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My African Grey loves me but doesn't want to step up. Please help!!

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Posted (edited)


I have my African grey boy for 4,5 months now, he's almost 2 years old and had only one owner previously.

He has amazing personality and such a fast learner, he learned already so many new words and sounds from me. He's very comfortable with me and constantly staying on his one leg, and has the belly shiver when I even talk to him ( the sign that he's actually happy). He doesn't have any problem to take food from my hands and even from my lips and he gives me lots of kisses, he's not scared to be very close to my face and even touches my hair with his beak, but at the same time in no way he will step up on my hand ( but he was stepping up on the previous owner). As soon as I'll put my hand next to him in the position to step up he becomes very scared and sometimes even starts to shiver or he's trying to "fly away". He can't fly at all as when I got him the previous owner clipped his wing terribly ( the vet did ), only 1 wing was clipped which is totally wrong and was literally until the "meat" ( so he had no feathers there at all, and he was falling so many times that I constantly had blankets on the floor so in case he falls he won't hurt himself. Still at the beginning he even had a bit of blood there which was extremely upsetting. Hopefully the wings grew a bit back after quite a long time even if he still can't fly.

I've never done anything bad to him to be so scared of my hands for the stepping up, so I really don't understand his reaction. I can see he loves me and he's constantly looking for contact with me but at the same time he doesn't let me touch him completely.

He doesn't live in his cage. I mean, I put the training stand right next to his cage with an open door so he can get out any time and goes from the cage's door to the stand and he's always free, he also sleeps on the stand or inside his cage whenever he wants ( I don't cover him at night, I just turn the light when he's ready to sleep).

I'm extremely patient with him as I do love him a lot but I'm getting a bit desperate with what to do and how to make him step up and what am I doing wrong?

Any of your advice will be much appreciate it and I really hope someone can help me with it.

Thanks a lot in advance!!



Edited by angiey
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Welcome! This is only a suggestion....assorted possibilities can be color of fingernail polish if worn, fragrance on hands from lotion, soap, gloves, etc. Thank you.

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Its possible he has developed a hand phobia, some birds just do not like hands so offer an arm for him to step up on and see if the reaction is the same. I don't usually wear nail polish so if on occasion I do wear some my grey doesn't like it at all, she thinks its something out to kill her. Its good you are very patient with him and it can take longer than 4.5 months for him to fully trust you as grey time is slow time.


As for the wing trim, how can someone think that clipping only one side is a proper trim, the way you describe your bird was butchered plain and simple and that person should never touch your bird or any bird again, I'd be mad as hell if it happened to my bird, that person would be "butchered" if you get my drift.

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Posted (edited)

Don't force her.

Riamfada also did not like to step up on my hand at the very beginning when she was given to my charge.

Extracted from Quora How do I train a vicious older grey    http://qr.ae/TUpfbv



Riamfada was a wild caught. Evidenced by the open ring around her leg.

Estimated to be about 6–7 years when she was given into my care when she flew and landed into a lady’s garden in Oman who decided I would be a far better person to hand over to then the former owner who clipped assymetrically on just one wing.

Riamfada came to me very bitey and fearful.

In a couple of days, photos of her and me

A hostess trolley was bought and assembled. Riamfada’s cage was heavy and we thought placing that cage on trolley, we could more easily take her out to the living room where I spend lot of time watching the financial meltdown on the TV or next to me on laptop to Internet. This trolley not tested yet as I wanted to let the silicon sealant I added to set in addition to the screws. But it was wobbly enough for us to go buy another table this Friday morning for the living room to place Riamfada’s cage on. Just in case we cannot use that trolley and must carry the cage.

I wonder if Riamfada might force me away from chess like bitchy Tinkerbell did to me,


On Thursday night I induced Riamfada to do a step up. It was a pseudo step up but I am not complaining. She had refused to step up on hand or stick. So I removed a branch from her cage and placed it on top of cage. She later got out of cage and was standing on that branch. I removed it and placed on my hand, talking gently and nicely to her while giving her headrubs that she liked from me.

I took it as an ‘icebreaker’.

What I did was to respect my charges with the dignity due to sentient beings and offer love and friendship as equals. You do that, and you will get the same result as I do.

I was told that your charge be hungry. So presumably if you do not get results you wanted, they should be made hungrier?

I felt that is not position of equality that made them come to you and like you but hunger for food. You note that Riamfada food bowl is always filled with mash. Yingshiong food bowl always had food in it. Needless to say with Tinkerbell, that was the same.

What I hold back and used as treats to them were food that they liked, but they were never that hungry to begin with. And as I had written earlier, they would fly to me regardless of how my wife tried to shamelessly bribe waving favourite treats at them to fly to her.

On Sunday 26 Oct, I was back home for lunch break. She did not step up on my hand yet. Sometimes, she would put one foot on my hand, but hold back from stepping up. In the step-up exercises, at times one of her feet was on my hand holding the stick. I earlier said that I would give her time to get used to me and accept of her own accord my hand to step up on.

I thought perhaps she was hesitant, but should I meet her halfway and try to persuade her all the way? Was I too much in forcing that issue with her to step on my hand? There was always this uncertainty as I tried my best never to force her.

I took a deep breath. I hold the stick such that my finger laid on top with a bit of stick space too small for her. At my step up cue, she placed on foot on my finger and took a step to stand with other foot on the stick to my praises and treats. I then slowly pull the balance of the stick into my hand, and she was on my hand with both feet. She trembled a bit. I kept whispering sweet nothings to her while feeding her sunflower seeds and walking about in her flight room. To reassure her that all is well. That she would not dissappear into a black hole when she stood on my hand. I then got her to step on the bar stand. I hold my hand, and at my cue, she got up on my hand. I repeated those exercises. I stood back and asked her to come.

She flew off the bar and landed on my hand to lots of treats. That was done again a few times. I called my wife into the flight room. Riam would not step on her hand. But would step on the branch hold by her.


I felt we gotten over that hand barrier.

When I got back after work, she would not step on hand again. But I knew that the ice was broken. I used that stick as warm-up to step up and recall.
Then when I gave my hand to step up, she did so. And in the recall flights to my arm as well.

In one of the photo of flight, you can see clearly the clipped part of one wing.


In this photo, she came up to the shoulder herselfr

Riamfada on hand

She came to me as a frightened ball of grey and with wings asymmetrically clipped.

Her story started here

October, 2008 - shanlung

Then we became good friends. and she got to understand her wings better.

Riamfada flying up to me on sand dune in Seifa beach in stiff cross winds.


Story in

shanlung: Oman won 19th Gulf Cup//Riamfada outing to Yiti/Seifa beaches // Katie's first 'present' to us

Riamfada flying to me above rampart of Nakhal castle


story in 
shanlung: 12 March Nakhal Fort/hotsprings

And in a year, she was doing free flights with me in the open.


Idiot kitties // Riamfada free flights at home and outside villa

Edited by shanlung
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