A suitable environment for degus
Every degu deserves a good home, where they can be healthy and happy.
Our top tips to give degus a good home:
- A solid roof to their housing. As a prey species degus can get frightened from movements above them; a solid roof can help them to feel safe and secure. Their main predators in the wild are birds of prey. Therefore, avoid placing their enclosure at ground level as they may be stressed by any overhead movements. Placing enclosures at waist height on a shelf or table may be less stressful for your degus.
- Safe, secure and hazard-free environment. Enclosures should be checked regularly for any signs of damage which could injure your degus or allow them to escape. All items within their enclosure should also be regularly inspected for damage and replaced as necessary.
- Plenty of vertical space to allow them to climb. Provide branches made from safe wood (e.g. pear, apple, beech) and platforms at different levels so they can climb/jump from one to another. A stable rock formation can also offer a great opportunity for climbing. In the wild they will naturally climb onto the branches of shrubs and small trees.
- Space to be active. Their housing should be large enough for them to carry out all their natural behaviours including running, jumping, climbing, chewing, dustbathing, digging and nesting as well as eating, drinking and toileting.
- Provide items to chew such as wooden/rope/cardboard toys. Avoid toys that are made from plastic and any wood that may be toxic, e.g. cedar.
- Plenty of enrichment, such as a large exercise wheel and tunnels should be provided to help keep your degus busy. Degus are very active and need plenty of opportunities to exercise.
- A shallow heavy bowl filled with suitable sand for dust bathing (Chinchilla sand is ideal for this). The bowl should be big enough for them to roll around in and the dust should be around 4cm deep. However they should only have access to this two or three times a week for about 20 minutes.
- A deep layer of bedding material so they can dig and burrow. The bottom of the enclosure should be solid with a deep layer of material such as hay, shredded paper and paper tissues; non-toxic wood shavings can also be used. This is important for stimulating natural behaviours, such as digging.
- Constant access to hay-filled nest boxes to rest/sleep.
- Well ventilated and draught free housing. Degus which are housed in fish tank/glass vivariums can suffer from respiratory problems as they don’t allow enough air to circulate in and out. To avoid degus overheating the temperature shouldn’t exceed 20°C. Enclosures should be sited in a cool area of the house away from any radiators or other heat sources. If you notice your degus lying still, flat on their stomach this could mean they are overheating and you should speak to your vet immediately for further advice.
- To be housed in a room where they have light throughout the day and darkness during the night. The lights should go on and off at more or less the same time each day. Degus are naturally active during the day.
- Their housing cleaned regularly so urine/droppings don’t accumulate. Toilet and feeding areas should be cleaned daily and the rest of their enclosure at least once a week. After cleaning put some used but unsoiled nesting and bedding material back into the enclosure to help keep scents familiar to your degus and reduce the stress associated with cleaning. Always make sure you remove any hoarded food that is at risk of spoiling.