Ask Lafeber


August 31, 2020

African Grey suddenly refuse to step up and aggressive

My 1yr 6 month grey is suddenly refusing to step up and attacks resorts to biting. Nothing has changed regardless cage or food. She is molting now though. Is so sad that this is suddenly happening. She is chattering and behaving normally. Just refuse to step up. What can be a possible problem?


Hi Lim,

It can be very distressing for an owner when a bird seems to turn on you. It’s important to remember that this isn’t personal – all parrot behavior is based on their instincts. There may be a couple of things going on here. Some birds definitely get grumpy when they molt and do not want to be handled. New feathers can cause pain when they are still growing in, if you pet her and touch a new blood feather. And overall the bird may just not feel her best and wants to be left alone.

Also, although she is still much too young to breed, she may be feeling hormonal for the first time. Captive bred birds tend to become hormonal at a much younger age than in the wild. They have started to mature physically, but they are not emotionally ready for breeding. She may have some urges that she doesn’t understand such as feeling like she wants to nest and defend her territory. All pet birds will exhibit hormonal behavior at some point. There are ways to avoid hormonal triggers and the most important way is to limit all petting to her head. If you pet her on her body or snuggle with her, this is something only a bonded mate is allowed to do. Since we can’t be their mate, they end up getting frustrated and aggressive at times.

I would treat this as a temporary phase and see if she works through it. Keep interacting with her, but if she warns you to stay away, then heed her warning rather than getting bitten. Offer her positive reinforcement in the form or treats and praise to entice her to step up, but ignore her and walk away if she refuses or tries to bite. She will not understand punishment. You need to focus on rewarding the good behavior and ignoring the bad. Don’t let her come and go from her cage at will. She needs to step up in order to come out of the cage. Otherwise she will be in charge and won’t have much incentive to step up. Also make sure she can’t view anything in her cage as a nest. No boxes or bird huts and nothing she can shred, such as paper. These things are hormonal triggers. My guess is when she is through with the molt, she will be back to herself. But in the meantime, you don’t want her to establish bad habits.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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