Fads in the desire for other exotic bird species come and go throughout time, but the market for African Greys stays fairly consistent. This is due to more than just their status as the finest talkers. It’s not simply their tonal range, which allows them to precisely imitate, that makes them so adored by their owners. Typically, the pet Grey integrates totally into family life via the use of its wide language. The Grey is incredibly perceptive and employs words and whole sentences that are totally suited for the situation.
African Greys are classified into three categories. We only breed the nominate species, Psittacus erithacus Linnaeus, also known as the Congo Grey. We believe they are not only the biggest and most beautiful, but also the smartest. Ghana, sometimes known as West Africa, is strikingly similar to the Congo in every manner save size. Timneh Greys are even smaller, have less appealing coloration, are more difficult to breed, are not as popular in general, and are more difficult to sell.
SELECTING BREEDING STOCK
All breeding birds should be surgically or genetically sexed. Surgical sexing gives further information about sexual maturity and reproductive capacity. Except in emergency instances, I utilize DNA sexing entirely. It is affordable, convenient, and non-invasive. Males often have bigger heads and beaks, and some breeders take pleasure in their ability to detect sex just on looks. When it comes to viable eggs, they are at most informed predictions with a fifty percent probability of being correct and should not be relied on.
If permitting a large number of birds natural selection in a big cage is not feasible, you will need to pick a mate for your birds. We’ve discovered that placing two new birds of opposing sexes together as soon as they arrive can help them pair bond quickly. They will both be terrified in an unfamiliar cage and new surroundings, but they will find comfort in each other. They will be great buddies by the time they settle down.
In our experience, the finest breeders are birds who have been pets for a long period but never become too domesticated for one reason or another. This sort of bird seems to be relatively steady as long as people are not too surprised by their appearance outside the cage. The amount of time they were previously held may at least confirm their age, which is often difficult to ascertain.
Allowing an unrelated pair of juvenile Greys to grow up together in the same cage without too much human attention is perfect for trouble-free reproduction. Some of these domestically produced couples will begin reproducing as young as three years old, but most will wait until they are four years old or older. Your pair’s productive life will be extended after they have developed appropriately. African Greys have a life expectancy of sixty to ninety years and continue to produce throughout their lives.
A wild captured, tamed bird paints a distinct image. They produce outstanding breeders in situations that fit their demand for security. If hand fed infants are to be used as breeders, it is better to raise them in a group, teaching them that they are birds by their interactions with one another. A hand-fed infant who has been nurtured one-on-one with a close human bond has difficulty embracing the idea that he is a bird and seldom produces an acceptable breeder. This bird takes a long time, often years, to return to its natural instincts. The amount of time seems to be determined by how tame the bird has become.
Surprisingly, the once-tame parent bird becomes more ferocious and hazardous to the owner while defending its young. The wild bird maintains a certain measure of dread, which limits its behavior to some extent. The former pet has no fear of people and hence cannot be controlled.
NEST BOXES AND CAGES
It is my conviction that before embarking on any breeding operation, it is prudent to examine the behaviors of the species of interest in the wild. Nests of African Greys are situated in hollow tree trunks or within huge tree branches in their native woodlands. The birds utilize their strong beaks to expand natural holes.
Many pairs may typically nest in a compact area, but only one pair will nest in each tree. Their eggs are placed on the rotten wood approximately two feet below the entry hole. Their nests are frequently difficult to locate because they prefer impenetrable thickets that are severely concealed by dense vegetation. They never chose an open, bright, sunlit spot.
The nest box chosen closely resembles the bird’s natural choice in the wild. We’ve had the best success with an L-shaped box that’s two feet tall and two feet deep at the base. We include a five-inch-diameter entry hole towards the top of the box, as well as a welded wire ladder for ascending. We fill the box with around eight inches of untreated wood shavings.
The birds always nest at the bottom section’s darkest area. In the outdoor aviary, we place the cages as high as possible, away from highly lit places, and with enough of greenery around them. We choose areas of the aviary with the least amount of traffic. Privacy and security are critical.
As rookies many years ago, we put up our breeding birds in massive flights – four by six by twelve feet for each couple. They just adored their surroundings. They ate well and exercised often, yet they never went to nest. We modified the kind and placement of nest boxes, as well as the food of the birds, and we had happy, healthy birds but no kids. We were pleasantly delighted that most of our pairings were on eggs after a month of switching to smaller cages. All of our Grey breeding couples are now housed in cages two feet wide by three feet high by six feet deep, hung from the ceiling with the base five feet up from the floor in our outdoor aviary.
Visual barriers between cages, which are often advocated by breeders, do not seem to be essential provided there is at least two feet of space between the cages. Any tighter spacing without obstacles leads in territorial struggle between the males, with frequent fighting.
Mating requires securely fixed and sturdy perches. These may range in size from 3/4 inch to 3 inch. The variety in breadth gives the birds’ feet some workout. We put one cement perch each cage to help keep toes trimmed, as well as a 1/2 by 1 inch wire perch. Greys utilize the perches and nest boxes for mating. Before laying their first egg, they often mate multiple times each day for three to four weeks.
The male may feed the female and then do a little dance for her as part of their courting ritual. He turns in circles while holding his wings out at an awkward angle, similar to an Indian war dance. He will walk on her back and mate after much feeding and dance. Eggs are typically deposited three weeks after the courting ritual is performed.
THE INCUBATION PERIOD
When we see a hen spending significant periods of time in the nest box, we attempt to locate a moment when she is out of the cage and check for eggs quickly – but just once. We leave the birds alone as long as we see the hen come out of the nest box at least once a day and are satisfied that she is well. Checking the nest box more often might be disastrous. Cracked eggs or abandonment of the eggs are possible outcomes.
We don’t inspect the nest box again until the chicks hatch, which takes around 28 to 30 days. Typically, two to five eggs are used. Observe when the parents’ food intake dramatically rises to determine the timing of hatching.
We check on the youngsters once a week and take them from the nest for hand feeding between 15 and 21 days, depending on the size of the clutch’s youngest. All must be removed at the same time. A lone chick left in the nest will not be cared for by greys.
When removing chicks from the nest, use extreme caution. Parent Greys are capable of causing great harm. We use a tiny bird net to catch the young of the most aggressive birds. We never use gloves because, although they are substantial enough to protect the hands, they do not allow for adequate sensation to ensure delicate treatment.
THE GREY CHICK
The freshly born chicks are oddly shaped small animals coated in silky white down. They are sometimes seen sleeping with their heads between their feet. Their necks are not strong enough to support their heads during the first week. For better nursing, the hen may roll the chick on its back.
Heads are being held up for eating by the third week, with a secondary thick grey down covering, and eyes are starting to open. The cock joins the hen in supplying food for the never-ending needy mouths. According to what I’ve read, the parent birds keep their youngsters’ crops crammed full to keep predators away from the commotion of wailing, hungry chicks.
After being removed from the nest, the chicks are kept warm and fed three times daily using a pipette or syringe until they reach around eight weeks of age, when they acquire many of their feathers. For brooders, we use plastic boxes coated with paper towels and a thick layer of wood shavings and topped with toweling. Feedings are progressively increased in quantity and frequency. Although there are numerous individual variables, most of our newborn Greys are weaned by 10 weeks. They are more observant of their environment than most other animals and need a lot of care to be socialized appropriately.
Exact Hand Feeding Formula by Kay Tee is our hand feeding diet. The simplicity of preparation and storage is significant, but it is not the only criterion in deciding whether to utilize a premade formula. It is more costly than the previous concoctions, but it is also more successful in creating quick growth with few crop difficulties.
We tightly band our chicks between the ages of 18 and 21.
days. Greys have large feet and toes that grow quickly. It is preferable to risk losing a loose band than to wait until it is too late and attempt to fit those chubby toes inside your band. We utilize a size 14 band, which may be obtained from the Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors, PO Box 369, Groton, MA 01450. This service is only accessible to society members. L&M Bird Leg Bands, PO Box 2943, San Bernadino, CA 92406 may also be ordered.
All year, our birds are given the same food. The only change is that while they are feeding newborns, they add more soft foods. Pelletized food is the major component of our bird’s diet. We are now utilizing Exact Parrot Breeder Formula, a product made by the Kay Tee Company. It’s around the size of little, flat raisins and very crunchy. There are several benefits to feeding a pelleted or extruded food to your birds, including full, balanced nutrition in every meal. We have not found it essential to add calcium supplements, which were previously required to prevent rickets in newborns, with this regimen. We periodically offer our birds very little quantities of seed as a treat. This is never more than 10% of their overall diet. Supplements must be administered on a regular basis if seeds are fed as the primary diet. The vegetable combination we provide while the birds are nursing young is a wonderful complement to a seed diet.
This vegetable combination is made up of equal parts dry beans (pinto, navy, split peas, lima, black beans, lentils, and so on) and dried corn. The maize is the sort included in most parrot seed mixtures and is sold at bird stores by the pound. This mixture is covered with water and cooked in a slow cooker or on the stovetop until the beans are tender. We add the following to this eight-cup blend of maize and beans:
- Two ten ounce cartons of frozen peas and carrots.
- 2 – 3 apples, chopped up (skin and seeds included)
- 1-2 oranges, sliced up (skin and seeds included).
Other fruits and vegetables are added according on availability and season. The combination is served in its own bowl, and any uneaten bits (if any) are removed before they spoil. The addition of this soft meal to the diet of slow-breeding birds has shown to be a great stimulant.
Every day, fresh, clean water in a freshly cleaned dish is necessary. No vitamins or additives of any type are utilized in the water since the pelleted meal adequately meets the demands of the birds. Vitamins should be put to the vegetable mix if you are feeding a seed diet, since adding them to the water encourages germs to grow quickly.
The pelleted diet is served in seven-inch crock bowls. They are hefty enough to keep birds from dumping them over and are simple to clean. Water is stored in the same sized crocks. If the sitting hens choose to, they may dip their bellies into these dishes or bathe.
Many breeders utilize sturdy, plastic flower pot drainage bowls ten inches in diameter and one half inch height for feeding seed. These are the most prevalent ones that resemble terra cotta. The birds squander less food by utilizing huge flat dishes rather than tiny, deep ones. The food should never be more than half an inch deep in the dish.
In Florida, we are lucky to have a climate that allows us to breed our birds in outdoor aviaries. The availability of fresh air, rain, and sunlight promotes excellent health. Controlling the feather dust issue with Greys requires good air movement. The crucial terms in breeding Greys, regardless of housing condition, are seclusion and constancy. It is critical to do the same thing every day at the same time. Even modest changes cause the birds to become suspicious and worried. Strangers are not tolerated in their midst. We become tired of the routine of their care, but they thrive on it.
Many breeders are breeding African Greys in indoor aviaries with excellent success. We once turned an additional bedroom into a “Grey Room.” The same may be said for a garage, attic, utility room, or basement.
To maximize space in our Grey room, we double-decked the cages. We utilized Vita Lite tubes in ceiling-mounted fixtures. To exhaust stale air and introduce fresh air, window breeze box fans were employed.
The bedroom door was ripped out to create a twelve-inch square window at eye level. This gap was filled with two pieces of glass recovered from an old fish tank, one on either side of the entrance. On the “bird side,” solar film was placed. Because the Grey room was brighter than the surrounding hall, the birds only saw a mirror. We could simply study their conduct without them realizing we were there.
Every day, my husband cleaned and fed the animals at the same time. I seldom entered the room. He always knocked softly on the door, hesitated for a time, knocked again, and then verbally announced his coming by stating the identical words “Hello gentlemen, Here I come” before entering.
The birds climbed inside their nest boxes as soon as they heard his first knock. We had all wild captured, imported birds back then that would fracture eggs and squish infants if someone barged in on them. They instantly recognized the familiar voice and succession of knocks. This apparently little aspect demonstrates the significance of giving breeding Greys with a feeling of security.
Our main management issue in the indoor scenario was dust control. Providing air circulation and adequate air quality in a confined place is a challenging subject that we have never completely mastered. It was a huge comfort to move the flock to the outside aviary.
We handle the birds in the outside aviary with the same care that we give the birds inside. Although we have added previously tame birds and several of our own offspring to the original flock throughout the years, we still keep disturbance to a minimal. When their cages are maintained, they are simply examined once a day. Our presence is communicated verbally before we approach their section of the aviary. While we are caring for them, we speak to them in a comforting manner. Even the elder imported birds are no longer as wary as they once were, and they often surprise us by communicating back. Despite the fact that we have been working with them for many years, many still withdraw to the protection of their nest boxes when a person approaches.
When both the birds’ physical and mental requirements are addressed, breeding African Greys may be a rewarding and successful activity. Once you’ve figured out all the specifics, your birds will return year after year, content with the same habits. They make it worthwhile to go through a time of adjustment.
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