Celebrating, Conservating and Educating (about) African Grey Parrots

Coco’s Cage

This page on our website is devoted to Coco, our baby African grey parrot ,who we added to our flock on January 13, 2001, at the age of four-and-a-half months.

A separate page features several thumbnails you can click on to see bigger images of Coco.

But first, more about this silly baby bird …

BRINGING UP BABY: A WHOLE NEW GAME

By John Geary

And I thought building a relationship with a mature Congo African grey parrot was demanding …

Having a five-month-old baby bird is 10 times more demanding, as I found out when we added Coco to our flock.

He is a bundle of energy, joy and love. He also exhibits an incredible trust in me, which is a great responsibility.

I first met Coco on Dec. 16, 2000 at The Animal House, a local pet store. I knew they were adding a baby African grey parrot to their menagerie and I thought I’d check it out.

We had been thinking about getting a second bird for quite a while. As I mentioned on the Nikki’s Nest page, Nikki was more drawn to Ann. While I enjoy Nikki’s company immensely, we are not as close as he and Ann, at least not in the same way. I wanted a bird I could cuddle and pet.

We considered getting a cockatoo, as I was under the impression they were less aggressive than greys. I don’t mind admitting I was somewhat reluctant to purchase a bird I might not be able to handle. Although most cockatoos are bigger, they can be less high-strung than greys, and as a general rule, ‘toos are not usually as picky about who they let pet them.

We never did find a cockatoo I really liked, though. Furthermore, subsequent research indicated that while cockatoos can be more cuddly, they can also present bigger problems because they get too attached to their humans and those cuddles. (For more about undesirable cockatoo behavior, see my article about Parrot Hormonal Rages.)

Another factor that caused me to lean toward adding a grey was a magazine article I read that indicated our best chance to get Nikki to accept a new bird would exist if that newcomer was another grey . Apparently they adjust to their own species better than any other species; they are more particular about accepting other birds.

Then came that day when I walked into the Animal House in a jolly, holiday mood. I had just finished helping old Saint Nick out, filling in as Santa Claus at a Christmas party.

I walked into the store, and I knew from the moment I met Coco what I truly wanted for Christmas.

He was just so cuddly and affectionate! Nothing like the nervous and always-cautious Nikki; this little bird had been hand-fed and raised by a very good breeder. He was too young to know fear. While Nikki learned at an early age to fear human hands, this little one knew them only as a source of food and love.

I gave him scratches and walked around the store with him. I was in love, but I knew he came with a hefty price tag.

Ann was out of town that weekend, but I could hardly wait to tell her about this baby bird. I emailed her at her parents, then when she phoned later, we talked about it. She didn’t say “yes” but she didn’t say “no,” either. She asked me to think about it so we could make a decision when she returned.

After picking her up at the airport two days later, we stopped in at the pet store on our way home. She fell just as much in love with him as I had. It seemed inevitable he would join our flock.

But she left the ball in my court. It was my decision. Money was not an issue; I only had to decide if I was ready to assume the responsibility.

I agonized for a week. I could think of all kinds of logical reasons why I should not get him. I rode a Yuletide roller coaster.

Eventually my heart won out. On December 23, we made a down-payment, complete with the understanding I would not take him home immediately. I would visit with him regularly during the next few weeks to build a bond before taking him into a new environment with a strange bird.

On January 13, Coco Puff came home.

Since then, there have been some trying moments, some moments of concern; it has been very difficult to focus on my freelance writing, working in my home office with Coco around. If I put him on a perch, he flaps off and lands on my desk. If I leave him downstairs, he hops off his cage and comes upstairs to be with me. I don’t like to leave him alone for too long, locked in his cage, as he gets very lonely.

I do my best to work with him on my shoulder. That only works for so long, as he gets restless and tries to chew everything on my desk. Conducting a telephone interview with him in the room is out of the question.

I hate disciplining him, but it has to be done. I am firm, but gentle. It probably bothers me more than it does him!

While there have been trying moments, there have been many more moments of joy, pleasure and pride as I’ve watched him learn. He is a fast learner! (Except when it comes to drinking juice out of a glass!)

We have formed a real bond. I’ve never known anything like it in my life. There is no feeling in the world like having a baby bird press his head up against your face, eyes shut, exposing his crop to your hands, to let you lovingly stroke it while scratching the feathers on his head.

I only hope I can bring him half as much joy as he brings me.