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Socialization Is Key to
Well Rounded Grey
If a family makes a commitment for each person in the household to handle their baby Timneh, and all continue to do so as the baby matures, it may not necessarily become the one person bird that Greys are known for. Although like many Greys, these birds sometimes do select a favorite, if guided properly, they should remain sociable to all family members. An important point to make is that if you go through the trouble of locating a well socialized baby Grey, it is up to you to maintain that socialization. Introduce your baby Timneh to new situations and new people throughout its life.
Socialization can occur on a day to day basis, even in your daily routines. Introduce the baby to changes in the environment - take him room to room, perhaps with you on errands, introduce him/her to friends, teach them how to hold the bird, etc. Greys who are ALWAYS living in the same room, day in day out, with no change in furniture arrangements or rotation of bird toys in the cage, etc., in my opinion, are those prone to requiring a rigid routine. These birds are likely candidates for feather picking if something should interrupt their set routine. A certain amount of routine is good - i.e. feed the bird breakfast within a couple of hours time frame each morning. Example - weekdays maybe 6 a.m. due to having to go to work, on weekends - maybe 7:30 or 8 a.m. - since you might like to sleep a little later. People who say they must feed their Grey, or any bird for that matter, everyday within the exact same few minutes are those likely setting themselves up for neurotic bird behavior, whether it be screaming, feather plucking, furniture destruction, etc.
Caging and Care
Many Timneh Greys are very active birds, and therefore I recommend a cage not smaller than 24 inches square with bar spacing of one inch or less. Although the height of the cage is not that important, a cage that measures 30 or even 36" wide is ideal.
Timneh Greys love water - whether it be for making that daily pot of soup, or for bathing. As soon as our Timneh babies are feathered we begin misting them with warm water from a spray bottle. All their feathers "stand on end" as they quiver and dance with excitement in their attempts to catch the water droplets. Indeed, our Timneh babies can rival the caiques, amazons and pionus when it comes to "getting into" their bath time. This also applies to our wild caught Timnehs, so the enjoyment of a bath is not merely because our babies are introduced to it at an early age.
According to Donna Hefton, inventor of the Showerbird, the range for the Timneh Grey in Africa receives a surprisingly large amount of rainfall each year. It is no wonder that Timnehs in captivity enjoy their showers, as this a natural behavior for them. If your Timneh does not relish bathing, then I encourage you to keep trying new methods until you find a way of bathing your Grey that is enjoyable to them. I firmly believe that a lack of frequent baths is a major cause of feather picking among African Greys.
In regards to the "soup pot", a Grey owner may want to utilize one of the many water bottles that are available on the market to avoid the changing of the water bowl several times daily. Because Greys are so clever, and always looking for mischief, a water bottle should secure well to the cage. We have found the Lixit water bottle kits that utilize the common juice bottle to work well, replacing the smaller clips that come with the bottle with a more Grey-proof quick-link, tightened with a pliers.
Nutritional deficiencies are common among Greys and therefore I highly recommend implementing a well researched pelleted diet into your Grey's fare. If a well balanced diet is being offered with pellets, vegetables, grains, pastas, and some fruits, a vitamin supplement may not even be necessary. Keep in mind that a bird can also be harmed with vitamin toxicity. Please consult your avian veterinarian in regards to any concerns you may have over your individual pet Grey's diet. A trip to the veterinarian with a blood chemistry panel profile may help determine the needs of your Grey.
Relationships Require Effort
One of my customers reported that their almost two year old Timneh was becoming less friendly, and sometimes growled at strangers. I asked if they had maintained the same socialization as they had when the bird was a baby. They admitted that their lives had become very busy, and they rarely entertained guests any more. Six months later these same people reported that they needed to sell their Grey, because the husband's new job required travelling, and the bird had become a one-person bird, wanting attention from the husband only. While he was away, the bird did not want to be handled by the woman (sometimes biting), and in the absence of the favorite person, began to chew its feathers.
I was disappointed and somewhat surprised to hear this. When I had met this couple, it felt very right for these people to adopt a baby Grey. They were excited, had researched the species extensively, and had an apparent understanding of nurturing dominance. As a school teacher the bird would even be travelling to school with the woman on occasion. For several days I considered their situation. I thought that perhaps if I worked with the woman and the bird while the husband was away, they could reestablish their once interactive relationship. I was certain that the woman just need to reassert the up and down commands to regain control. As I was about to call the couple, the man called me and said his wife and been going over back issues of the PBR and was working with their Timneh. There was notable improvement in their relationship, and seemed to be getting along well. A while later they called and reported the next episode of "favorite person out of town" was successful. Not only did the problems of the husband's trips disappear, but with the woman learning to re-interact with their Grey, the bird had stopped chewing its feathers. The couple decided to keep their bird afterall, but unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending like this one.
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