What size enclosure; Degus are ground living animals who are extremely active so the emphasis is on solid floor space rather than height. It is vital that you do not use wire mesh or plastic. Wire mesh floors cause painful bumble foot (see health section) and plastic is not a suitable material because degus will chew it. Width and depth are the priorities. Keep in mind that the more floor levels you have, the more height you will need depending on the number of degus that you are keeping. It is worth remembering, especially if you are building your own enclosure that the taller you build, the more you will have to consider safety. Degus often can and do fall from heights causing nasty injuries or worse, particularly those who are visually impaired with cataracts or are advanced in age. Please ensure that all levels are built in such a way that your degus cannot fall and that they have a safe means of travelling from floor level to floor level. But as a guide you will need a minimum of 3 full solid floor levels for keeping 2-3 degus. The more degus you keep, the more floor space they will need. Shelves do not count towards floor space.
Please note for UK readers. We DO NOT recommend the thickets cage that is often sold for degus/chinchillas that can be purchased from a well known pet store chain. This is a good example of a cage that is all wrong for degus! This cage has two small shelves, a wire floor and there is not anywhere near enough width or depth size. Also there is minimal access to the inside of the cage for cleaning. These are points that need to be considered when planning where your degus live.
The size of enclosure that you provide for your degus can have a big impact on their quality of life and also contribute negatively or positively in the way that your degus behave.
We often hear of degus on a frequent basis who are constantly bickering and fighting and without doubt, inadequate enclosure size does cause negative behaviours. If your degus do not have ample space to exhibit natural behaviours and are restricted on individual personal space, aggressive behaviour often can and does happen. Even though we, like degus, are social creatures, it doesn't mean that we would want to be contained in such a small space with others 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please consider this when you are choosing/building a suitable enclosure for your degus. It makes sense that the more degus you have, the bigger space required.
Your enclosure needs to be a minimum of 120cm wide and 50 cm deep. None of our degu homes measure less than this and over the years we have found that you really cannot give them too much space.
If you have any further questions please ask on the Degu Health & Behaviour group on Facebook. Please click here
Grass houses and mats; good for hiding, sleeping and chewing.
Enclosure furniture ideas.
Wheels; In the wild degus cover many miles in a day and they need an outlet for their energy. A running wheel is ideal and most if not all degus appreciate a wheel or two in their enclosure. If you have 5 or more degus in the enclosure then 2 wheels are recommended. Please ensure that your wheel is made from either metal or wood. Although wood can and will still be chewed, it is a safer material.
Plastic wheels that are obtained from pet shops are usually too small and when the edges are chewed these become sharp and cause injury. People often use wire mesh wheels which may be suitable for other rodents, but they certainly are not suitable for degus. they suffer injuries to their feet, repeated running on the wire causes bumble foot, a painful condition. Degu tails get caught in wire wheels resulting in de-gloving. Please do not ever provide a wire mesh wheel.
The recommended minimum diameter for a running wheel is 33cm with a depth of 14 cm. 42 cm is the minimum for running saucers. Please inspect your wheel regularly for signs of wear and tear and replace when necessary.
Wood logs; are a welcome and natural addition. **Please see our safe wood list**.
Hammocks; are good for sleeping in and all of our degus get great pleasure snuggling in them but if you are offering a hammock please check them daily for loose threads and holes as they can strangle themselves or get limbs stuck resulting in injury or worse.
Chunks of safe wood threaded onto chains and attached to the enclosure offer plenty of boxing and chewing opportunities. Also cardboard tubes/boxes made from vegetable parchment or any cardboard that is ink and chemical free.
Safe wood list; **Please do not assume that the leaves from all of these trees are safe to feed.**
Alder - black; grey; green; red
Ash - European; Oregon; Mountain
Aspen - Eurasian; Trembling
Birch - water; paper; silver
Common grape vine
Crab Apple; European; Pacific
Cottonwood; Eastern; Fremont
Elm - European white; Field; Camperdown
Hawthorn - black; midland; common.
Lime- small leaved; large leaved; silver
Mulberry - white; black; red
Maple - Field; Vine; Douglas; Big Leaf; Norway; Sycamore; Sugar; Silver
Oak; Garry; English; Sessile; Northern Red
Willow; White; Weeping; Peachleaf; Goat; Crack; Pacific; Chinese; purple.
This is a personal choice but as a guide any untreated, no added scent paper/cardboard substrate is suitable to absorb liquids and odours. No sawdust or similar products, this often irritates their respiratory system and is messy.
Cleaning: The more degus that you keep the more often they will need cleaning out. It really is common sense. To clean the cage we use animal friendly white vinegar in very hot water to wipe down all of the levels, sides and toys. Twice a year we use a hand held steamer for a really deep clean. Leave the cage to air dry with all the doors open or if in a hurry you can also use a hairdryer. It is important that your degus do not go back into a damp cage, it must be completely dry.
If you have any further questions please ask on the Degu Health & Behaviour group on Facebook. Please click the degu icon below to link to our group.
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