Degus – what a fun, interesting animal. Also known as (Octodon Degus) come from Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. They are a cousin to the chinchilla and have the soft fur like a chinchilla, only a beautiful brown colour with black mixed in.
A full grown adult is about six inches tall and stands on its hind legs to get a good look at its surroundings. Then they run, however, they run on all fours. This includes running on their much loved wheel that they will often share. Watching two Degus share a wheel is a wonderful sight. They love to dig and chew and are well adapted to do this. Degus need to be kept in housing that they cannot chew through such as a wire rabbit hutch. Degus are communal animals and love to be together. They run and play and chase each other. This is also associated with mating. Breeding is a very busy time. Lots and lots of running and chasing and after about 90 days there they are. If you suspect an expecting mother, don’t rub the tummy as that can cause a miscarriage. Sexual maturity start as early as 45 days and sometimes not until almost two years of age. Siblings and relatives should not breed and breeding pairs should be kept separate as to avoid these accidental conceptions. When there are new babies in the nest, dad will care for them after mom gives birth. Mom does nurse and she has four pairs of teats for her babies.
Mom will lay on top of the babies and nurse rather than the traditional laying on her side. Litters can range any where from two to ten babies. They can conceive again right after giving birth and their gestation period is about 90 days. We have been experiencing about two litters a year.
Often the adults in the group will keep all the babies together for safety and will move them around frequently for the same reasons. Degu babies are small and can be born with or without fur. Sometimes their eyes and ears are nearly open at birth. We start handling the babies as soon as mother and father will let us, within a few days. They are very cuddly and enjoy gentle stroking.
A favourite treat of Degus is raisins and an offer of raisins to a new pet will help for the two of you to bond. However, raisins should only be given rarely, since Degus cannot digest sugars, even natural ones. Another favourite is unsalted, un-roasted peanuts. Degus also enjoy dried corn cobs, peanuts, alfalfa and guinea pig pellets. A good degu cage is essential to the well being of your pets. When it is feeding time, Degus will take their food and distribute it around the nest and different areas of their underground habitat. They like to hide things for later. They also need fresh water every day.
Degus have a predatory tail that if caught, they can pull themselves away and leave the skin of their tail behind them with a bare bloody tail. Left to themselves, they will chew the remainder of their tail off and be left with a short tail the rest of their lives. With this tail, their excellent sense of hearing, and their burrowing abilities, nature has provided them is lost.
Degus has many different ways to lead a long life. Degus have another interesting feature about them – if they are healthy, their teeth are bright yellow or yellow orange. If their teeth are white, they are not doing well and probably won’t live much longer. The sleep habits of a Degu is like that of a cat. They may take lots of naps, but they will also get up and play. When the excitement is over they might go back to sleep. But generally, Degus are most active in the early morning and late evening hours.
Hand raised Degu babies make wonderful pets. With their odour free environment, peaceful nature and their unending curiosity are just a few of the things that make them so enjoyable and a wonderful addition to your home. A Degu environment should have places to burrow and provide underground tubing for them to have tunnels. Climbing is also something they like when chasing each other. They enjoy grazing very much and like to spread food and treats around in and out of their homes and bedding. Use an appropriate number of water bottles to accommodate the colony. They do enjoy warmer temperatures – what would be comfortable to us.