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Can I flock my African Greys together?

Posted by garudabird on June 23, 2011

Q.

I really could use some advice on this: when we move I’m going to have make new cages for last 4 paired off Greys. 3 of the 4 were my chicks that I withheld for breeding over 20 years ago. The other was a rescue that’s been with us almost that long. Right now each pair is their own 10′ L x 2½’ W x 4′ H flight.cage. I never tried housing all of them together because both males are very aggressive and I’m afraid there would be fights and one of them would get hurt.

First of all, do you think I’m worrying too much about the possibility of the birds fighting? If I could house all of them in the same cage, I could make one big cage the size of the room. In fact, I was hoping to make an indoor/outdoor cage…putting an insert in the window so they could go in and out between the outdoor and indoor portion. Besides, if we move south of DC, they could enjoy going outdoors most of the year.

Hope to hear from you and to see you after our move.

A.

Christopher here. It’s nice to hear from you. I’m delighted to hear that you want to flock your four Greys together. Nothing socializes and ultimately nurtures a parrot like its flock.

I understand you are worried they will fight. The bad news is that there will be a few fights or scuffles. The good news is that they won’t be serious. Your birds have known each other for some time, so it will be easier for them to form a flock. I had to watch our Greys a little more carefully then I think you’ll have to because our three Greys and your five were not as familiar. After they’d had some time to look at each other from separate cages, I flocked all eight Greys in a cage 10 ft long, 7 ft wide and 7 ft tall. There have been a few squabbles. The worst resulting injuries are generally a couple of yanked tail feathers. No big problems.

All fights are over status. The bird with the highest status gets first pick at the resources. One way to reduce fights is to provide more resources.

Resources aren’t just food and water. Resources also include real estate and toys. The dominate bird(s) will vie for the newest toys and the highest perches. And perches near the food. Extra perches (lots of perches!) means every birdy has a place to go. And extra toys (especially at first) help to distract them from any social conflicts.

As for food and water, let’s say you have two feeding stations for your four Greys. You might try giving them three or four feeding stations at first. It won’t be long before they start to neglect one or two of those stations. At which time you could consolidate the feeding locations back down to the original two.

Also, they will at times feel the need for “privacy”. I used food coloring to stain burlap green and other natural colors. I then hung strips of that burlap from the top of the cage. The strips resemble hanging vines and foliage. Hanging them in rows or clusters provide soft barriers and separations within the cage. This works well for allowing the birds to go to opposite ends of the cage and ignore each other.

A few scuffles will begin to arise within 24-36 hrs of being first moved into the new flock cage. For the first few weeks, you’ll want to be available to come in and suppress any obvious conflicts. Generally, just showing up stops fights between Greys.

Being available to “referee” any issues is really good for the flock. It reinforces your place as “alpha bird”. This brings a sense of security to the flock. They need to know there is an authority figure to stop any major problems. And then after some flock cohesion has formed, there won’t be any remarkable problems.

Flocking is the most natural social state for parrots. This a fabulous enrichment that you are bringing to your precious Greys. I wish you and the flock the best of luck. If you have anymore questions, comments, whatever… don’t hesitate to contact us.

Christopher “Rigdzen” Zeoli

Caretaker

Garuda Aviary

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