Ask Lafeber

Question:

October 5, 2020

3 month old african grey


Hi, we recently got a 3month old cag parrot, happy, healthy and active, my only concern is that he has no interest in us humans, only our 23yr old grey, the 23yr old regurgitates and feeds him, in fact they have become inseparable, is this a good or bad thing, will it stop the baby bonding to us? Many thanks lesley


Answer:

Hi Lesley,

I would split these guys up now for several reasons.  You will have no chance of bonding with the young bird. In the chick’s eyes – and at 3 months old he is still very much a chick – this older bird is a parent. If this chick was weaned at 3 months old, he was rushed or forced into it. A lot of states don’t allow handfeeding chicks to be sold. The problem with that is many parrot species remain with the parents for up to two years, learning how to find food and getting supplemental feedings from the parents. This is mostly the case with medium to larger parrots – a CAG considered a medium sized parrot. If you hand fed him at all, then I would go back to supplementing him with some formula – only if he willingly accepts it, don’t force him – and use this as a means to build your bond with him.  If he won’t accept formula from you, offer him warm, weaning type foods from your hand or a spoon, such as cooked brown rice & mixed veggies, thick formula that he can eat on his own, fully cooked beans with some sweet potatoes or carrots. You should also offer whatever his daily diet will be – for an African Grey, I highly recommend a foraging diet such as our Avi-Cakes, Nutri-Berries and Pellet-Berries. All of these diets are formulated the same as a pellet, but they are not ground up and provide the foraging exercise that is natural for a parrot. You can also offer pellets, but I feel like pellets can be boring and don’t offer the variety and foraging exercise that is vital for his physical and emotional needs. Your goal is to re-wean him using the abundance method with formula supplements as needed and is the way he would be weaned naturally in the wild.

He needs to have no contact with the older bird. As you have already found out, he is choosing a bird over a human and this is natural. If you want him to be a pet, then he needs to be with humans and not another bird. When he is older, they can possibly interact when they are not in the cage, but for both birds to remain tame, they should never share a cage. I’m not sure if both birds are males, or if you know for sure. If there is any chance that the chick is a female, it is not safe for her to be around a mature male grey. Even if they are both the same sex, there are reasons they need to be kept away from each other for now. Your older bird could possibly be feeding it with the intent that he is feeding a chick. However, it is much more likely that the chick has triggered some hormones in your older bird and he is thinking of this chick as a potential mate, and thus is feeding his new mate. The next step is that he will want to mate with the chick, and the chick isn’t going to have a clue what to do. This will likely result in aggression from the older bird and the chick could get seriously injured. As the chick gets older, he will start to develop hormonally. However, this is going to start at a young age – much younger than in the wild – and the bird will feel the urge to mate, but not really understand his hormones or be mentally developed enough to deal with breeding. By being around an older, sexually mature bird, he remains at risk from the older bird due to simply being too young but getting hormonally stimulated by the older bird. And if the chick is a female, it is more dangerous because it could trigger her to lay eggs at too young of an age, which can result in fatal egg binding.

So again, work on your bond with the chick and re-wean him if possible. This will help reset him and help with his emotional development. Once he is fully weaned, and not showing signs of any begging or feeding responses, he can at least be around the older bird, but again, not in the same cage. If the two birds show signs of bonding again, and especially if there is any begging going on from the chick or feeding by the adult bird, keep them apart. I am assuming you got this chick to be a pet, so you don’t want to lose him to the adult bird. Parrots will form a mate bond with each other even if they are the same sex. And when two birds bond, they lose any interest in being a pet. It’s simply their nature. As young birds without a mate, they interact with flock members. But once they bond with a mate, they have little to no physical contact with other flock members unless it is fighting over territory or mates. As humans, we should have a flock bond with our birds because we can’t be a mate. So you can understand why two birds that bond will stop wanting human companionship. Keep contact between the two birds casual. When you pet either bird, limit your contact to the head and neck – only a mate would have physical contact with the body. The same rule goes with the two birds if you do ever let them interact again – if you observe more than mutual head preening, then it’s best to keep them apart or risk losing them as pets.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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