African Grey Parrot’s Nail Biting

Do you have an African Grey Parrot and he/ she does the same?

Well, when my “Mitthu” (TiktokParrot) gets anxious he would bite his nails while strutting and “dancing” and displaying cockatoo displays. He does that if he wants something (but not exactly begging).

He sometimes starts cleaning licking or biting his nails to get my attention when I got closer to him. It’s a kind of gesture that he wants something from me, maybe he is hungry/ thirsty or wants me to pet him and spend time with him.
His feet are not dirty, he showers almost twice a week, I wash his perch regularly and in between, I wipe it down. I saw on the internet on various platforms where people say this is a sign of a stressed or unhealthy grey.
However I would say that is not true, if your grey is doing the same act, it does not mean he is stressed or unhealthy.

I provide my “Mitthu” the best possible environment, food and spend a lot of time with him. He is 24 hours open and is not locked in the cage at all unless it’s an emergency, but still, he does this weird nail-biting act. He is happy, healthy and a well-settled grey talks a lot, swears a lot, and plays a lot.
Whenever I see my Grey’s nail-biting behavior, I offer him food/ water and gently rub the skin just behind its beak and the sides of its head, it makes him relaxed and comfortable.

Almost all birds tend to enjoy being petted around their ears. (Take care around the eyes, though.) When the bird seems relaxed and more used to petting, try petting the back of its head and neck.
So don’t panic if you see your grey has this weird behavior. It is a very common behavior for greys to chew their nails and sometimes their toes. As far as your grey is healthy and eats well. All greys chew their nails a bit, some do it more than others and some develop it into a nervous habit.
Here is what I have learned over the past years about Greys.

It depends on how Greys chew/groom their nails. Greys and cockatoos and even Macaws are known to develop nervous behaviors in which they’ll constantly bring their feet to their beak and groom/bite their nails. Some Nervous and neurotic behaviors that may accompany this are rocking back and forth (“dancing”), head twisting, wing flipping, excessive preening, nervous flying, etc.
Many African greys seem to experience anxiety; they chew their nails frequently, flip their wings, move their heads back and forth like they are looking for a place to go, seeming to be unable to sit still. Videos of wild African greys show wary birds with very strong escape instincts. African greys in the wild are usually foraging in the tree branches, hidden in dense leaves. They are rarely out in a clearing and are on high alert when they are.

I believe that displaced toenail biting behavior (instead of nails, the bird bites its feathers) is one possible cause for greys that feather-pick. It is unknown why African greys seem to be more prone to this set of behaviors, but, as we learn more about the habits of wild African grey fledglings, there is probably some element of socialization we do not provide for them in our homes and aviaries.
As long as they have rough perch to wear their toenails down on and if they get too long are clipped by someone who knows what they are doing it should be fine.

My Grey was always told to “clean his beak” after he had eaten as a means of ensuring that he did not pick up any disease from dirty beak after eating something mushy. “Mitthu” (TiktokParrot) now loves to clean his beak (mainly on me) as routine!

Some simple tips from my own experience:-

Provide good enough space for your grey, where grey can fly from one place to another, he/ she has enough toys around to play with, and the activities keep going until he/ she is fed up.

In the household, owners might put their African grey’s cage next to a window, by thinking that the bird wants to look out and see everything. Although some greys seem at home with this, other greys appear to feel particularly vulnerable and exposed in this type of housing location (like how a person might feel living in a department-store window).

Make sure the drinking water is clean and fresh in the bowl/ container, changing drinking water twice a day should be sufficient. It will minimize the risk of bacteria/ germs, even though we can’t escape from them 🙂

Offer only good healthy food (fruits + nuts)

Keep the grey maximum outside from the cage, as much as possible (Make sure the area is safe and has no risks such as electricity or any other harmful things around).

Spend lots of time & give all your love to the grey 🙂

Stay safe and much love !


Leave a Comment