Ask Lafeber


May 24, 2019

African Grey

I had called your office and talked to a representative about my African grey that I have been baby sitting. she was very informative. she mentioned I might try a reactangular perch my husband could make but she was not sure about the kind of wood that would be safe for the bird. Also recommended vetrap. if I heard her right, to wrap on the round perches. the gray seems to fall quite often. I took her to two different vets and all the birds vitals and blood work were in good shape. the one vet did mention she was missing part of her toes on 3 of them different feet. also she has good grip on left foot but not so much on right one. but still no answers as to help her from falling. she is 35. my grandson said he rescued her, so they decided to just let her live her life out with her favorite food of sunflower seeds and peanuts. I have purchased nutri berries, which she likes, and I have tried different brands of pellets for about 4 months which she wont eat. so far she will eat nutri berries, certain ones, avi cakes, almonds, apples, blueberries, peas and green grapes. I have tried several vegetables numberous times, tangerine orange, strawberries, raspberry, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli , cucumbers. next is squash. the gal I talked to recommended orange color vegetables and assorted fruits. any recommendation would be helpful. she is a nervous bird but so far I have gotten her to eat out of my hand. I have put the nutri berries amongst her hanging wooden chew toy. your rep also recommended putting cardboard down so it helps when she falls thank you in advance


Hi Sharon,

It sounds like you are making some good progress with this bird. She would definitely have been malnourished if she was only or mainly eating sunflower seeds and peanuts. The protein from the peanuts is what kept her from being truly debilitated. As you get her eating more nutritious foods, remove the sunflower seeds completely from her diet. She is not getting much if any nutrition from these. A few peanuts daily is just fine as long as she is eating the other foods. The Nutri-Berries and Avi-Cakes are 100% nutritionally balanced, the same as pellets, but they contain whole ingredients rather than being ground up. And of course the Avi-Cakes also contain pellets. So there is no need for her to eat loose pellets if she doesn’t like them. Greys are so intelligent and need a lot of enrichment, so pellets are usually too boring for them.

I would like to suggest that you try her on our Senior Bird Nutri-Berries unless that is what you are already offering. These can be fed to birds at any life stage, but they contain healthy ingredients that can be extra beneficial to senior birds or to a bird like your Grey, who has not been on a good diet for most of her life. I think her balance issues could be from a combination of issues. Her partially missing toes are a contributing factor. But poor or malnutrition can certainly affect something like balance. If her wings are clipped, they may have been clipped too short. Or, if they are not, they possibly were cut too short when she was young and she never learned to use her wings to help her with balance. Inadequate nutrition can also affect the muscles and skeletal system. This would not necessarily show up in routine blood work and you would need radiographs to determine her skeletal health. I feel like once she has been on a good diet for up to a year, you will begin seeing some improvements in her balance. If you get to the point where you can handle her, you might also be able to do some physical therapy by gently stretching out her wings and making her work out those muscles some. So again, the special ingredients in the Senior Bird Berries should really help her over time.

When it comes to offering new foods, don’t give up if she rejects something. She might like it another time. The way it is offered can make a difference. Leave peels and skin on foods as long as they are washed well. Birds, especially Greys, hate getting sticky feet. Sometimes steaming or cooking a food makes it more appealing. Sometimes the way it is cut will make a difference. Cut in sticks, for example. Or try grating some of the fruits and veggies. Most parrots love cooked sweet potatoes, yams, carrots and squash. Offer seasonal foods when the flavor will be better. Pumpkin is great in the Fall. Birds seem to know if fresh foods are organic or at least better quality. I had a senior macaw who would only eat bananas from certain countries and later I read an article on what bananas to avoid, and they were the same ones he refused to eat! If you have a slow cooker or instant pot, buy some of the dry mixed beans and cook those with a sweet potato and carrots. Use the leftover liquid to make brown rice. Mix it all together, freeze in small servings – and ice tray works well for that – and serve it to her warm. Great protein, vitamins and other good nutrients!

For the perches, they do sell the flat perches online and that would be best since they have the rounded edges. If you make some, buy untreated wood, which is the problem since nearly all wood is pre-treated these days. Pine is the most readily available if you can find any untreated. There are many lists online with safe or toxic woods if you have access to any tree branches. And yes, Vetwrap can help a lot with her grip. And cardboard will help if she falls – much better than landing on a metal grate.

If she will be going back to your grandson, please have a discussion with him about what is best for her. She could live another 35 years if she is fed a better diet and starts to get some exercise. In the long run, she will feel better and be much happier. She may seem happy eating junk food like sunflower seeds and peanuts, but now that she is eating good foods, I don’t think she would be thrilled to go back to her old diet. Studies have found that wild parrots spend the majority of their waking hours foraging for food. Studies on captive parrots have found they do better with foraging diets, a variety of foods, and enrichment opportunities like hiding food in toys and around their cages.

Good luck with this girl, and let us know if you have more questions.

Thank you for Asking Lafeber,


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