As exotic pets become more common the numbers through our doors are ever increasing.
After the reptiles, parrots are one of our next most common exotic patients. African Greys are a favourite, but are not without their problems.
They originate from central Africa and their natural habitats include savannahs, costal mangroves, woodland and the edges of forest clearings. They live for approximately 30 to 40 years.
Here is a quick run-though of husbandry advice for the new parrot owner. We’ll start with diet.
Most people know parrots like to eat seeds. However, a purely seed-based diet is inappropriate for captive birds and is one of the most common causes of disease.
All seed diets are deficient in proteins, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and vitamin A. Calcium is an essential part of any exotic animal’s diet. The most extreme cases of low calcium can lead to poor bone density, making fractures more likely, problems laying eggs, seizures and death.
An African Grey’s diet should mainly consist of a good quality pelleted parrot food and the odd bit of fruit. They do not require grit and an excess can cause intestinal problems.
Grey parrots produce a large amount of powder down (the fine material that comes off their feathers), so they appreciate daily baths or spray showers.
As African Greys come from Africa they would be exposed to lots of sunlight and much higher temperatures than in Britain. Our sunlight is limited and most parrots are housed indoors so a full spectrum UV light is essential to help them absorb calcium. If they lack access to UV light they are prone to the same problems highlighted above.
Acceptable environmental temperatures for Greys vary between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius, but healthy adults are able to tolerate drops in temperature.
Grey parrots are exceptionally intelligent and require a high level of mental stimulation. They require lots of interaction and toys. When introducing new toys, do so slowly to prevent stressing the bird as this can lead to behavioural problems. Feather plucking is common and often comes down to inadequate levels of attention or sudden changes in routine.
If kept well and with good care these clever creatures can make great pets. Just do your research carefully and come and see us if you have any questions.
LEANNE ROBERTS, vet