Ask Lafeber


December 20, 2019

African Grey taming

Good morning

I have had a gray for about 3 years now. I acquired her( found out through exam) from a neighbor that had her in a large cage in the back yard.

Her original owner died and she has been passed around. I had to get a smaller cage with a playpen so I can handle her.

I don’t think she was ever socialized or held. It took me awhile to break her from biting me and allowed me to handle her without gloves.

I put her in the shower for a bath, she was not real happy at first, she hated to be sprayed so into the shower she went.

She is not a talker, will not take food from me, will not eat fruits or veggies. Throws them out.

I notice her eyes do not pinn or dilate and sometime seems like she does not see well..

I am at a loss..she is not my first bird, I had a gray before, blue front Amazon and smaller birds. She has no personality! Should I be concerned?

Thank you



This bird has been through a lot. The best thing to do is to go back to square one with her. First, if her eyes are not reacting to changes in light at all, you need to take her to an Avian vet to have her eyes examined. If she has vision problems, this is going to have an effect on her sense of security and make her very insecure. If she does have vision issues or is blind, it is best to stop trying to tame her and just let her feel safe and secure in and around her cage. Everything should be kept in the same place all the time so she can learn where things are and not get disoriented.

If she is OK, then you need to change your approach. When you try to “break” a bird from doing something, or force them to do something they don’t like, you lose any trust they might have in you, and instead they are intimidated and scared of you. While the bird may mind you, you haven’t achieved anything but to scare her into submission. You need to build a bond based on trust with a bird. It can take months or even years to get anywhere with a bird that has been through everything she has been through. For example the bath – it isn’t necessary to bathe her. Birds preen their own feathers and sometimes splash around in their water dish. Some birds like going in a shower, but you should never force one to do this. If she doesn’t want to bathe, don’t make her.

Handling her with gloves is also intimidating. Birds seem to have a natural fear of gloves. And since you do not know her full history, she could have been imported years ago. In that case, the birds were taken out of cages daily with gloves, force fed medication or put through an exam – it was a traumatic time and gloves are associated with being scared and forced to do something.

She is now on the defensive. She isn’t showing personality because she is afraid to. Maybe she has been punished in the past for being too loud, or for biting or just abused in general. Leave her alone as far as handling and just talk to her. Tell her she is a good bird, be positive and encouraging. Make no attempt to touch or handle her. And mostly be patient. She has to learn to trust you and this will take time. It’s also possible she will never trust people. But she definitely will not if you keep making her do things rather than letting her come to you. Treat her as a companion, but only by talking to her. Watch TV with her, eat around her – share some of your food by putting it in her dish, but not trying to hand feed her. If she starts to trust you, she will get curious and approach you. Or this may never happen. If you can’t accept her as a bird who can’t be handled and won’t interact with you, I would recommend locating a permanent parrot sanctuary that does not adopt out and allows birds like her to just be a bird and live without much human contact. She has been through too many homes to go to another if she doesn’t work out with you. If you decide to place her in a sanctuary, it is very understandable.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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