Study on behavioral effects of hand-rearing African Grey parrots

Alternate title: Everything you could ever want to know about how I raised Chocobo

 

There is an invaluable study on hand-reared pet African Grey parrots that came out of University of Berne, Switzerland, in 2005. Now, I disagree with basically everything the study asserts about hand-rearing greys, but the data collected includes detailed information about 103 pet greys. As far as I know it is the only such study. What the researchers and I do agree on though is that the study indicates there is a problem with current methods. I knew this when I purchased Chocobo as a tiny hatchling and chose to hand feed him myself. He is currently three and half years old, which makes him eligible to compare to the birds in this study, so I went ahead and filled out a questionnaire for Choco (I am using the one found here, starting around the 40-something pages).

  

  

2.0 Parrot’s curriculum vitae

 

2.01: Identification

 

Name: Chocobo

Sex: Technically unknown because he hasn’t been DNA tested

Date of Hatching: May 24th 2007

 

2.02: Origin

 

Origin/breeding: U.S bred

Acquisition: Chocobo’s egg came from a breeder in Florida. As a hatchling he was transported north in a camper by some snowbirds who also owned a bird store. I purchased him as a tiny hatchling who was receiving 4-5 formula feedings a day. (Please note this is NOT typical and no reputable pet store or breeder will sell an un-weaned bird. I was able to bypass this because I had prior experience with hand-feeding and an ability to spout out hypothesis’ based on research studies done by leading experts while using multisyllabic words.)

Number of previous owners: 0 (Not counting the brief custody of the breeder and pet store)

Housing at previous owners (in this case the pet store): enough freedom and space (yes) ▪ owner most of the time at home (yes) ▪ behavior towards the bird (good/appropriate) ▪ care and hygiene (good)

With grey parrot(s) at previous owner’s: Choco was kept in a cage with his siblings for the first few weeks

With other parrot(s) at previous owner’s: There were a few other species of baby birds in surrounding cages, but the adult birds the store owners kept as pets were located in a separate room.

Reproduction: No offspring

Reason for the donation of the parrot: I purchased Choco to keep as a pet, although I’ve been interested in cognitive and behavioral studies on greys since I was a small Cassandra

Change of housing: Radical (versus progressive) – I visited Choco prior to purchase, but we had over an hour drive so once I brought him home that was pretty much that.

 

2.03: Breeding method (questions for the breeder)

 

Breeding method: Hand-reared

Contact with parrots during hand-rearing: Kept with siblings

Age when removed from the nest: 0 – 2 weeks

Contact with human beings during rearing: Hand-fed with increasing amounts of human attention

Feeding method: Paper-cup method

Diet during hand-rearing: Choco got whatever parrot formula I could find, which was basically different every time based on availability. When switching brands I would mix them together for a gradual change at first, but Choco didn’t end up showing a preference and would eat regardless of brand or mixing.

Weaning: Bought before weaning (again, this is totally not recommended. I can’t stress this enough.)

Age of weaning: Between 6 months and a year  (This is considered abnormally long in the pet trade, but I believe it is common for African and Australian parrots. I think this is one of the root causes of behavioral issues commonly associated with greys, such as feather-plucking and aggressiveness)

Problems during the weaning period: Not particularly

Diet during weaning: Choco began getting soft fruits and veggies in addition to his formula when he was about a month old. By two months he also had seed and pellet options. He was always offered a variety of foods that changed regularly. Some other foods were rice, pasta, various legumes … basically anything that wasn’t on the list of Things that will Kill Birds.

Social contact with parrots during weaning: No contact really. I took him to the local bird store a couple of times, but he wasn’t particularly fond of it.

 

3.0: Social contact in the bird’s environment

 

Social contact with other pets: Not really. Occasional contact with friends’ pets when we travel, but it was pretty limited.

Is / was it kept with grey parrots? If so, since when?: No

Contact with grey parrots (belonging to somebody else): No

Contact with pets in the past: No

Owner’s presence: I spend a minimum of 2 hours a day with Choco and there is no maximum. If he’s behaving and I’m home he is out and about.

Sex of the owner: Female

The owner is considered as a partner by the bird: He certainly considers me Mommy, but he hasn’t reached sexual maturity yet. As he was never intended for breeding I tend to encourage asexual behavior.

Presence of relatives at home: I am Choco’s only consistent company, but he knows many people and enjoys meeting new acquaintances.

Relationship of the parrot with every member of the family: N/A

Current availability for the bird: He gets a minimum of 2 hours of attention per day, but as I often work at home he can be out and about for the entire day as long as he’s behaving.

Contact with the bird for care only: No, I spend time playing games with Choco and teaching him stuff and snuggling. He also enjoys just chilling out on my shoulder while I do stuff.

Type of relationship with the owner (you’ll have to trust that I’m being objective here) [Available options: ▪ very intense (close relationship, which is kept up by the owner) ▪ intensive ▪ neutral (passive relationship with the parrot)]: Nobody has ever doubted that Choco considers me Mommy and I think his absolute affection for me is pretty obvious.

Behavior towards the bird (again, you’ll have to trust my own objectivity as Choco wasn’t officially part of this study): (Available options: ▪ impatient ▪ nervous ▪ irritable ▪ too noisy ▪ jerky or abrupt gestures): Those options suck, actually. I mean, sometimes I might be quite mad at Choco like if he’s misbehaving or something. More commonly we’re playful together, or snuggly, or learning some new tricks, or he’s preening on my shoulder or we’re eating a meal.. It varies.

 

4.0: Acquisition

 

Reasons for the acquisition of the bird (Available options: ▪ need for a companion ▪ fascination for the character or behavior of grey parrots ▪ to own an “animal that speaks” ▪ gift ▪ beauty of that species ▪ the owner knows somebody who owns one ▪ other reason): Pretty much any of those is applicable, except for ‘gift’. One of my main inspirations was (still is) the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg.

Bird’s behavior at the time of purchase (▪ tame ▪ at ease ▪ friendly ▪ curious/playful ▪ shy/scared ▪ aggressive ▪
indifferent ▪ other): He was a tiny itty bitty baby hatchling, so he was tame, at ease, friendly, curious, snuggly, and occasionally shy or scared in a normal ‘hey, I’m a baby’ kind of way.

 

5.0 Training

 

Trained: Yes. He does tricks and has a pretty strict set of rules, compared to what I’ve seen of other pet parrots.

Taming method (▪ talking calmly to the bird ▪ giving it treats in the cage ▪ giving it treats outside its cage ▪ taking it on the hand inside the cage ▪ taking it on the hand outside the cage ▪ touching it inside the cage ▪ touching it outside the cage ▪ restraining the parrot): Choco doesn’t get treats for behaving or as a reward. When he’s good he gets praise and attention, when he’s bad he gets in trouble (time outs mostly). Choco accepts food and treats inside and outside his cage, as well as touching and attention.

No respect of the bird’s individual distance: I usually let Choco decide where he wants to be, but he listens if I tell him otherwise.

Owner’s reaction to an unwanted behavior (▪ shouting at the bird ▪ physically punishing it ▪ saying “no” ▪ distracting it with gestures ▪ distracting it with noises ▪ putting it back into its cage ▪ covering the cage ▪ leaving the room ▪ ignoring the parrot ▪ other): Choco has a complex series of punishments of increasing severity… so the first time he misbehaves he gets a no, then a warning, then a time out. Any of those answers can be applicable depending on what he’s doing and how often, etc. Physical punishments must be gentle though – for instance if Choco bites he will get wrapped up in a towel which he hates, or I hold his beak shut for a few moments and tell him no. Generally 5 minutes of time out in the bathroom with the lights out and he’s ready to behave again.

Docility towards strangers (▪ aggressive ▪ bites whenever anybody approaches it ▪ warns especially with visual signals ▪ fears humans/shy ▪ not tame ▪ friendly ▪ at ease with humans ▪ climbs onto hands or shoulders ▪ lets strangers scratch its nape ▪ tries to draw anybody’s attention ▪ bows its head in order to get scratched ▪ lies on its back to play ▪ lets be stroked/touched all over its body): He likes to meet new people. He’ll go to strangers for attention, play-time, head-scratches, etc. He doesn’t bite, although he’s certainly capable and might under bad circumstances. Choco has traveled with me and met thousands of people. He’s good with people of all ages, genders, and races.  

Docility towards the owner (▪ aggressive ▪ bites whenever the owner approaches it ▪ warns especially with visual signals ▪ fears the owner/shy ▪ not tame ▪ friendly ▪ at ease with the owner ▪ climbs onto hands or shoulders ▪ lets the owner scratch its nape ▪ tries to draw the owner’s attention ▪ bows its head in order to get scratched ▪ lies on its back to play ▪ lets itself be stroked/touched all over its body): He lets me handle him however – head scratches,  kisses, on his back, under his wings, on his legs, whatever. Even at his crankiest.

 

6.0 Behavior

 

6.01 Aggressiveness

 

Type of aggressiveness (▪ Towards objects (which ones) ▪ Towards the “partner” ▪ Towards one member of the family in particular ▪ Towards/preference for one sex ▪ Towards parrots ▪ Towards pets (which ones?) ▪ Towards everybody ▪ Towards everyone except the owner ▪ Flying attacks): Choco rarely displays any aggression at all and he’s been trained to display gentle aggressiveness, so if he doesn’t like what you are doing he might give a quick gentle “bite” but he knows the difference between a painful bite and a nibble. When people ask if he bites I generally reply that he is about as likely to bite as your average 2-3 year old child, which is to say it isn’t exactly impossible but it’s not a regular occurrence either. Out of the thousands of people Choco has met, I’d say he really didn’t like 2 or 3 people. To date, the worst bite Choco has ever inflicted was to me and did not even require band-aids. The second worst bite was accidental (he was aiming for something else) and barely broke my skin at all.

Aggressiveness (▪ not particularly aggressive ▪ aggressive ▪ very aggressive): I don’t think “not particularly aggressive” adequately describes my little feather-fluff. I would say he’s downright friendly, even to strangers. The aggressiveness he has displayed has been more of a testing-the-boundaries thing during his Terrible Two stage, which is unbelievably annoying but requires nothing more than consistent enforcement to get through.

Aggressiveness towards the owner (▪ never pecks him/her till it bleeds ▪ sometimes bites him/her): I have been harmed worse and more often by cat scratches, literally. He lets me do wing-clippings and medical exams without biting.

Reasons why the parrot bites (▪ fear ▪ jealousy ▪ dominance ▪ warning ▪ while playing ▪ to defend its territory ▪ no reasons): The only time Choco is really nippy is when he is testing boundaries, i.e he is misbehaving and doesn’t want to go in a timeout. He likes to “roughhouse” with his beak and play, but he knows the difference between attacking a toy in play and playing with a person’s hand. He’s never hurt me while playing.

 

6.02 Screeches / screams

 

Is the parrot abnormally noisy?: No. There are some extremely annoying noises that he makes, but overall he’s usually a quiet bird. Of course this is like saying one’s 2 year old child is usually quiet, so Choco still has his moments.

Does the bird make mechanical noises?: Yes, the most annoying are the microwave beeping and the fire-alarm-is-low-on-battery-instant-migraine beeping. See above.

Frequency of the problem: Yeah… still working out how to train this out of him. I’ve gotten it down to about 1 – 3 times a day.

 

6.03 Feather picking

 

Maximal stage ever reached (▪ 1: no feather picking ▪ 2: some feathers missing or gnawed ▪ 3: breast, shoulder, back or tail periodically picked ▪ 4: whole body periodically picked ▪ 5: feather picking and self-mutilation): I haven’t really seen any signs of picking. There’s been some issues with feathers that got damaged, but once a new one grows in he’s fine.

There are some additional questions that aren’t applicable to Choco, but were used in the study:

Does feather picking still occur? ▪ yes ▪ periodically or sporadically ▪ no
When did the problem start? ▪ …
How does the bird proceed? ▪ chews its feathers ▪ plucks them ▪ both chews and plucks them
Any cyclical changes? ▪ yes (when?) ▪ no
Feather picking stage (at time of visit) ▪ 1 ▪ 2 ▪ 3 ▪ 4 ▪ 5
Original cause of feather picking ▪ social/sexual frustration ▪ stress/trauma ▪ inappropriate care ▪
imitation of other parrots ▪ health problems ▪ trigger unknown
The owner reinforces the behavior ▪ yes ▪ no ▪ unknown

 

6.04 Repetitive movements observed by the owner

 

Repetitive movements present?: No

Again, there are some additional questions that aren’t applicable to Choco, but were used in the study:

Frequency ▪ …
Trigger ▪ …
Description ▪ …
Duration ▪ …
When did it start? ▪ …

 

 

6.05 Anxiety

 

Has the bird developed a specific fear? No. He isn’t fond of loud, unexpected, sudden noises but who is?

Additional questions:

Fearful towards what/who? ▪ one particular person ▪ the owner ▪ a specific object ▪ a situation ▪
pets/animals
Description of the behavior ▪ …

 

 

6.06 Infantile behavior

 

Does the parrot beg for food? He asks for things he wants in what can be an annoyingly repetitive manner. Usually he just asks for tea. It’s his favorite drink, but it isn’t really good for him to have a lot when it’s caffeinated. He usually gets what he asks for, so he asks for a lot of other things when he wants them as well, such as kisses, tickles, head-scratches, fist-bumps, water, to come with, etc.

If so, does it get something to eat?: With the tea no, it’s a treat. When he asks for things he is allowed then he gets them. It teaches him to speak contextually and makes it a lot easier to figure out what he wants. I just eat a lot of junk that isn’t good for him. At mealtimes I like to have at least one thing I can share with him.

Mouth-to-beak feeding? No. I might hold something between my teeth if I’m trying to get him to try a new food, but he gets his own portion of things.

 

6.07 Sexual behavior

 

Does the bird regurgitate food? Choco has only just started making pukey-movements. I’ll have to come back to this section in a year or two when he finishes maturing…

Additional questions:

Who does it want to allofeed? ▪ the owner ▪ owner plus other persons ▪ another parrot ▪ an
object/mirror in the cage ▪ object plus people
Copulation attempts with the owner ▪ yes ▪ yes and masturbation ▪ only masturbation ▪ no
Does the parrot court the owner? ▪ yes ▪ no ▪ unknown
Laying ▪ never ▪ sporadically ▪ frequent ▪ chronic
Does the owner stroke the female? ▪ yes (can induce egg laying) ▪ no
Cyclical aggressiveness ▪ yes ▪ no
What season or what frequency? ▪ …
Length of the cyclical changes ▪ …

 

 

6.08. Mimicry ability

 

Does the parrot imitate? Yes.

What does it imitate? (▪ noises ▪ intonation of the human voice ▪ words ▪ whole sentences ▪ words or sentences in relation with the situation): He can do all of those and can speak contextually, although his vocabulary and understanding continues to increase.

Example of words, sounds: I can’t even keep a comprehensive list anymore. Some frequent winners that he both says and understands are hello, bye-bye, I’m sorry, I want some tea, I want some water, fist-bumps, head-scratches, tickles, kisses, Mommy, come here, I want to come with, go poopers… he says a lot more and understands way more than he can articulate yet. And the list of sounds is even longer.

When did the bird start imitating?: Choco’s very first word was on Christmas morning when he was 6 months old. He said “peekaboo!”. For seriously, Christmas morning. It is still one of his favorite games.

Did the owner teach it to talk on purpose?: Yes, using techniques inspired by Dr. Irene Pepperberg, but mostly modified to be done alone. Contextual speaking was my goal.

 

6.09. Problems for the owner

 

I haven’t any serious problems. If something is becoming a problem I think of ways to change with how I’m dealing with that behavior, which can cover an extremely wide variety of solutions.

Description of the problem(s) ▪ …
When did the problem(s) start? ▪ …
What did you do about it/them? ▪ nothing ▪ vet ▪ breeder ▪ behavioral consultant ▪ books or internet ▪
acquisition of another parrot ▪ change in its housing ▪ change in the
diet ▪ training ▪ other

 
 
7.0 Care and housing
 
7.01. Housing
 
Housing (▪ cage ▪ outdoor aviary (during the whole year, only in the warm season, only during the day) ▪ indoor aviary ▪ free in the flat ▪ bird room ▪ portable perch/tree ▪ chained onto a perch ▪ combination of different forms of housing): Choco was being kept in a low breeder cage with his siblings when I purchased him and then I used a cockatiel cage until he was ready for his real cage. He mostly only spent time in the cockatiel cage while sleeping or if I wasn’t home (which wasn’t for long because he had to be hand-fed 4-5 times a day), otherwise he was with me, eating, or exploring his jungle-gym. His real cage is roughly 3’ x 2’ x 3’ and has a jungle-gym that can either sit on top or go on a separate play stand. He also has a travel cage which is about 3’ x 2’ x 2’.
Recent changes in the bird’s housing: I rearrange furniture a lot, and thus his cage, so he is used to that.
Size of the cage (▪ 40x40x60 cm ▪ 60x80x100 cm ▪ 80x100x120 cm): 3 ft. x 2 ft. x 3ft
Size of the aviary (▪ 100x100x200 cm ▪ 100x200x200 cm ▪ bigger): N/A
Shape of the cage (▪ rectangular ▪ rectangular with rounded corners ▪ round): Rectangular

Wire mesh of the cage (▪ matt silver ▪ matt gold ▪ shiny silver ▪ matt silver ▪ other): Blue, and his travel cage is white.

Space between the horizontal bars of the cage: 3/4 inch. I wouldn’t go wider, but 1/2 inch would be fine.

Location of the cage in the room (▪ in a corner ▪ adjacent to a wall ▪ next to a window ▪ can be
reached from all sides): His cage moves a lot, but the ideal place is where he can both see out the window or hide and doesn’t have too much of a draft.

Highest perch in the bird’s environment (▪ above eye level ▪ below eye level): When his jungle-gym is on top of his cage it’s above eye level, but if he starts getting annoying about it I take it down and put it on the the play-stand.

Recent changes in the location of the cage: I rearrange everything on a regular basis, including the position of his cages and stands.

Do you cover the parrot’s cage for the night?: No

Number of perches in the cage (▪ 1 ▪ 2 ▪ 3 ▪ more than 3): He’s got 2 right now and a toy he likes to sit on, as well as 3 food/water dishes, but I change out his toys and perches regularly or else he gets bored.

Material used for the perches (▪ man-made perches ▪ branch with its bark on ▪ synthetic ▪ concrete): Choco has had all of those at some point.

Perches of different diameters: Yes

Perches available outside the cage: Yes

Mirror: No

Bath: He insists on using his water dish

Spray: I’m not sure how one could have a spray in the cage

Toys in the cage (▪ many toys ▪ one toy or toys not used ▪ no toys): Many toys that are rotated on a regular basis. He gets tired of them if they are always the same.

Toys outside the cage (▪ many toys ▪ one toy or toys not used ▪ no toys): Yes, many toys that are rotated on a regular basis.

Do you leave the radio/TV on for the bird? (▪ yes, the TV ▪ yes, the radio ▪ no): No, but he likes to watch TV with me.

Changes in the cage (▪ never ▪ once a year ▪ once a month ▪ more frequently): I aim for once a month at least.

Room, in which the cage is located (▪ lounge ▪ dining-room ▪ kitchen ▪ balcony ▪ bedroom ▪ hall ▪ other): I move the cages around a lot, but generally there is one where I am working and one where I don’t work.

The parrot spends most of its time in the… (▪ lounge ▪ dining-room ▪ kitchen ▪ balcony ▪ bedroom ▪ hall ▪ other): With me… if he’s behaving well he’s usually hanging out on my shoulder or in the room I’m in.

Flight ability (▪ can fly ▪ cannot – why not?): I keep his wings clipped, but he can still glide.

Have the feathers already been clipped? (▪ yes, they still are ▪ yes, but the parrot has molted since then ▪ no): I clip Choco’s wings myself, which seems to be unusual, but it means that his wing length is always under my control. I let him fully fledge before his first clipping though.

Who trimmed the wing-feathers? (▪ vet ▪ owner ▪ breeder ▪ other members of the family ▪ acquaintance ▪ other): I do, and always have. It’s very important to know what you are doing before attempting this though.

When did you clip its wings for the first time?: After he was fully fledged. I also trained him to fly to me on command before giving him a clipping and made sure he could maneuver around my home deftly and pick safe landing places.

How old was the parrot at that time?: I think this was somewhere around the 6 month mark.

Have they been clipped on both sides?: Yes, it is a VERY VERY VERY bad idea to only clip one side. Please don’t do this.

 

7.02. Care

 

Hygiene (▪ excellent ▪ good ▪ acceptable ▪ bad): Good

Litter (▪ no litter ▪ newspaper ▪ sand ▪ wood shavings ▪ other): Newspaper

How often do you clean the bird’s cage? (▪ daily ▪ twice a week ▪ once a week ▪ 2-3 times a month ▪ more seldom): Usually about once a week, but Choco is rarely in his cage and he’s “potty trained” so he usually goes directly into the trash can.

Grit or sand? (▪ some ▪ none): No. I tried some sand paper perch-liner thingies once, but Choco wasn’t impressed.

Brightness in the cage? (▪ very bright ▪ bright ▪ rather dark ▪ dark): I move his cage a lot, but I try to keep it so he has access to both sunny and shaded areas within his cage.

Exposure to the sun? (▪ yes, no possibility to go into the shade ▪ yes, withdrawal possible ▪no): Yes, but he can always retreat from it.

Artificial light? (▪ normal bulb ▪ neon light ▪ halogen lamp ▪ true-light bulb ▪ whole spectrum light): If Choco doesn’t have access to sunlight for whatever reason then I use whole-spectrum bulbs. I also use the lights more during the winter. This is because greys require a lot of sunlight to produce vitamin D, which in turn allows them to absorb calcium in proper quantities. I think lack of sunlight is the root cause of rumored calcium deficiencies among greys.

Length of daylight (▪ very variable ▪ depends on the season or on the owner’s activity ▪ less than 9 hours a day ▪ 9-11 hours a day ▪ 12-14 hours a day ▪ at least 15 hours a day): Technically it depends on the season… but in general, Choco sleeps when I do.

Temperature (▪ variable (outdoor aviary, with/without a heater) ▪ less than 10°C ▪ 10-15°C ▪ 17-21 °C ▪ more than 22° C): I wish I were better with the metric system or keeping track of the temperature… I’m going to say I keep it about 65° – 75° F

Humidity [▪ low (no humidifier, 30-40%) ▪ high (with humidifier, 45-60%) ▪ very high (more than 60%)]: I have no idea at all.

The owner smokes (▪ yes ▪ very rarely/only guests ▪ no): I quit smoking when Choco was a baby.

Color of the walls (▪ white ▪ pastel or light shade ▪ bright color ▪ no walls (outdoor aviary) Particular color in the bird’s surroundings ▪): Choco has both traveled and moved house with me and he has never shown much interest in the color of the walls

How often is the parrot let out of its cage? (▪ all the time ▪ many times a day ▪ every day ▪ 2-3 times a week ▪ once a week ▪ 2-3 times a month ▪ once a month ▪ more seldom ▪ never): Many times a day, most of the day as long as he’s behaving.

Length of time (▪ all day long ▪ mornings or afternoons ▪ 1-2 hours a day ▪ half an hour at the most): He gets at least 2 hours of attention a day, but usually more like 6…

Free outside (▪ yes ▪ never ▪ before): He’s been outside without a harness before, but it’s not a regular occurrence.

How often is the bird free outside? (▪ every day in nice weather ▪ 2-3 times a week ▪ once a week ▪ 2-3 times a month ▪ once a month ▪ more seldom): More like on special occasions, in a nice safe yard or something. He doesn’t try to escape or anything but he is curious and startles pretty easily so I’m careful.

Is the parrot’s cage moved outside? (▪ yes, every day when the weather is nice ▪ yes, sometimes ▪ never): No, but he travels with me when I go places.

The owner takes the parrot on holidays (▪ yes, how often? ▪ no ▪ no, he/she never goes on holiday): To date, Choco has always traveled with me.

Where does he/she take the parrot? (▪ to a pet shop ▪ to a breeder ▪ to a home ▪ to a friend ▪ the parrot stays at home): N/A – although Choco has visited pet stores with me previously, he isn’t fond of them. He gets very upset about how the other parrots don’t have to follow the rules.

Do you take your bird on outings with you? (▪ yes ▪ sometimes (frequency) ▪ never): Sometimes, depends on where I’m going.

Has the parrot already been to a show? (▪ yes, how often? ▪ no): I’ve never even been to a parrot show. Heck, I’ve never even sat through a televised animal show. My understanding is that those things are about breeding and genetics and what not. While those things are of mild interest to me, I’m mostly in it for the behavioral studies. Choco really enjoys showing off tricks though and has gone to other kinds of conventions and public events with me. I estimate he’s met about five thousand people or so, but I’m terrible at guessing numbers.

Location of the food in the cage (▪ at the bottom ▪ halfway up ▪ at the top of the cage): He’s got 3 food/water dishes halfway up and sometimes I give him snacks at the bottom or top of the cage.

Description of the bird’s diet: Choco always has seed (usually with pellets mixed in) and water. He also gets all kinds of other foods like fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, legumes, etc. He likes varied and diverse meals, and his favorites occasionally change. His favorite fruit used to be grapes, but has recently switched to cherries (note: the pits must be removed, they’re poisonous). He also has a preference for chanas (also known as chickpeas or garbanzo beans) and black olives.

Quality of the bird’s diet (▪ very well-balanced diet ▪ more or less balanced ▪ totally inappropriate): I try to keep it balanced, and organic if I can.

Variation of the diet (▪ yes (what? how often?) ▪ no): If I don’t vary his diet Choco will get bored with what he’s eating and will glare at me when I bring him food. He also won’t eat as much. I rotate fresh foods as well as seed and pellet brands.

Does it get part of the owner’s meals? (▪ yes (what? how often?) ▪ never ▪ not any more): I try to have at least one thing I can share with Choco at meal time. He likes to take part in meal times. Actually, he likes to take part in most things.

New branches or twigs in the cage (▪ at least three times a week ▪ once a week ▪ once a month ▪ twice a year ▪ always at the bird’s disposal ▪ changed when the bark is totally peeled off ▪ never): I’m not confident enough in my tree-identification skills to go out and get branch clippings, but I might get him a red palm as a perch someday. I have a black thumb of death though, so it’s questionable how long the plant will live between Choco chewing on it and me just generally failing at botany.

 

8.0 Clinical examination, parrot’s history

 

8.01 History

 

Does the bird get any medicine?: Once a week or so I add a tablespoon or two of red palm oil to his food. It’s more like a nutritional supplement than a medicine. I chose it because greys in the wild have been observed spending time perching in the red palm as well as eating the flesh of the red palm fruit. The closest I can get is the red palm oil, which he really likes. I’ve been told it keeps his tail feathers a brighter shade of red, but I can’t really verify that.

How much does it drink/eat?: However much he wants, he is always offered more than he can eat.

Has it already been ill? What illness(es)?: No, there’s been a couple instances when I was worried he wasn’t feeling well. When he was a baby he would get an extra formula feeding if he wasn’t looking top of the weather and now he gets extra fruits and veggies and herbal tea. And extra snuggles. He usually wants to take a nap snuggled under my hands too and I crank the thermostat up a couple degrees to make sure he’s kept warm.

Has it already undergone an operation? Which one?: Nope, he’s been quite healthy.

Has it already had medical treatment?: No. He had an initial check up when he was 2 months and he got checked out for a Birdy Passport and he passed with flying colors both times.

Is the bird especially clumsy?: No, I believe this has to do with letting him fledge fully before his first wing clipping. When he drops something or loses his footing due to jostling he says “Whoops!”

Does it fall from its perch? How often? In what circumstances?: No way, I’d be pretty worried if that happened. He gets jostled when we’re in the car sometimes, but that tends to happen when one takes a large bump.

 

8.02 State of health

 

Bird’s reaction to its environment: Varies, but he’s generally friendly and curious. I mean sometimes he’s in a bad mood or nervous about something unfamiliar but he’s generally pretty chill, if you will.

Activity: He’s pretty active and playful (he’s only three and half so it’s expected) but he naps around lunch time.

Position/stance of the parrot on the perch: I guess that depends on what he’s doing… if he’s preening he’s on both feet, but he uses one foot to eat with when he’s chowing down. He sleeps with one foot up or both and it also depends on what he’s perched on…

Breathing, nostrils (discharge?): No… that would need to be checked out by a vet. I mean, not breathing, that’s normal. The nose discharge thing, though, that is not normal.

Wings held properly?: Yes

Flight ability: He fledged fully, but now I keep his wings clipped. He can still maneuver a decent glide though.

Bill quality and growth: Healthy. He pretty much maintains that himself by chewing the crap out of his toys.

Eyes (discharge?): No, this would be worthy of seeking vet attention.

Weight, estimation of the parrot’s corpulence: Oh, I have no idea. I keep tabs on his weight by feeling his keen bone and making sure it isn’t too prominent.

Limbs, feet, claws, skin: Yes, he has those things. They are in good shape. Choco actually trims his own claws by chewing of the sharp tip when they start to scratch up my shoulder.

Droppings: consistency, color, quantity: Unremarkable

Urine: color, quantity: Unremarkable

Quality of plumage (▪ good ▪ bad/broken feathers ▪ over- or under-preened ▪ molt ▪ change of color (place, since when, color, description) ▪ feather picking): It’s generally pretty good, but he plays hard and sometimes glides into things or otherwise breaks some feathers here or there.

 

9.0 Observation of the bird during the interview

 

9.01. Attitude of the bird towards the interviewer (Again, Choco was not actually part of this study, but he’s met lots of people so it isn’t hard to summarize his usual behavior)

 

“Indifferent” (▪ yes (how long? description) ▪ no): Seems unlikely. He is usually quite eager to meet people.

“Aggressive” (▪ yes (how long? trigger, only visible signs or attacks, description) ▪ no): No

“Frightened” (▪ yes (when? how long? trigger, description) ▪ no): Not usually, at most he would be just nervous.

“Tries to draw attention” (▪ yes (how long? how?) ▪ no): Quite possibly. He’s a little show-off.

Screeching / noisy (▪ yes (how long? when? how?) ▪ no): Not usually. Sometimes he likes to whistle or squawk at his toys, but he is far, far quieter than the birds in pet stores.

“Curious” (▪ yes (how long? description, about what/whom?) ▪ no): Generally

“Feels at ease” (comfort behavior) (▪ yes (when? description) ▪ no): Yeah, even if he’s nervous at first he settles down pretty quickly.

“Friendly / playful” (▪ yes (when? description) ▪ no): Usually.

Repetitive movements (▪ yes (description, when? how long? frequency, description of the movements, trigger) ▪ no): No

Feather picking (▪ yes (when? how many times? chewing/plucking? what part of the
plumage? trigger) ▪ no): No

Allofeeding (▪ yes (when? how many times? who? does the bird look healthy?) ▪ no): No, but he may do that as he’s going through birdy puberty.

Others: Choco usually meets people by hopping over to their arm or shaking hands or giving fist bumps. He really likes it when he can convince others to play games with him, or if he’s feeling more mellow he might ask for head-scratches.

 

2 Responses to Study on behavioral effects of hand-rearing African Grey parrots

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