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The Timneh African Grey
Stepping Out of the Shadow of it's Larger Cousin

Rita Shimniok

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timneh african grey The big secret is finally out of the bag, yes, Timneh African Greys DO talk just as well as their red-tailed cousins, and they have personalities that are just as big, despite their smaller size. The demand for the Timneh African Grey is on the rise as more and more people are realizing this.

It seems much more difficult to locate a Timneh baby versus a Congo, once you begin searching. I believe there are at least two reasons for this. One being that Timnehs were never imported in large numbers, especially compared to the Congo Grey from which importers could make a larger profit; and secondly it seems, that for many breeders, Timneh Greys are not as prolific in breeding as the Congos. This is unfortunate, as some breeders attempting to breed Timnehs even become frustrated with the lack of production and sell their pairs. If everyone were to give up on breeding the Timneh African Grey, pet owners would miss the opportunity of having one of the most wonderful parrots as their feathered companion.

People who are lucky enough to cater to both Congo and Timneh Grey companions, have noticed that often the Timneh is a more outgoing in presence of company, compared to their seemingly more introverted, larger cousin. Timnehs do not seem to be as concerned about strangers in their presence, and go on about their leisure, playing with toys and chattering to their hearts content. Why is this? Do Timneh African Greys really have a more laidback personality? Or, does it just seem that way, because so many Congo Greys are raised in production style facilities, and perhaps are not as well socialized as the Timnehs, which are often bred by the smaller, non commercialized breeder.

Many breeders who raise both the Timneh and the Congo Grey, also find that the Timneh babies have a more low-key temperament, and do not seem as high-strung as the Congos. If a family with children calls me wanting an African Grey, I highly recommend the Timneh to them over the larger Congo, not only because I feel their size is less intimidating to children, but because I also feel the Timneh's personality will be better suited to a family situation.

Wild-Caught Timnehs

Until a short time ago, locating a baby Timneh was almost impossible, and imported birds were all that was available. I have worked with and have known several imported Timneh African Greys that have become very nice pets. All imported untame Greys, whether Timneh or Congos, certainly do like to growl and protest handling despite your most gentle efforts. It is easy to get upset when trying to approach a wild-caught Grey for a taming session. I advise you to lower your energy and catch the bird up in a towel (approaching from the front) as quickly as possible, and then immediately calm yourself and speak soothingly to the bird.

A friend of mine, Sara, bought a wild caught Timneh named Stormy a couple of years ago. Like most Greys, he protested quite readily when I would visit for a taming session. As I sat Indian style on the floor of Sara's bathroom, with a toweled Stormy in my lap, he soon quieted with the peace and serenity of a quiet home and soothing voices. I have learned that Greys LOVE to have their cheeks rubbed-there is a special spot right below their eye that seems to put them in a trance-like stupor. Gently, I rubbed Stormy's cheek area, going with the lay of the feathers, and soon his eyes closed and he became very calm. At this point I allowed the towel to loosen and soon had this wonderful wild-caught creature at ease, accepting my attentions, and actually ENJOYING the physical interaction of head skritching and foot massage. After a couple of sessions Sara learned how to do the same, and she and Stormy have regular weekly sessions.

Despite what I have read and heard, I have found wild caught Timneh African Greys to be extremely easy to tame. I believe one must emit the correct energy field, as Greys are very in tune to a person's anxieties and body language. A hyper person is going to create a hyper African Grey. Sara is the "bird person" in her family, and her Timneh is the light of her life. Stormy is definitely Sara's bird, and even though her husband Erv makes an effort to show he doesn't really care for "that bird" - he and Stormy also have a special relationship.

As Erv is the first to arrive home each day from work, Stormy greets him with a wolf whistle when the door opens from the garage. Enroute to Stormy's room one can hear an excited "want peanut". Despite himself, Erv makes it a point to go to Stormy's bedroom filled with playgyms and toys, opens the cage cage door and "that bird" happily receives his treats. Like many Timnehs, Stormy has an extensive vocabulary, and is very good at playing games. If asked what sounds a dog, cat, and so on, make - Stormy replies with the proper vocalization.

Stormy is just one example of many wonderful pet Timnehs, originally imported, that are labeled by many, to be "broncos". I hear many stories with "happy endings" of wild Timnehs that tamed and became members of the family with a little love and understanding. Another couple I know bought a "bronco" Timneh, and in three days time the bird allowed petting and joined the couple at the dinner table to share food. The point here is not to encourage one to purchase a wild-caught Timneh, but to try to disprove the old saying that wild-caught Timnehs are harder to tame than wild-caught Congos. In my breeding program, my wild-caught Timnehs readily take treats from my hand and try to pull their dishes with favorite foods from my hands, whereas my wild-caught Congos either hide in their nestbox and flee to the safety of their back high perch at the sound of my voice.

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