How Do I Get My African Grey to Stop Biting My Toes?

How Do I Get My African Grey to Stop Biting My Toes?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Mary G. related,

I adopted a 29-year-old African grey from a local bird sanctuary in June. 

My downstairs is an open plan, so if I am in the living area or kitchen area, I leave the cage open for him to get to his playtop.

A couple of weeks ago he got brave and started to get down off the cage to explore.

Unlike my previous grey, he has no interest in chewing the floorboard moldings, furniture,  or drapes, but he tries to bite my toes regardless of whether I am wearing sandals, slippers, or shoes that cover the toes and feet completely.

If I am sitting on the couch, I can put my feet up on the coffee table, but if I am doing anything that requires standing or sitting with my feet on the floor, I have to put him in his cage so we won’t try to bite my feet or the feet of anyone else who happens to be visiting me. 

He is not interested in any of the toys or treats I make available for him when he is walking around.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deter this behavior?

Marybeth G.

Catherine Tobsing wrote:

Dear Mary

This is a learned behavior that you will have to avoid until he forgets or loses interest in your toes for something different.

A prior owner may have wiggled their toes at the bird and encouraged this behavior for whatever reason.

The bird likely received attention for this and thus will continue doing it unless it has something else that will give it the same or better attention/reward.

The bird may not have had any other playtime with its previous owner and this was his only way to connect even though it turned into a bad thing.

Birds are amoral. Meaning that everything they do is just fine with them even if it is not with you. They cannot be punished as they will only relate the punishment with you doling it out and not with the problem that you are trying to address.

You will have to wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet. If the bird starts to toddle over, you cannot squeal and dance around, waving your arms, yelling, etc. as this is all very entertaining to the bird and will result in the bird continuing to do it when it likes.

You will have to ignore it completely, staying quiet and neutral or at most stomp and make a scary sound and effect to scare him away. That is it.

No rewarding the bird by talking to the bird, picking it up, treats, nothing good. Even picking it up and putting it in his cage is a reaction that the bird can learn.

“Hey, if I go peck at her toes, she will pick me up and take me to my cage where all my stuff and food is, yay.” It is still a reward and you are not his chauffeur.

What you need to do is find things that entertain the bird. That he can look forward to with you. Most birds will get bored and need something to do. What are you doing with him now?

Play games, and use a big thick Booda perch to lift and lower your bird so his wings flap and he can get some exercise. Drop treats into paper cups and fold the top so he has to open them up to get them out. Give him boxes to destroy. Do it together if you can.

Basically, you need to offer up something to your new family member to cause him to have something to do with you other than sit around, or fall back onto old habits, good or bad.

Regards,

Catherine

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Catherine Tobsing

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