Degus usually live in family groups. They have evolved complex behaviors to communicate with their peers.
When degus are kept individually, their behaviors atrophy. For this reason, they must never (!) be kept individually. You can keep both all-male and all-female groups. However, mixed-sex groups may only contain one male, otherwise, there will be constant fights between the males. Also bear in mind that in such groups you will regularly have offspring who want to be accommodated first. Mindless reproduction is animal cruelty! For this reason, it is advisable to have the male castrated in a mixed group. How large the group of degu you want to keep ultimately depends on the size of the enclosure. For two to three degus, the enclosure should be at least 120 x 50 x 100 cm; if you want to keep more animals, you will need more space. Above all, be careful not to acquire animals that are too young. In the case of degus, in particular, it has been proven that separating from the parents too early leads to severe behavioral deficits that make it difficult to live with other members of the same species later on.
Socializing – strangers become friends
The socialization of degus is easy when it comes to young animals. Integrating young degus into a group is usually not a problem either. However, if the animal to be socialized is already sexually mature, you should exercise caution when socializing to avoid biting. In this case, three methods have proven useful, which can be used as needed. If you reassemble a group and none of the animals are familiar with the new environment, you can simply reassemble the animals. In such a case, the chances are relatively good that the socialization will work, unless several dominant animals meet. Unfortunately, one often does not know new animals well enough to assess this. Therefore you have to take a lot of time to observe the animals and to be able to intervene if necessary. Another commonly used method is the separator grid method. It is suitable in the event that one or more degus come to long-established residents. Here, a separating grid is installed in the cage through which the animals can make contact without being able to inflict serious bite wounds on one another.
Through the grid, the degus can now get used to the smell of the others and get to know each other. It is important that the grid is firmly anchored and the meshes are not too wide so that the degus cannot fit their snouts through and inflict serious bite wounds! Another very popular method is the cage-changing method, which can also be combined with the dividing grid method. The foreign degus sit in different cages or cage parts.
To get them used to the smell of the other degus, they are regularly swapped out so that they regularly sit in each other’s cage. In this way, too, they get used to the smell of the other animals. Depending on the behavior of the animals, after three to four days you can then dare to put the degus together! If aggression is found here, the switching method may have to be continued for several weeks. It is also advisable to thoroughly clean and interestingly decorates the cage in which the newly socialized animals are to live together before they finally move in so that there is plenty of variety and the cage is as neutral an area as possible!