Degus — also known as brush tail or trumpet tail rats— are tiny, intelligent and highly social herbivorous rodents from South America. About the size of the palm of a human hand, degus are popular pets because they are diurnal — active during the day; degus are more adaptable to the schedules of owners than most rodent species that are nocturnal and spend most awake time at night. They also don’t produce the strong-smelling urine of most rodent species. Degus are easy-keepers, but too much human interaction in the initial weeks of a degu baby’s life can permanently damage the animal. Hands-off is the best approach to handling degu babies after you’ve bred them.
Handle newborn degus as little at possible. Degu babies and mothers are easily stressed after birth, and the pups may suffer permanent cognitive and emotional problems if handled or separated from the mother in the first few weeks of life. They also are unable to regulate their own body heat, so they need to be close to the mother for warmth.
Remove the father for four days after the pups are born. The mother degu will be easily stressed and also will have post-partum estrous and will be capable of breeding again immediately after having a litter. Separate the male and females for a few days to prevent impregnating the mother again. Degu females should only have one litter a year for health reasons.
Reintroduce the father to the family after four days. Degus will co-parent the babies, and the father can provide much-needed relief to the mother in the infant stage of development. Degus also require interaction with both parents to develop properly. Parents will also huddle close to the pups most of the time to keep them warm.
Allow degu pups to suckle the mother for at least three weeks. Weaning degus is a slow process, and babies will need to suckle for at least three weeks to develop properly.
Provide fresh timothy hay to pups after three weeks. The pup will begin to nibble on fresh grass hay, which will help change its digestive process from milk to solid food. Degus should be able to feed on hay at all times.
Offer pumice chew blocks to satisfy the baby degu’s need to chew.
Feed weaned baby degus yellow and leafy green vegetables. Any green vegetable that’s not from the cabbage family is good, and chopped raw sweet potatoes are a healthy treat.