screaming gets him absolutely nothing. A whistle or words gets him love, attention and treats.

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