Can I Train An Aggressive 7 YO African Grey?

african grey parrot peering inquisitively down the barrel of my lens.
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Inna asks

Hello. We have a 7 year old African grey.

 

Unfortunately we made a mistake and did not train him properly.

 

We are having problems with his behavior.

 

He attacks. He bites. He is angry.

 

He only obeys one person in the house.

 

Is it too late to train him?

 

Who can we turn to?

Thank you. 

 

Greetings Inna,

I’m sorry for the problems you are having, this is fixable.

 

Before moving forward let’s talk about why this might be happening.

 

It is normal for African grays both Timnehs and Congos to bond with an individual at a young age.

What is opaque to most humans is that African grays will bond with an entirely different individual around the age of 5, 6 or seven.

 

This is an evolutionary issue.

 

It helps keep the flock “clean” by reducing and or eliminating any inbreeding.

 

Ie the bird will initially bond with mom or dad but will choose a non-family mate going into adolescence 

 

In other words, the birds are smart enough to know not to mate with a family member.

 

It weakens the species.

 

Unfortunately, this a behavior that few humans expect.

 

A simple first step, assuming the bird’s cage and food dishes can be accessed from the outside of the cage is to have everyone in the household drop a favored treat in the food dish once or twice a day – while the bird is in the cage.

 

This will signal to the bird that everybody in the household can make good things happen when they come close.

 

Next, we need to add full spectrum lighting no higher than 6 inches over the cage on a timer. 

 

Your bird is expecting “equatorial” light cycles but is getting North American light cycles that change daily.

 

This is a major stress point that triggers negative hormonal behavior.

 

By putting a light over the top of the cage and ensuring that the bird is in the cage when the light goes on and the what light goes off in 12 hours cycles of light and darkness using a connected timer your bird will have a better understanding of when the day starts and when the day ends every 12 hours just like in the Serengeti plains of central Africa.

 

Please ignore daylight savings time as it has no meaning to the bird and is confusing which translates to stress.

 

The next step is to introduce clicker training starting with the one individual the bird has bonded to at this point in time.

 

Here is a collection of clicker training videos that will help you better understand the use and benefits of bird clicker training.

 

All the family members should be able to handle the birds with some sort of “stick” we recommend the long perch that comes with the cage because it really has no use in a birdcage.

 

You can learn more about that here

 

To assist you at a more granular level I would need to know the bird’s diet including name brands and a picture illustrating the entire birdcage and birdcage set up.

 

Hope that helps at least is a start

 

Looking forward to hearing back from you

 

Best

Mitchr

Author:

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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