If you are thinking of buying a degu please read my Before you buy a Degu page first for some of the realities of life with a degu.
This page is about how to set up a cage for degus and I also have an Environment Enrichment page with ideas on how to keep your pets entertained. Also check out the Pet Shopping page which contain links to a sites where some of the items on this page can be bought.
Pumpkin and Pinknose - There's nothing like a good sunbathe!
Important: When building any cage for a small animal always take a serious look at it and assess it for the possibility of freak accidents and injuries. Think "is there anywhere that a nose or a leg could get trapped, or a small area that they could get into and not be able to get out?"
A large rat or chinchilla cage is ideal for degus. They can often be picked up quite reasonably second hand on eBay and there are also a number of people who build cages much cheaper than buying from a pet shop. My original degu cage was Fluff's old chinchilla cage converted to be used by Willow and Pumpkin. The middle floor was taken out, along with the mesh floor in the bottom. Degus should not be kept with mesh floors as they can get sore feet known as bumble foot. If a cage has an unremovable mesh floor it can be covered with straw or willow mats or untreated pine panelling cut into lengths. However degus do prefer to have a bedding that they can dig, and hide food, in. Beware of cages with plastic bottoms as degus are determined little chewers. As ever get the largest cage that you can possibly afford/fit in and a wheel if at all possible to give your degus lots of room.
The only disadvantage of this setup is that your Degus may kick their bedding out of the sides of the cage. We have a stand that catches the worst of the mess but you wouldn't believe just how far these two can kick the mess!! So recently we invested in some Perspex sheeting and created the "Paula and Chris's Patent Degu Crap Catching Device" around the cage which you can see in the photo below. Some makers of chincilla cages such as John Hopewell also make cages with extra deep trays and no mesh floors for degus and rats which are very good. He also makes guards to go behind shelves and at the bottom of the cage to keep bedding and pee in. A glass tank alone isn't suitable for degus as they do like to climb. You could fit a mesh climbing cage on to - see the Jird Cages page for an example.
We've used a number of different beddings in the bottom, for example Megazorb and then Ecobed which both work very well. See the Bedding page for more details.
The original cage - adapted from an old chinchilla cage
Back in the days when it was very difficult to get hold of solid metal wheels my degus had a Wodent Wheel, which they absolutely loved, but slowly destroyed. We used to keep a spare and recycled the backs, with holes cut in, as new fronts. If they did not have a wheel in the cage they tended to squabble. I then got a 8" solid wheel, which wasn't really big enough and then, thankfully John Hopewell started producing 12" solid wheels (along with a 16" suitable for chinchillas). Later on still we added a second wheel as one of the degus was hogging the wheel all day long - this time a Flying Saucer wheel - see the Wheels page for more information on wheels.
We originally had a great climbing frame made out of a kit designed for parrot cages, but it eventually went to the great wood pile in the sky though. This was replaced with some leap-n-ledges which to be honest are rather expensive but are easy to use. I also got a set of wooden ledges made by a guy on eBay which worked well. If you've got a bit of practicality about you, it's gonna be a lot cheaper to make your own though. Degus tend to have little needle sharp claws so to keep them down a bit I have a lump of granite in the bottom of the cage and a stone parrot perch. These perches are sold to keep bird's claws worn down and will also work for Degus.
Degus love to climb and can get up the side of the cage at an amazing rate. On the cheaper side I used to have an old leather belt strung across the top of the cage which they liked sit on, and often use the leg from an old pair of jeans as a hammock!! The love to sit in hammocks and most of my degus haven't destroyed them, but sadly Dizzy is a little hammock trasher. I have found that the best hammocks for Dizzy are a slumber tunnel from Hammocky Hammocks attached on the ceiling with the straps pulled right through (you can see it in the cage photo below), or a multiway corner crush from FuzzButt which has eyelets rather than straps - their bunkercubes might also be suitable.
They like to rip up cardboard and use it for a nest so I often give food boxes or Chubes which are often sold in pet shops. I've also suspended Chubes from the ceiling quite successfully using garden wire. Two food bowls are often necessary with degus to prevent squabbling over food. These days I use a bowl for hay as hay racks can sometimes be a risk to legs as they could potentially gett caught in them.
All small animals (except maybe chinchillas) seem to love to sunbathe and this cage is placed so that they get sun in part of the cage every morning. If you do this you must make sure that your pet can get out of the sun and isn't left baking in the mid day sun.Degus can be like little cats and when the radiator is on in the winter will curl up as close as they can possibly get to it. Again make sure that they cage is not too close so that they cannot burn themselves. Also remember to keep the cage away from curtains and table cloths - I came down one morning to find a huge lump ripped out of my table cloth and proudly used in their nest!
Here is Pumpkin having a doze at a vantage point on top of the climbing frame.
Because Willow, one of my original degus was blind we had to be very careful with the ledges. We arranged them so that she could always feel the next ledge with her whiskers and tried not to make big changes. After Willow passed away, Pumpkin needed a bit more stimulation, so I made it more challenging and changed the cage around regularly. When I adopted Pinknose, a neutered male and introduced him to the cage he was used to a single story cage and took a while to get the hang of jumping between the ledges, so my advice would be to start off with a simple arrangement. After a few months he had got so good at it he leapt from one side of the cage to another hardly touching the ledges on the way. After we lost Pumpkin we had Digger, an elderly degu who needed an easy arrangement again and when she passed on Dizzy arrived. Dizzy would hog the wheel and Pinknose started to get fat which was when we introduced the second wheel.
This introduced new problems as, for some reason, Dizzy and Pinknose would cheerfully shove each other off the perches during disagreements. It's not uncommon for degus to squabble so it's a good idea to hang something, such as hammocks, to stop them falling all the way to the floor.
This cage did many years sterling service but was getting very tatty. We bought a holiday cage for Fidgit the chinchilla to stay with a friend when we went to New Zealand last year and when we got back I adapted it for the degus. This, shown below, is a much larger cage and very nice looking but I'm not 100% sure of the safety of the vertical bars. It had a mesh floor which I have covered with a thick layer of Ecobed - not wonderful and a bit of a pain to clean out. We have put a lot of shelves in to reduce the drop and never had an accident. Sadly since the loss of Pinknose Dizzy is on her own in this enormous cage! This cage also had the perennial degu cage problem of the degus peeing off of the side of the cage and also kicking bedding out of the bottom. This I solved with the help of John Hopewell who produced me some made to measure shelves and splash guards for the cage which have been very successful. To be honest I think I might go directly for one of John's degu/rat cages as well if I was doing it again.
Check out the Pet Shopping page and Wheels page for places to get these items, and the Environment Enrichment page for more ideas.