Done and done. The girls love the kitchen! Obviously a much better place than a stinky cardboard pen. They started exploring and making mischief very quickly after some initial carefulness. All of them seemed to really enjoy a big floorspace to run around in. I think it'll be mcuh easier for them to get familiar with Pulla there, since they're obviously a lot less stressed there than in a small pen.
Today was the first day of kitchen introductions. Like I kind of expected, the new location and new smells had pretty much reset the whole introduction, and Pulla was not totally alright with the situation, but I think it's still better in the long run.
Despite the thorough cleaning, Pulla obviously recognized the kitches as his space, and was pretty apprehensive about the girls invading it. We had a pretty long intro, 40 minutes or so (there was so much more space that much of that time was spent not interacting in any case), and for the first 30 or so Pulla kept giving the girls some mean looks and being really tense around them. There was this repeated problem behavior where Pulla would corner a girl and demand grooming, and the girl would try to get along, but Pulla would nip her on the rump, causing the girl to freak, scream and jump at him, and making Pulla also freak out. None of this escalated to actual violence or fighting though, and it was mostly vocal and posturing. Apparently since the girls did not immediately start grooming and worshipping him, he was not willing to put up with it.
By the end of it, Pulla seemed to be coming to terms with the situation, and right at the end he even managed to have a positive interaction with Limppu, where he carefully groomed her and then mounted her, and Limppu agreed to it. Right after Posso also came along to socialize and Pulla did not mind.
So despite more arguing, I don't think things are going badly right now. Pulla might be a bit cross about his kitchen space being invaded, but he does not seem to be wanting to actually fight or attack the girls, he's just moody. Despite the girls being obviously smaller and weaker than him, he prefers to back off or give rather than to actually escalate the situation. So it's kind of like looking at a socially inept man interacting with excitable teenage girls. Lots of arguing and misunderstandings, but nobody is actually malicious. I think we'll get over this change just fine after a couple of days. It was necessary anyway, since nobody was acting all that natural in the pen, and even if they did get along there, it would not have prepared them for a shared cage.
Today went a lot better than yesterday, already. There was less arguing and more... I suppose you could call it productive arguing? After yesterday, when Pulla had a lot of moodiness about the girls taking over his kitchen, today they girls made it clear to him that it wasn't his kitchen any more! They'd totally had enough of his crap and made sure he knew
Pulla is either very patient with the girls and willing to work with them, or he's a huge wuss. But in any case, there were a couple of situations where Pulla would attempt to get cross with one of the girls, and the girl would immediately start shouting at him and chase him off. They're about half his size, but he immediately took flight when any of them actually got angry with him and/or submitted right away. Eyes wide open, head down, waiting for the girls to stop being angry at him. He didn't even consider fighting back at any point. At one time Posso (supposedly the meekest and smallest of the girls) actually ran after him around the kitchen, shouting angrily, and Pulla waddled away looking totally defeated and scared for a good while. Maybe it's the neutering, but he folds instantly as soon as any of the girls calls out his BS.
Despite the arguing and Pulla's anguish over the mean girls, it was obviously for the best: by the end of the outing time, Pulla was all humble and trying his best to get along with the girls - and it worked! None of the girls was mean to him when he carefully approached, all concilatory, gave them some grooming and stood by patiently while they inspected him. There was some hugging and he got to mount them again in a very orderly fashion.
I'm actually very proud of my silly boy. Despite all the difficulties, he is a kind little man who's obviously trying his best to get along with the new girls.
Another outing, and mostly a good one. Some misunderstandings that caused screaming, but for the most part Pulla behaved really well and the girls accepted his presence. They're quick to tell him when they don't appreciate him being all pushy, and he tends to respect it.
The only real issue was when Pulla apparently found something under a cupboard that really agitated him and actually got angry at the girls coming close to see what was going on. I think it's some forgotten towel from way back, something that probably smells like Munkki. I vaguely remember stuffing something like that under the cupboard to prevent the boys from pushing too far under it, and Munkki did like to hang around there a lot. So Pulla probably smelled his late rival and got worked up enough to actually box with Limppu a bit. They broke it up quickly though, and everyone made up shortly afterwards. I'll take care of that problem before the next outing.
The biggest issue I'm noticing is that Suti is actively avoiding any real contact with Pulla. Limppu and Posso have gotten very personal with him, for good and ill, and they seem to be quickly settling their affairs. Suti, however, likes to just run around the kitchen like crazy and actively moves away before Pulla can even sniff her. The few times they've gotten close to each other, Suti just gives him the cold shoulder and quickly moves on, actively avoiding all contact.
I guess it doesn't cause issues right now, but they'll have to come to terms somehow before I can proceed with this. Maybe it's just Suti's way of getting used to the big man, keeping her distance and letting others make it clear to him how things are supposed to go here. For now she's been much more keen to try and gnaw off paint chips from the walls before I can stop her. Don't worry though, I've dutifully pulled each scrap of paint out of her whining mouth
I hope so too. She is generally very hyperactive anyway and never stops moving, so it could be that it's just her way of dealing with the situation. At this point, though, she and Pulla haven't really had even one actual, personal interaction. She sometimes comes over when everyone is together, but other than that, she's been by herself. It might be that after the novelty of the kitchen wears off and she gets more used to Pulla, she'll be more willing to meet him. They did interact a bit in the pen, so hopefully taht will happen here as well.
Things went a bit more promisingly today. Suti has progressed from outright refusing to associate with Pulla to actually pretending he does not exist. She would hang near him but not engage at all, just keep pretending he's not there when Pulla inspected her. She would even sneakily sniff at him when he wasn't looking. Also seems like Suti might be in heat once again, and she whines mightily after I put them back into their cage and chases the other girls. It's not an aggressive whining, it's similar to the earlier situation wheer she would sit near Pulla and whine at him. Kind of strange how she doesn't really want to engage with Pulla all that much but is obviously frustrated afterwards.
Things went pretty similarly otherwise. Some arguing, and Pulla is really agitated by the cupboard still (will have to clean it more thoroughly I guess), but generally speaking things seem to be progressing. They're certainly not getting worse, and I don't think I've seen any serious aggression between them at any point, just annoyance or heated social exchanges. Pulla is still kind of struggling with learning manners, and for some reason he really wants to nip at the girls every now and then, which instantly (and pretty literally) comes back to bite him. It doesn't look aggressive at all, it's a slow, deliberate nip that doesn't draw blood or cause any actual damage, which is kinda weird. It almost looks like he misunderstands how grooming works and goes too hard and then one of the girls gets angry at him and chases him off. But there's no bad blood between them and they're almost immediately all chill again, so obviously it's "stop that!" reaction more than anything.
Also had a total heart attack today. My wife had apparently dropped a pin on the floor earlier, and Suti found it and absolutely wanted it, so she grabbed the thing by the plastic pin and started running around towards the other girls. It was totally jutting forward like a tiny lance! And of course, as soon as I tried to get it out of her mouth (in something of a panic), she just ran faster. Luckily she stopped to try and eat it, at which point I managed to snatch it from her. She was very heartbroken over losing her treasure
Degus are FASCINATED by shiny things, and are definitely treasure hoarders!! I love that she took an instant obsession over it, and was not going to let it be taken. ROFL!! It always used to amaze me what our boys would suddenly want and try to nick so they could tuck it away. They are very sneaky!!
Pulla may indeed be a bit clueless when it comes to grooming. Pups that have been removed too quickly from their mother are often rather lacking in degu social graces, but even a few of those that have had the benefit of all their mothers' teaching sometimes need more practice. LOL!! Sounds like the girls are helping Pulla to learn, and more than that, it sounds like Pulla is HAPPY to learn!
I would say that Pulla is very willing to learn, at least. He's not always happy when one of the girls shouts and jumps at him and chases him off, but he'd obviously be causing more issues if he wasn't willing to put up with it! I don't think he was removed too early (not sure of course), but I think the fact that he's spent something like two years alone in a cage (well, I've of course socialized with him, but he's the only inhabitant in the cage) and his only degu contact was... less than stable pretty clearly illustrates why he might be struggling with this. He's also always been kind of rough with his grooming sometimes, so it might honestly be that he's actually having to (re-)learn how much is too much when you're grooming someone.
He was separated from Munkki around late puberty, and has been mostly alone for his whole adult life. It's pretty sad, so I'm very happy that he's got company now, even if the going is a bit rough right now! It does seem like he's already happier, with just the girls next door where he can see them and hear them and meet them daily. Getting him new company was obviously worth it just for this already.
Today was a pretty challenging outing. I think the girls are acting up due to someone being in heat, but it seemed like most of them were kind of cranky today. Pulla got beaten up a lot and things seemed tense in general. Limppu was especially angry with everyone and growled and jumped at everyone who even dared to approach most of the time. And now they're all kind of making noise and scuffling in the cage and running around like crazy. Suti seems to be the main culprit, she's chasing the others and whining and shouting a lot. It seems like she's chasing everyone and looking for something very angrily? They're not fighting as such, but she's certainly pushing the others a lot. Suti seemed to get worked up over things quite a bit yesterday as well after I put them back in the cage.
Pulla did manage to get some interaction with the girls as well. Posso is always the most social with him and they didn't really fight or argue at all, but she was pretty tense as well. Still, Pulla and Posso seem to be most at ease with each other and Posso actually comes to be close to him a lot.
It's pretty weird right now. Seems like there's something going on that causes the girls to be tense during the meetings and makes at least Suti really worked up afterwards, but at the same time it doesn't look like they're actually afraid of Pulla like that? Maybe it's just being really hormonal from a heat and getting worked up in general about the intros right now? I wonder if I should give them a day or two before taking them out to the kitchen again?
(Another thought I'm having is that maybe, if the whole intro doesn't really work out, it'd be possible to get just Pulla and Posso together and leave the other girls in the other cage? I'm not seriously considering it right now, but I wonder how well something like that would work if it seems like they won't play nice between all four of them?)
They're about exactly 3 months old now, deguconvert. Limppu was born 12.2, and Suti and Posso were born 18.2. So puberty will still be hitting them for a long time.
And yes, hpdegus, the weather has been rather hot for the past three or so days. First hints of summer and we're up to 20+ celsius weather during the days (so around 70 fahrenheit, I think). I luckily have a mobile AC unit that has been an absolute blessing during days like this, as our house can get upto 25 celsius or more (closer to 80 fahrenheit) during hot days, so at least I can keep the house in non-dangerous temperatures, but it is certainly hotter than it has been previously. That's actually really intresting if it affects degus that much. I suppose I'm feeling a bit cranky myself when I'm all sweaty and hot
I gave the degus a reprieve yesterday since it was hot and I had a lot of things to take care of, and we tried again today. It went better than on monday. A lot less screaming in general, and the girls were less cranky (it's cooler here today due to raining, maybe that helped). Pulla and Posso get along really well and Posso actually seems to come and console Pulla after one of the others chases him off, which is cute and very reassuring. Suti seems to be causing issues though.
Suti seems to get really, really worked up over Pulla and the outing time. She goes after him really hard at times and chases him around the kitchen so much that he actually starts pushing back (which in itself is healthy, I think. Better that they make social boundaries clear to each other). Other times she just ignores him. And after the outing time is over, she's really, really worked up in the cage and goes around screaming and pushing the other girls out of the way. It's a really loud scream, like she's actually really freaked out. I'd describe it as a whining noise. She just goes all over the cage, screams and pushes her sisters out of the way, patrols the cage and seems to really be beside herself. She kept it up for half an hour just now, after which she's mostly calmed down. I've heard similar whining screams coming out of the cage every now and then, though.
I'm really not sure what to do about this. Suti has preferred to keep away from Pulla the most, and it seems almost impossible for them to get any positive social contact going on. Limppu at least tolerates Pulla and allows him to groom most of the time, and Posso is really good with him, but Suti just doesn't want to play ball at all. The other girls also seem to be really scared about this behavior and lay low until she's calmed down.
I wonder if Suti is actually the dominant of the three girls? I wonder if her hesitation with Pulla is that she senses his dominance and is just building up to challenging him for it? The next 2-3 months will make that more clear.
You may find that you might need to adjust your end plan and see how it would go with Pulla and Posso as a pair, and Suti and Limppu together . . . you don't need to make that decision just yet . . . but it could be coming.
Yeah, Deguconvert, I actually though that that might be the case. The way she behaves in the cage after the outings looks like she's going around and making sure that no one even thinks of challenging her. A lot of angry shouting and whining and pushing away the other girls. The others are also acting in a very submitting way when that happens. They put distance between themselves and her and hunker down, trying their best not to look like they're looking for any trouble. Weirdly, Suti seems to calm down and come over to check me out if I walk in front of the cage. She keeps going right afterwards, though.
The outing time went a bit better today. Suti did not hate Pulla as much today, and chased him less. She did scream and whine a lot of he came over, but stopped chasing him after making it clear she doesn't want any of his crap. She also came over to check Pulla out a couple of times (sneakily of course, pretending to just walk past him, but taking a quick sniff while she went). All in all she seemed to tolerate him more and be more ok with him being in the vicinity, but still was absolutely unwilling to actually be social with him.
Suti and Limppu have also been absolutely bewitched by the radiator in the kitchen now. They both realized, pretty much at the same time two days ago, that they were just small enough to squeeze themselves behind it. So I put in a lot of effort yesterday to stuff the underside and sides of it with old towels (it's a water-based radiator, so no risk of a fire) to make sure they couldn't get in there again. Of course, that just made it absolutely irresistable for them, and they've both spent most of their time besieging the d**n thing in hopes of finding a route behind it again. No such luck yet. Posso, for whatever reason, does not care about the radiator much.
Speaking of, Posso and Pulla are still getting along well. I think they're actually bonding. Posso got scared at one point over some random noise and immediately ran over to where Pulla was. They're not all buddy-buddy or anything (most of the time everyone goes around the kitchen looking at all the intresting stuff there), but they do kind of gravitate towards each other.
Looking at how worked up Suti is at the moment, I'm actually kinda worried about if these outings might cause some serious issues within the girls' social group as well. She's so absolutely furious and just goes around pushing the others and trying to see if there's any dissent there. I just witnessed her (it's been about 40 minutes since I took them back to the cage from the kitchen) just charging Posso again and again because she was trying to get a drink and Suti was sitting next ot the water bottle. She's not actually violent, it's not as if she bites them, but Limppu at least looks pretty fed up with it at times.
She's beginning to calm down again, but it honestly just doesn't look very reassuring to see a degu being so furious/anxious over things that she's sitting on a perch and screaming at her sisters angrily...