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African Grey Parrots - Cages and Environment


African Grey Parrots thrive on activity. In the wild they are very social amongst their own species and forage the forest in groups to search for food. They need to run around, climb, chew and play for most of their day. Their large size makes their need rather difficult to cater in captivity but one must nevertheless try their best to provide the best environment possible.

Choosing the Cage:
Before you buy your bird you need to buy its cage. Choosing the cage should take the same consideration it takes selecting a bird. This will be your Greys home- its safe place. It seems incomprehensible that someone would buy a tame Grey and not provide it with a cage. There are very important reasons why every parrot should have a cage. It needs to literally know its place in the house, and know its cage is a refuge from danger to which it can return if it feels insecure. And, of course, its cage is a secure place in which to roost every night and a place to rest quietly every afternoon where it will not be disturbed. Without a cage, the likelihood of the parrot escaping is also greatly increased. The purchaser of a young Grey Parrot may be too excited to notice the important aspects of how their bird has been kept and fed. Because Grey Parrots have a sensitive nature, they can be more stressed by a transfer to a new location than, for example, an Amazon. The Purchaser should therefore note the size of its present cage and the location and type of food containers used. If the young Grey has been feeding from a low perch with food containers at the same level, and he is placed in a larger cage, he will probably climb to the higher perch but may be very reluctant to climb down to feed. Therefore, it is advisable to buy some hook-on feeders in case it needs to be fed at the perch level to start with. In a large cage perches can be placed at a low level and their height (except one) gradually increased as the Grey feels more at home in the cage.

Remove the grate at the bottom of the cage. Greys like to walk on the cage floor and perhaps scratch in a corner. Older hens will probably want to tear up newspaper. There activities are good outlets for their energy.

Features of a Good Cage:
When choosing a cage these features are most important:
• Buy the largest size cage you can afford. It should be longer than it is high as this design offers more opportunity for exercise and play. Cylindrical cages should be avoided; they are unsuitable for birds of any species.
• It should have at least some sides with horizontal bars, for ease of climbing.
• It should have a fairly large cage door. This makes it easier to move the parrot in and out of the cage and to clean the inside of the cage.
• It should have food and water containers that can be replenished from the outside. This is standard in all but the cheapest cages.
• It should have castors so that the cage can be moved to other rooms of the house. Greys are curious animals and nothing can be more boring than having the same view everyday.
• Take a careful look at the door catch on your Grey’s cage. These parrots are strong enough and clever enough to undo some cage doors. If this is likely, put a dog clip or a padlock on the cage.
• Newspaper is a good material to cover the cage floor. It is entirely safe (newsprint no longer contains lead) and easily obtainable. As a rule of thumb use the paper without any colored printing- just black and white is safe. It is also a quick change; several layers of paper can be used to line the bottom of the cage and several sheets can be removed twice daily. Do not use cat litter (possibly toxic) or sand (a Grey can scratch it all over the room in a matter of minutes).

Cage Size:
Many parrots are kept in cages that are far too small, therefore when you purchase a cage make sure that it is large. The cage should be big enough for the Grey to completely stretch and flap its wings without obstruction. The recommended minimum size for a cage housing one pet Grey Parrot is 36” long x 36 “ wide x 40” high.

It is advisable to remove at least one of the smooth wooden dowel perches that usually come with the new cage and replace it with a rougher perch cut from a non-toxic tree branch, e.g. apple tree, willow or eucalyptus. Perches should be wooden, not plastic. Vary the thickness of the perches in the cage, so that the parrot’s grip can provide exercise. Perches should be 2.5cm in diameter or less. Fresh, natural perches should be provided and replaced at regular intervals. The bark will immediately be removed by the bird and in time the surface will become worn and slippery.

For a young grey under the age of 16 weeks, it is advisable to place the perches at a lower level initially and then move them higher overtime as the bird becomes more confident with the height. This also applies to a newly wing-clipped parrot.

If there are four perches in the cage, two are normally placed quite high-but not so high that the parrot cannot stand upright- and two are placed in front of the food and water containers. Avoid placing two perches in line, one above the other, as you will forever be removing droppings from the lower one.

Cage Location:
Greys are highly inquisitive. They want to be where the action is! It would be cruel to keep a Grey in any room other than the one most lived in by the family. The kitchen is not the ideal place, because of the often rapidly changing temperature and humidity as a result of cooking, the lethal fumes associated with Teflon coated kitchen utensils and the obvious hazards while cooking is in progress.

The cage is best placed in an alcove, or in a position where it is protected by a wall at least on one side. A location that is protected from one or two sides provides a sense of security. It should not be possible to walk right around the cage as a parrot in such a situation may feel insecure. The cage must also not be in direct sunlight; blinds can be used to protect the bird from sun and heat.

If the normal location of your birds cage is a busy room where the television and lights are operating until late at night, you should buy an additional smaller sleeping cage and place it in a quite dark room where your parrot can have 10-12 hours of undisturbed sleep every night. This is of vital importance for young birds.

Whether or not the cage should be covered depends on its location. If lights, such as those from vehicles, can enter the room, it is advised to cover the cage with a plain dark material. The cover should be washed every week because it will accumulate feather dust.

Parrots that can never go outside benefit from full-spectrum lighting. This provides ultraviolet light and helps to activate the conversion of vitamin D3 for calcium absorption. Special bird lamps are available that provide UVA and UVB lighting for the birds. Note that the tubes can lose their efficacy fairly quickly and should be replaced every few months.

Article by danyaals

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