I received this comment on a post from earlier this year:
Hi Even tho this is a macaw page i would to have some advise on my 15 month oh thinmen african grey. i am trying to train her to let me strok her wings let me stroke her head out of the cage as she onli alows this if she is in the cage with the door closed she also bites when you get her to step up of her cage or on somwhere where she has gone her self, i have tried rewarding her but when i give her the food she just throws it i've also tried a high pitched exited voice to praise which she just looks at me funny. basically i would like to get tips on how to make her tame where i can stroke her anywhere as you can tell she is dying for the attension, sadly she cannot be out of her cage throughout the day as we have three dogs that would like her for dinner but she comes up to my room when i get home from schools for about too hours a night and when i clean her cage but she has got toys to play with thank you too any one who relpies really need advice thanks
I have a timneh grey and a congo grey also, so hopefully some things that I write can be applicable to your situation.
1.My first question is: why do you want to stroke her wings? In general, this is a bad idea. Since she's so young, you probably won't see breeding behavior yet, but you want to do everything you can to not send her mixed signals, which might save you from hormone-related issues down the road. Touching/stroking on the wings is something that parrots save for their mates. Since, no matter how hard you try, you can never be a true mate to her, you don't want to confuse her. Keep your petting to the head area.
Greys in general do not tolerate touching. Of course, there are always exceptions, but your grey does not appear to be one! I've had my timneh for almost 8 years; she is extremely bonded to both my husband and me. She loves getting her head scratched, but does not like any touching below her neck. If I were to go up and try to pet her wings, I'd likely get bit -- and with good reason. I need to respect her boundaries. You wouldn't like it if people came up to you and started shoving their fingers in your ears; it's basically the same thing with her.
Watch her body language closely. If you insist on trying to touch her wings, she will likely have to become more aggressive to keep you away. This will serve only to make her a better biter, and for her to not want to be around you. You don't want this!
It's hard sometimes to remember that greys are wild animals. They are not little people. As people, we like to cuddle and hug -- it's our way of showing affection. But for prey animals like grey parrots, that can be terrifying. If my grey's wings are constricted by me petting her, that means she can't make an escape if a dangerous situation arises. My greys show their affection for me by perching on my arm, preening my fingers, and verbally (like mimicking what I do or when we whistle back and forth).
2. Does she always bite you after she steps up? If it's only sometimes, can you see a pattern? Long-term, you need to figure out a way to make her want to be near you. My parrots love stepping up for us because they like to be near us. Maybe we'll dance, or I'll whistle to them, or we'll take a shower. You want to make stepping up something that she wants to do.
You say you've tried feeding her but she just throws the food on the ground. Maybe you're not feeding her the right kind of food? I don't like cupcakes, so if someone was trying to reward me with cupcakes, it wouldn't work! But promise me pie and I'll do whatever you want!
Here's something to try: give her a bowl of seed and see what she eats first. Do this for several days to find a pattern and see what her favorite foods really are. My timneh LOVES cashews. She will do almost anything for one. She hates almonds. Therefore, if I tried to train her with almonds, we wouldn't get anywhere!
Once you know what your grey's favorite foods are, remove them from her daily diet. Let's say her favorite food is also cashews, for this example. If you feed her a seed mix, go through it and take out all of the cashews before you put it in her cage. If she wants her favorite food, she has to work for it! There is no incentive for her to work for you if she can get cashews in her cage.
Going back to the step-up issue, one thing you can try is to show her a cashew (or her favorite food, which I'm pretending is cashews, for simplicity's sake). Then ask her to step up. As soon as she steps up, immediately give her the cashew. This serves two purposes. First, she comes to associate stepping up on you with her favorite food! Second, she can't bite you if her mouth is full of cashew. She's less likely to throw it on the ground if she only gets them occasionally (as opposed to always having them available).
If she continues to bite, you may want to consider stick-training her. This is what we did with our macaw. He'd rather bite me than step up, and will bite Thomas in certain circumstances (like if he's in a particular hallway in our house).
3. As I've mentioned, parrots are prey animals and can become very stressed out by having predators looking at them. Even if she is safe in her cage, she may not feel safe if the dogs are staring at her. Can you move her cage to a room where the dogs are not allowed? It may also help to put some big toys up or cover half of her cage so that she has somewhere safe to retreat to if she feels scared. When parrots are scared, they will often lash out by biting. You want her to feel safe with you. I will try to take pictures of this tonight so you can see what I mean.
4. I mention this frequently, but I think you guys would be wonderful candidates for clicker training. Here is a link to a free yahoo group. In their files, you can learn how to do this. Using these methods, my timneh grey has learned several dozen tricks, like wave, take a bow, shake hands, fly to me, putting a bead in a cup, etc. Greys are very, very smart, and I'm sure she'd love the opportunity to learn new things and show off for you!
Clicker training is a wonderful way to create and cement a bond between you and your parrot. It's also a wonderful way to learn her body language. Even though most parrots can talk, the vast majority of their communication is done via body language. They are very expressive once you learn to listen to them!
I hope some of what I've written may be helpful to you. It is very good to hear that you are worried about her and are trying to provide her with a good home! Please let me know if you have any other questions, and if anyone else has any suggestions/comments, please put them in the comments!