African Grey Parrot Care Sheet

African Grey Parrots are intelligent and affectionate birds that are both wonderful pets and lifelong friends. This care sheet covers all the basics of caring for your African Grey Parrot. For the most detailed possible information though, you’re going to want to buy a dedicated care guide. We would recommend either The African Grey Parrot Handbook or African Grey Parrots (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual). Both are worth purchasing and they’re ridiculously cheap when you think how long your parrot will live!

African Grey Parrot Size
Adult African Greys are around 13″ long from beak to tail.

African Grey Parrot Lifespan
You shouldn’t be at all surprised if your African Grey is around for the rest of your life, as their life expectancy is anything from 50-70 years in captivity. Because of their intelligence and long life, you can form a stronger bond with an African Grey than with almost any other pet.

African Grey Parrot Cage
It’s normal for an African Grey to spend most of its waking hours outside the cage as they crave the freedom and interaction this gives them. However, the cage is still very important, and should be fairly large, with a minimum cage size being around 24″x30″x42″. Really you want to give your African Grey the largest enclosure that will fit in your house, and a flight cage would be best.

The cage should be wire (horizontal or vertical – both have advantages), with gaps of about 0.75″, and the lock should be parrot-proof, which is more restrictive than you might think! Most commercial cages will need a modified lock or padlock.

If you’ve got the money and the space, we recommend the Prevue Silverado Macaw Dometop Cage. It’s enormous, designed for bigger and stronger birds, and your African Grey will absolutely love it. You won’t find a better African Grey Parrot cage.

If you need something a bit smaller and/or cheaper, the Prevue Hendryx Wrought Iron Flight Cage is excellent. You should also consider the Yescom Large Parrot Bird Cage – it’s bigger than the Hendryx but around the same price, and still very well designed.

Keep the cage elevated above the ground, not in direct sunlight (to avoid overheating), and kept away from any cold drafts, heat ducts or air conditioning units. African Greys will be happiest if they’re in a fairly busy area of the house – again, they crave interaction.

African Grey Parrot Bedding
The simplest substrate for the cage is newspaper, which is cheap, easy to clean and easy to replace. There are plenty of other possibilities too, and so long as your chosen substrate is non-toxic, you’re unlikely to encounter problems. Whatever you use, it should be replaced either once a week or whenever it looks like it should be cleaned, whichever is sooner. Periodically you should also thoroughly clean out the cage itself.

African Grey Parrot Cage Accessories
Your cage will need to include several perches, all varying in size and material to ensure your parrot doesn’t suffer from pressure sores or similar. A mixture of natural perches (non-toxic branches etc.) and commercially available parrot perches is best, but avoid smooth, slippery perches and those with a sandpaper surface. Want to see what we would choose? Then check out these perches on Amazon: Booda Comfy Perch, Jusney Large Parrot Rope Toy and Polly’s Hardwood Bird Perch. Ladders like these and these are also nice.

African Grey Parrot Toys
Just as important are parrot toys. You’ll need a wide variety of different toys to keep an African Grey Parrot stimulated, but you only need a few in the cage at a time if you regularly cycle through the different toys. Everything from mirrors and bells to tubes and balls will be investigated, and you should experiment to find what your parrot likes best, although it will still almost certainly want to be out of the cage most of the time anyway.

Just make sure the toys don’t include anything that could be easily swallowed or is otherwise dangerous. Imagine you’re buying toys for a toddler.

Temperature and Lighting
African Grey Parrots are quite hardy birds and can normally be kept at room temperature and stay perfectly happy and healthy, providing the temperature doesn’t drop too low in winter. If it’s at least 60F inside, there’s no need to worry.

Lighting is often a hot topic among African Grey owners – some claim that the birds only need to see plenty of daylight (around 12 hours is good) each day, while the others believe a UVB light is necessary. To be on the safe side you can provide a full spectrum light near the cage, especially in winter when there isn’t enough daylight for these equatorial birds. Just make sure you remember to switch it off at night!

African Grey Parrot Food and Water
There are several different varieties of parrot pellets on the market that have been designed specifically with parrots in mind, and these should be the staple diet for your African Grey, forming about 2/3 of their total food intake. This should then be supplemented with a wide range of grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, primarily the latter.

Seed and nut mixes are a valuable nutritional source, but contain quite a lot of fat, and so they should be given only sparingly. All fruit and veg should be washed, dried and chopped up before being fed to your African Grey, and bear in mind that avocado, fruit seeds, raw onion and many citrus fruits can seriously harm your parrot and must be avoided. You should feed your parrot twice a day and remove any uneaten food after a few hours or at the end of the day.

Calcium deficiency is the most common health problem suffered by African Greys as a result of a poorly balanced diet, so calcium-rich greens such as spinach and kale should be fed regularly, and using avian calcium supplements or providing a cuttlebone isn’t a bad idea to allow your parrot to regulate its own calcium intake. Some owners even feed their African Grey Parrots small chicken bones (e.g. from buffalo wings), but this can of course be risky, just as eating small bones is risky for people! Some owners also mix a small amount of vitamin supplement into their food once a week to ensure your parrot is getting everything it needs.

A water bowl in the cage is essential. It should be rinsed out every day, as should the food bowl. The dish should be large enough for your parrot to bathe in – if it’s deep enough for your African Grey to fully submerge its head, it’s probably big enough. Providing fresh, clean, dechlorinated water every day is extremely important, regardless of whether or not it looks like your parrot has touched the water. You should use bottled water or a filter that removes 100% chlorine to be safe.

African Grey Parrot Grooming
It’s best to consult an avian veterinarian on this, as individual needs differ, but some owners choose to trim their parrot’s flight feathers. This is not normally essential, but can reduce the risk of injury for some birds. Again, check with a vet.

Some African Greys also need to have their nails trimmed, but using a wide variety of perches will sometimes be enough to keep them short in a more natural way. Trimming parrot nails isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and you should consult some of the available literature e.g. the books mentioned at the top of this African Grey Parrot care sheet.

Handling African Grey Parrots

Pet African Grey Parrot

Image by Tambako on Flickr

As already mentioned in this care sheet, your African Grey Parrot should spend as much time as possible outside of its cage, interacting with you and whoever else is around. Note however that African Greys will often only form a strong bond with one person and may well be cautious with new people. You absolutely must be able to give your parrot a lot of time and attention or it will become severely depressed. These are highly intelligent and social creatures, so if you can’t provide this level of care and attention, or foresee it being a problem in the future, it would probably be wise to consider a different pet.

Once you and your African Grey have formed a bond, which normally begins within days, your parrot will enjoy nothing more than being handled and allowed to roam the house. Supervision is always a good idea to prevent any serious incidents occurring, whether they involve escape, injury or death. Buying a parrot-sized play gym and/or a climbing tree to be put in different places around the house is definitely a worthwhile investment, and your African Grey will thank you for it.

For more information about the behavior of African Grey Parrots and interacting with them, check out our article on African Grey Parrot Behavior.

If you’ve still got questions that haven’t been covered in this African Grey Parrot care sheet, then please feel free to contact us – we’ll be happy to help! Or save yourself some trouble in the future and buy one of the books recommended at the top of this page so you’ve always got a comprehensive body of information to hand.