Ask Lafeber


February 22, 2019

Young African Grey won’t step up

We have an 18 month old African Grey hen (she lives with our 4 year old male). When she came to us she would step up when she wanted to, ie if she ended up on the floor. Now she is able to climb and fly she will not step up at all, she either moves away or threatens to bite. I know there is an argument to say that you should not let parrots get above you in height, but all our parrots have free time out in our bird room and climb all over their cages. It seems a natural thing for them to do. What is the best way to train her? We have tried the stick and she is frightened of it. Her mate isn’t the best role model because while he will step-up to order, he doesn’t do it every time. I know we have some serious work to do here, just not sure how to accomplish it. Thanks


Hi Alison,

The situation you have will make it very hard to get any consistent behavior from your birds. They have the upper hand by being able to fly and get away from you. To add to that, you have birds sharing the same space – possibly the same cage – and these birds are opposite sex. Basically you have set up a great breeding situation, but not a pet bird situation.

First, if these birds are caged together, that needs to be changed right away, for a couple of reasons. The main reason is for her health – she is younger than he is, and it will be years before she is old enough to breed. By having her with a male who is approaching his sexual maturity, she is not in a good position. He will become sexually mature and she will not be ready to breed yet. This will cause frustration for him which may manifest in aggression towards her. Even if he does not become aggressive, he will still want to breed at some point. It is possible that this can trigger her hormones at too young of an age where she is not physically or mentally ready to lay eggs.

The second issue with caging birds together is they get to the point that they no longer want to be pets. She seems to already be heading this way.

You can split them up and still allow them to interact with supervision. At the first sign of any courting from him, it will be time to stop allowing them to interact until she is older, and then only if you plan to breed them.

To truly train her, you would need to get back to basics. Have her wings trimmed and start her training over again. If she is trained to step up willingly, then you may be able to allow her to become flighted again and she may remember her step up command. A special treat can be the best motivation for her. Find something she loves and only feed it to her during training session.

Here are some links from our site that may help you.

Caring For Your Bird

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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