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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about African greys

Saemma

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The attributes listed in this thread are the experiences of each individual and your experiences may differ with your individual bird.

I've decided to initiate TMS's idea and start this thread. Please feel free to share anything you think would be valuable for anyone reading this thread. Remember it's not just for parrot owners on this forum it's also for ANYONE and Everyone on the internet reading this info. Caring is sharing and Knowledge is priceless.

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely adore my african grey Emma. She is just perfect for me. Notice that I say perfect for me and NOT that she is perfect?;)
She turned 5 years old this month and has been with me since she weaned at 26 weeks old. I used to worry a little about all the info on the internet warning of how things could be when greys got older. I can only say that for now I have noticed no added negatives in behaviour, in fact I feel that things have never been better, but maybe I'm just better at understanding her too.:)

I'll start with the things that I love about living with a grey. We love the life and laughter that she brings into our home with her constant chatter, sense of humour and commentary. She's a great clear talker and I love her ability to have meaningful conversations with me. I love the deep connection that I feel with her, something that I don't really feel with my other parrots. I love how she feels that every conversation is her business and has to stick in her two cents. Emma is also extremely affectionate, expressive and loving. I'd be able to spend alot of time writing about all the things I love about Emma, however I'll leave it at that.


Now the bad. :eek:
The DUST & The never ending FLURRY of floofies. If I didn't love my Emma as much as I do.... I'd often feel like this..:sad11: and .. :faint:.
You may think that this is an exaggeration, however I'm not joking one bit.:o:
Vacuuming and dusting is something that must be done every day around here and it goes without saying that it is a good idea to buy a good quality air purifier like the Austin Air. There have been a few times in the past where I could not stand to be around Emma for too long when I was with a bad flu otherwise I'd start coughing to the point where I thought I was going to choke. Beware to all allergy sufferers or those with sensitive lungs. This is no joke.


Noise? :eek: Not all of Emma's noises are pleasant to my ears. I've been wearing hearing protection at home for the past 4.5 years. I can't stand constant high pitched noises and Emma has those perfected. Since I never know when she's going to sound off I wear my hearing protection at all times.:huh:


When it comes to getting along with other parrots, Emma can be unpredictable. Therefore she's not to be trusted, EVER.:cool: If she views a parrot as weaker than her she will do things like chase them, jump on them, push them off a swing, swoop in on them if they are hanging out with me. She doesn't like to share very much. I must always supervise when Sachi is out with Emma because one never knows whether she'll be on a Powertrip that day.

I guess that's SOME of my Bad and Ugly lumped together. I'm looking forward to reading about what the rest of you will share.
 
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Katy

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I really thought Emma was perfect. It was interesting and soothing to me to hear that she makes high and unpleasant pitched sounds. So does mine.

I have only had my grey for 3 months. We have bonded, but I feel the bond isn't a deep, forever heart bond. I don't know if those things must be felt instantly, or if there simply will be limits to our relationship.

other negatives are the usually already mentioned. She flings her food, I must sweep and vacuum, AND mop every day, and that includes getting down on hands and knees and scraping up bits of fruit and cooked food that have been dropped, or FLUNG onto the floor.

since she is so young, I suppose it is too early to tell if she will be a good talker. All I know is when I got her she used to say "hello" and now she says nothing. I will love her if she does or doesn't talk.

she has never bitten me, and she steps up pretty well, but she often likes to trade out a neck scritch for a step up. I know I will be bitten someday.

all I can say is I feel as though we are on a journey. I have committed to love and care for her until the end of my life, and will take care to find her a good next home before I go. She will surely outlive me by 40 years.
 

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I am a Timneh person. :D They are the maximum size I am comfortable with as I am afraid of the big beaks. Pogo was my first bird ever. I did a lot of research before getting him. He was a big commitment, quite messy (shredded paper everywhere), but a lot of fun, my best little buddy and really (and I'm not biased here :rolleyes: ) the best bird ever! I had him for 8 years. He was a part of everything going on, had such a sense of humour (mostly to do with farting noises - boy humour) and talked in context. His bites were not too bad, rarely breaking the skin. He had the occasional shriek but generally his noises were not annoying. I kept him clipped but he still flew around the house and ended up flying out the door one day after being driven crazy by a carbon monoxide detector beeping all day with failing batteries.

Quack was 10 years old when I got her and I've had her for just over 2 years. I didn't give her enough time and space to settle in. I thought if she stepped up she wanted to come out but she would change her mind once on me and bite and grind through the skin. I didn't want to drop her as sometimes my arm was in the small door of her big flight cage (has since been upgraded) and so just took the bites. Life was very different with Quack as I couldn't sit and relax with her as I did with Pogo. I couldn't trust her on me and she would sometimes go into attack mode just because I wasn't giving her 100% attention, or was on the phone, etc. She would screech when I put her back in the cage. That got a bit better where I could get a couple hours of peace. It stopped completely once Darwin came. Quack is actually very quiet now and quite a good bird. She doesn't get into any trouble. If she gets on the floor in the bird room though, she becomes territorial and will attack my feet or hands. If I take her straight from the cage to the kitchen (play stand area), she is fine. She only talks a little (talked more when she was the only bird), loves to whistle and dance.

Darwin was 13 when I got him and it's been about a year and a half. He is an outgoing, entertaining, loving little bugger. :p He flies all over (after recovering from a broken wing), talks, burps, climbs all over me. He loves to shred the towel I wear on my shoulders, but do you think he would shred any of the many toys he has in his cage or on his play stand?
:rolleyes: He is obsessed with water bottles, cans, containers, cell phones, ipod, ipod case, the Dremel, etc. and will attack them if in sight and bite me in the process. I have to hide everything from him. He attacks my slippers regularly but is not violent with them if I don't react. Otherwise, he rarely bites. He is not very loud or annoying (with noise, anyway :rolleyes: ).

I see very different birds in all 3. Pogo was more similar to Darwin but not quite as bratty or nosy. I believe they are brothers.
 
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Saemma

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I really thought Emma was perfect. It was interesting and soothing to me to hear that she makes high and unpleasant pitched sounds. So does mine.

I have only had my grey for 3 months. We have bonded, but I feel the bond isn't a deep, forever heart bond. I don't know if those things must be felt instantly, or if there simply will be limits to our relationship.

other negatives are the usually already mentioned. She flings her food, I must sweep and vacuum, AND mop every day, and that includes getting down on hands and knees and scraping up bits of fruit and cooked food that have been dropped, or FLUNG onto the floor.

since she is so young, I suppose it is too early to tell if she will be a good talker. All I know is when I got her she used to say "hello" and now she says nothing. I will love her if she does or doesn't talk.

she has never bitten me, and she steps up pretty well, but she often likes to trade out a neck scritch for a step up. I know I will be bitten someday.

all I can say is I feel as though we are on a journey. I have committed to love and care for her until the end of my life, and will take care to find her a good next home before I go. She will surely outlive me by 40 years.
The bond that I have today with Emma took a few years. It's not something that happened instantaneously nor did it exist in the first 3 years of living together. I've gone through alot of joys and hardships with Emma. I believe that bonds like what I have with her are things that are built or developped over time by going through the better and the worse together. :)
 

Saemma

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I am a Timneh person. :D They are the maximum size I am comfortable with as I afraid of the big beaks. Pogo was my first bird ever. I did a lot of research before getting him. He was a big commitment, quite messy (shredded paper everywhere), but a lot of fun, my best little buddy and really (and I'm not biased here :rolleyes: ) the best bird ever! I had him for 8 years. He was a part of everything going on, had such a sense of humour (mostly to do with farting noises - boy humour) and talked in context. His bites were not too bad, rarely breaking the skin. He had the occasional shriek but generally his noises were not annoying. I kept him clipped but he still flew around the house and ended up flying out the door one day after being driven crazy by a carbon monoxide detector beeping all day with failing batteries.

Quack was 10 years old when I got her and I've had her for just over 2 years. I didn't give her enough time and space to settle in. I thought if she stepped up she wanted to come out but she would change her mind once on me and bite and grind through the skin. I didn't want to drop her as sometimes my arm was in the small door of her big flight cage (has since been upgraded) and so just took the bites. Life was very different with Quack as I couldn't sit and relax with her as I did with Pogo. I couldn't trust her on me and she would sometimes go into attack mode just because I wasn't giving her 100% attention, or was on the phone, etc. She would screech when I put her back in the cage. That got a bit better where I could get a couple hours of peace. It stopped completely once Darwin came. Quack is actually very quiet now and quite a good bird. She doesn't get into any trouble. If she gets on the floor in the bird room though, she becomes territorial and will attack my feet or hands. If I take her straight from the cage to the kitchen (play stand area), she is fine. She only talks a little (talked more when she was the only bird), loves to whistle and dance.

Darwin was 13 when I got him and it's been about a year and a half. He is an outgoing, entertaining, loving little bugger. :p He flies all over (after recovering from a broken wing), talks, burps, climbs all over me. He loves to shred the towel I wear on my shoulders, but do you think he would shred any of the many toys he has in his cage or on his play stand?
:rolleyes: He is obsessed with water bottles, cans, containers, cell phones, ipod, ipod case, the Dremel, etc. and will attack them if in sight and bite me in the process. I have to hide everything from him. He attacks my slippers regularly but is not violent with them if I don't react. Otherwise, he rarely bites. He is not very loud or annoying (with noise, anyway :rolleyes: ).

I see very different birds in all 3. Pogo was more similar to Darwin but not quite as bratty or nosy. I believe they are brothers.
That's quite fascinating! 3 greys, same owner and 3 very different experiences. :)
 

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It is hard to know what are species-specific traits compared to individual bird traits I think. When I had just one Eclectus I would have been more likely to try to describe them than I do now, owning 8.

I had three years with Maui, CAG, between her 5th and 8th year when I lost her outdoors. The one absolute positive thing I can say that was different between her and all the Eclectus I own (not saying all Eclectus are like this) is that Maui, CAG, copied lots of household and body-function noises as well as words, whereas the Eclectus just copy words.

Maui did farts, burps, hiccups, sighs, microwave beeps, phones (many different phones), door hinges, sliding doors and also had a truly enormous vocabulary.

Whenever I get on the subject of Maui I have to tell the story of when she arrived. Jess (her previous owner who flew with her on an airplane to give her to me) opened the carrier, took Maui out and introduced us. Maui looked at me and said, "put your shoes on and we'll go outside". The reason Maui had the vocabulary she did, IMO, was the same reason she was rehomed to me: Jess and her husband had their first child when Maui was 3 and their focus turned to the baby. Most of the things Maui talked about were things said to the toddler she lived with.

After she lived with me for a while she did discuss other things including what was on the menu. She was a hillarious bird that I will always miss.
 

Lady Jane

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Timneh person here also. I really think the only difference between the CAGS and Timnehs is the red tail and size. The reason I picked out Rosie at 13 weeks was because I saw a wonderful personality. She was very outgoing at that time and still is. She is so smart and calls me when I leave the room "Hey Baby"! She eats like a piggy but can be picky when it comes to anything green. She has a huge curiosity about what is going on in the home and does not miss a thing. I do not believe she is accepting of any other bird.

The bad is not much. Of course she seems to molt all the time and feather fluffs everywhere. Thank goodness fo rabbit air. This of course is not her fault. It comes with the species. The only other things on the negative side is that she can be quite demanding of my attention.
 
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Ziggymon

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Tara (CAG) is pretty much the perfect parrot. I have to introduce some new stuff to her in stages, unlike the macaws, Amazons and tiels, but that's about it.
 

Saemma

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Oh I have something else to add about Emma that I've never appreciated. It's called the african grey bait and switch. Below is more info on it.

It's been a while since Emma's pulled this maneuver on me, however when she does it's not nice at all. Sometimes she would even would grind down extremely hard on my finger then let go and literally let out a belly laugh after the sneaky deed. I would be VERY happy if this habit of hers would disappear for good. None of my other parrots seem to have this type of streak in them.

http://forums.avianavenue.com/african-grey-alley/48772-african-grey-bait-switch-tactic.html
 
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Katy

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The bond that I have today with Emma took a few years. It's not something that happened instantaneously nor did it exist in the first 3 years of living together. I've gone through alot of joys and hardships with Emma. I believe that bonds like what I have with her are things that are built or developped over time by going through the better and the worse together. :)
Thanks for sharing that. Makes me feel better.
 

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Well, I'll add what I've learned about Greys, although Merlin and I have only been housemates for 14 months, and Merlin is a bit unique due to her near blindness.

The dust and floofies are worse than you think they will be :) Even just cuddling with Merlin for an hour, every inch of the front of my shirt is covered with both. She might make more in 2 days than my conure makes in a year.

They can learn to imitate any sound they like I think. I had always read about the talking ability and hadn't realized they were master mimics period. Merlin isn't much of a talker but can imitate what I estimate to be about 75 sounds. Yes, she loves high pitched and annoying ones like the fire alarm, "code blue" (medical monitoring equipment that she learned because I watch House), an ambulance, dog squeaky toys, whistles. She also loves doing bodily function sounds and can do 7 or 8 different farts. She will also make a disgusting belch sound right in my face and then do a deep belly laugh (ha ha ha! Ho ho ho!) She also expects me to imitate them all back and it's rarely under an hour before she tires of that game :) And she tries to teach me, so if I don't do a good enough imitation she will keep doing the same sound over and over until I either meet her approval or she gives up on me for the time being. We also seem to have developed our own nonsensical language that we speak to each other. I think that developed from my imitation back of the squeaky car brakes, lol! It just kept developing into it's own Merlin/Audrey language that if others heard us speaking would question my mental status :D

She isn't terribly fond of other birds and is intensely jealous of other Greys or African species. She gets very angry if I even watch a video of them. I can't say for certain but I have the impression she considers herself "above" my S. American birds and other non Greys.

She is intensely bonded to me, and extremely affectionate, but I know many Greys are not Velcro birds. She will sit on me for as long as I let her, with her beak pressed against my face, demanding I pet and scritch her. The only other thing she loves as much is food. She is quite the piggy and loves to eat. And speaking of eating, she is especially happy if I hold pieces of apple for her or feed her from a spoon. She also trained me to pick up her water dish and hold it for her so she didn't have to bend over as far :hehe: I did not realize at first I was being trained :D

She is one of the greatest manipulators I've ever known, human or non human. She knows exactly how to play me by being cute and sweet about it (no temper tantrums from Merlin; she knows you catch more bees with honey). Aside from the water bowl, she will also flatten herself against me when it's time to go back to her cage so I can't get a hand under her. She will also go to my shoulder with her butt to my face and her head on my upper arm to flatten herself as I can't really get either hand in front of her. Then she will jump off me onto the couch and bend her head for more scritches and give me the biggest puppy dog eyes. Then often when I go to place her on a perch, she will quickly run up my arm and bury her face in my chest and give me the puppy dog eyes and beg for more cuddle and petting. She has another where she hangs on the cage bars perfectly still, with her head cocked giving me that sappy look until I come over and kiss her. It's impossible to resist and it gets me every time :)

When she wants to dance, she gets my attention and then does a couple of dance steps and looks toward where she knows I am, and expects me then to sing for her until she doesn't feel like dancing anymore.

She is my heart and I don't mind meeting all her demands :) However, I am often up sick all night and need to nap in the afternoon. My other birds can see so they know I'm napping and will let me until it's afternoon snack time. Merlin can't see so she doesn't know and often as soon as I lay down I hear, "Whoo!" and then she wants to play the sound imitation game. I love her so much it's ok though. I'm used to not sleeping :hehe:
 

sodakat

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LOL, Merlin. Her noises reminded me of something else Maui was so good at. We still had Sandy our best ever dog in the whole world cocker spaniel when Maui lived with us. Sandy was ALWAYS under my feet. So, when I sat on the couch Sandy was lying on the floor right in front of me. 9 times out of 10 when I stood up Sandy would stand up and the "feathers" on his beautiful cocker coat would be under my feet. As he tried to stand his hair would pull because my feet were on it and he would yelp.

Maui perfected that yelp. So both the dog and the bird yelped whenever I stood up. Even if the dog wasn't lying there, Maui would yelp when I stood.

This meant she would sigh as I was sitting down (apparently when I was exhausted I let out a sigh when I finally got to sit!) and yelped when I stood up. My Mom laughed and laughed whenever she came to visit. Until Maui started farting when Mom was on her way to the bathroom! :D
 

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Oh yes, the "sigh". I didn't even realize I did it until Merlin started doing it. She takes in a deep breath and lets it out loudly. I took her in for her sinus flush and said, "I don't know if she's raspy or imitating a sigh, but it sounds just like how a person does it." She did it there and they all laughed at me and said, uh, yes, she's imitating you :o:
 

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Pogo did the sigh too, usually when I came home from work. He would also make smacking noises when I used the mixer in preparation for me licking the beaters. One day I thought "I don't smack like that" and then realized I did. :o: One day my ex-h was heading for the bathroom right near Pogo's play stand and he started doing farting noises and laughing in quick succession - fart, laugh, fart, laugh, fart, laugh. It was the funniest thing.

He also had a little routine before coming out of the cage. After I opened the cage, he would climb to the top and hang upside down in the doorway and wait for me to sing a song. He would swing crazily to the song. If he didn't like the song or was tired of it he would wait for me to sing a different one.

He would spend hours sitting on my hand or shoulder and would play on the bed with his toys for hours too. He started a game where he would try to sneak up on my hand with the computer mouse in it to attack it (lightly peck at it). If I looked up before he got there he would run off to the end of the bed. He was so cute! :swoon:
 

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Oh I have something else to add about Emma that I've never appreciated. It's called the african grey bait and switch. Below is more info on it.

It's been a while since Emma's pulled this maneuver on me, however when she does it's not nice at all. Sometimes she would even would grind down extremely hard on my finger then let go and literally let out a belly laugh after the sneaky deed. I would be VERY happy if this habit of hers would disappear for good. None of my other parrots seem to have this type of streak in them.

http://forums.avianavenue.com/african-grey-alley/48772-african-grey-bait-switch-tactic.html
I think African Greys, specifically the Congos as I don't notice it so much with my Timnehs, are great observers of and interested in human behavior. Zorba likes to play games or try to do things to see if he can predict what my behavior will be. And yes, he is very good at bait and switch. I have noticed his tell though when he is tricking me. He will put his head down for the scritch and if he is going to nip instead of accept the scritch he will turn his head just the tiniest of turns. The turn is barely noticeable, but that is his tell and he has taught me to look for that. He rarely gets the opportunity to nip me anymore.

When my Mom came to live with us Zorba took an immediate interest in her. Mom was sitting upstairs with me one day. Our chairs were side by side with an end table in the middle. Zorba landed on the table and bent his head down in Mom's direction. Mom asked me, “Does he want me to scratch his head?” I said, “No, he wants you to try and scratch his head. Don't do it Mom he will bite you.”

Another example of his trickery: I've been practicing target training with the parrots trying to reinforce fly here. I was in the kitchen one day when I heard Zorba in the living room making the clicker sound. Guess he wants to do some clicker training I thought. I got the target stick out and the clicker. I called out “Zorba, Fly Here”. He flew into the kitchen and landed on the hanging basket. I clicked the clicker and handed him a treat where he promptly nipped me. It wasn't a real bite but it hurt and I think he wanted to see if he could sucker me into a position where he could nip me and watch me jump.

Even though I didn't appreciate the nip I received. I did appreciate his ability to think out such an elaborate plan to set me up. When I was typing up this post, I was thinking it might be perceived as the "Bad and Ugly" part of living with African Greys. But I think it is the "Good" part. I've learned to appreciate his sense of humor and to realize that, in order to get the desired behavior I want from him, I have to be smart enough to create an environment that presents him the opportunity to choose to do that behavior.

Zorba likes showers and will usually want one if he sees the other birds getting a shower. I had just finished Ditto’s shower and Zorba was perched on the play stand that is right outside the bathroom where I shower the birds. I asked him if he wanted a shower and offered my hand for a step-up. He didn’t move or indicate he wanted to comply so I went back to fixing breakfast. I heard him fly down and I turned around to see him standing on the floor in the doorway of the bathroom. I walked over and asked him, do you want a shower now? He put his foot up. I stepped him up and placed him on the shower perch. It was now his idea to get a shower.

I lived with my Timneh’s for a few years before bringing Zorba into the house. I had read there wasn’t much difference between the Timneh and Congo, but I’m not so sure about that now. I’m finding out living with a Congo African Grey is fascinating and challenging. But in a good way for me.
 

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I am so pi$$ed!! I just wrote 4 long paragraphs and my computer froze up!!!:mad: Will try later.
 

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Josie is only 9 months old, so most of my comments are geared more towards a young grey.

Good...
Independent: She is very content to play for hours on her own.
Great talker: Josie was talking by 4 months old and she picks up new stuff all the time.
Intelligent: Very quick to pick up new words and much quicker at associating words with actions than my other birds.
Sense of humor: She will do things just to make me laugh
Slightly cuddly: Likes to snuggle a bit, but only for short periods
Quiet: The majority of her noises are talking and sound effects.
Playful: Likes to swing, hang upside down, and is great with all sorts of toys.


Bad and Ugly...
Loud: While she is generally a much quieter bird than the others, she can have some very loud moments and has picked up some of my other birds more annoying noises.
100% toddler: She's go go go all the time and must be kept stimulated or she will go off and destroy something she's not supposed to. Definitely not a bird that can sit in a cage for hours.
Bait and Switch: She can give a cute, I'm friendly, sort of look and then bite anyway.
Bad words: Picks up on everything she's NOT supposed to say.
Dusty: I am not allergic to anything and even I sneeze when cage cleaning sometimes. The dust gets everywhere. An air filter is almost a requirement.
Scare easily: If she sees something scarey she will fly off immediately. I know that some greys can be phobic, so I make a point not to treat her like she's made of glass. If something scares her I don't make a big deal out of it. I show her what it was and that it's not going to hurt her.
Not good with other birds: She will tolerate them being in the same room, but not on the same play stand or within 4 feet.

I had a hard time coming up with negatives, as I love even the bad stuff about her. All put together it gives her a kick butt personality. I like a little bit of attitude in all my birds!
 

Saemma

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,I wanted to add my own description when it comes to living with African grey dust. It's like *constantly* living with a light layer of powdered sugar and moderate sprinkling of DANDRUFF on EVERYTHING. How does that sound to you? Imagine how that all looks on dark furniture, dark clothes, and dark floors? Emma can release a flurry of her particles simply by shrugging. When she flies it is TENFOLD or moew.
Seems to me that Emma becomes dustier as she gets old. It may also be that cleaning and running after her dustiness for the last 5 years has becoming quite the UNDESIRABLE chore some days.

Anyway, she's awesome and I Adore her most. A dusty grey is also a very healthy one. It's important to know what it's like because if things work as I hope I'll be cleaning up after my Emma for the next 40 years or so. Reading about the DUST is a much different matter than living with it. It's important to consider this aspect of being an african grey owner and this is not something I truly knew about in advance.
 
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