Post by modteam on Nov 3, 2015 11:44:01 GMT
Beginners Guide to Degu Keeping
The common degu (Octodon degus) is a small mammal originating in the semi-arid, scrubland plains of Chile. They are highly social animals, living in extended family groups with complex vocal and body language communication. They are mainly active in the daytime over wide areas of diverse habitat foraging for a varied plant based diet and retreating to an extensive burrow at night. Degus were introduced as scientific research subjects in the 1960s and have gradually become more popular as pets over the last 25 years. Degus belong to the family Octodontidae, and are a member of the suborder Hystricognatha within the order Rodentia. They live for approximately 6 to 8 years in captivity.
Before You Get Degus
Degus require a long term commitment to care for them for their full lifespan and considerable commitment of time, money and space to provide large housing, a varied diet, vet care and the attention they need. They have a basic temperature requirement which may not be within your control to be kept within approx 17 to 25C (62 to 77F) most of the time. If you have other pets like cats and dogs, which are natural predators of degus, you need to be sure you can keep your degus safe and not stressed by their proximity. You should be prepared for the social complexities, and territorial and hierarchical behaviour which could lead to fighting, which can cause stress for you and extra housing requirements. Vet care for degus around the world is patchy, so check in advance there is a degu experienced vet in your area. You may find that degu housing is too big to move and you may need somebody to come in to your home to provide holiday care.
Choosing Your Degus
National and local rescue organisations are a great place to source your degus as there are usually many degus of all ages looking for new homes. Internet based rehoming sites, facebook groups and degu forums are also good places to look. Second hand sites sometimes offer degus, but do beware of 'backyard' breeders with little knowledge deliberately breeding degus in poor conditions for profit. Most degus sold in shops come from large breeding facilities with little regard to pet health. You may wish to consider that wherever you get your degus from you are supporting and enabling them, be it rescue or business.
If you are buying degus it is strongly recommended that you only buy agouti (brown) degus as these tend to be the most healthy and any other colours or patterns have generally been intensively selectively bred for the colour or pattern with complete disregard for associated health problems.
Degus should live in groups and so young animals should always be sold/ rehomed in groups, and care should be taken to avoid leaving lone degus. Groups of 3 are ideal for beginners, larger groups of 4 or 5 are also great if you can provide adequate housing. Pairs are OK but can leave you vulnerable to having to deal with a lone degu and introductions in case of early death, and may limit some social behaviour. Degus sometimes get split from their group due to fighting and then offered individually for rehoming, it is vital to offer these degus a second chance at a social group. Sometimes the fighting has been overestimated or not dealt with ideally and persistence or a change in degu characters offered and some understanding of degu social dynamics can make a big difference.
How to Sex Your Degus
Always check the gender of your degus for yourself as soon as possible, see our sexing thread for more help. We frequently hear of problems from mis-sexed degus resulting in many unwanted pups and a lot of stress and dilemmas for new owners. This seems to be due to both sexes having a urethral cone which gives the appearance of a male appendage, when in fact you are looking for a larger gap between the two openings for a male, and a smaller gap for females. You can use a sheet of mesh or glass, or a large glass jar or dish to help you get a good look, it can help to take a photo.