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Pimp My Hutch!

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Welcome to a blog post I’m calling ‘pimp my hutch’!  As we all know, pets are a huge part of our lives, and I want to give mine the life they deserve.  I don’t want to get all preachy, but so many people keep their pets in inadequate cages and I wanted to show you all the amazing palace my husband made for my degus.  It only takes up the space of a bookshelf and cost less than a fancy square cage that takes up tons of room.  Although I would like it, I can’t be with my pets 100% of the time, so it only makes sense to give them as much space as I can to keep them occupied when I’m not around.

 


 

I’ve kept degus for quite a few years now in small groups of 3 or 4.  I got my first three from a local animal park where I was volunteering.  They wanted to rehome them and I was more than happy to take them on and learn about this relatively new species to the pet world.

Degus are small, intelligent South American rodents that are very easy to tame.  The most important thing you should know about them is their inability to process sugar.  For that reason they require a special diet which is widely available in pet shops nowadays, along with hay and herbs.  Also, all rodents have teeth that constantly need to be worn down.  Whatever you put in the cage will get gnawed, including the cage itself.  Because my degus have a large cage I find they are less likely to gnaw their way out of it, plus I put apple twigs in their cage which focusses their attention away from the walls!

 


 

The cage below started life as a 6 foot tall bookshelf that we no longer needed.  You can buy one new but there are loads of possibilties in charity shops.  There is also a massive community of people creating ‘Ikea hacks’ – using Ikea furniture for purposes which it was not originally intended for.  There are lots of people creating rodent cages from Ikea furniture – take a look on Pinterest.

 

Degu palace cage

Degu palace!

 

I’m not into woodwork so my husband did the necessary modifications, but if I had been on my own I would definitely have given it a go.  He simply took out the bookshelves and used a jigsaw to cut a hole in each one.  Then he made some ridiculously simple ladders from plywood.  You could use lolly sticks as ‘rungs’ for the degus to grip, but Steve just used some spare wood he had lying around.  I think the thing to remember is that if you’re not fabulous at woodworking, your degus don’t care what their cage looks like – they’re going to make their own moderations with their teeth after all!

The doors are extremely simple frames with chicken wire pinned to inside of them.  Obviously all the sharp bits have been cut off.  I wanted doors that opened completely as many shop-bought cages I have had previously have had a tiny entrance door and were difficult to clean.

Steve made a couple of extra modifications which you can leave out if you don’t want the extra hassle.  The ladder on the third shelf up can lift and be held in place so the cage can be split if necessary.  Male degus can sometimes get a bit rowdy in the winter /spring and have to be separated for a couple of months until they can be reintroduced.  At the time of writing I have only ever kept male degus so I’m used to this trait!

Another little mod was the addition of a little flap at the bottom front of the cage that pulls down so I can sweep out their litter, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

 

 

A large cage like this means you can fill it with lots of toys to occupy your little furries.  Above left on the top shelf of the cage I’ve got half an old terracotta plant pot, a twig bridge, apple twigs and a spray of millet.    The degus absolutely love nibbling the bark off the twigs more than I originally thought they would.

I think the best website for buying toys and treats is Chinchillas2Shop where I bought the willow balls and loofah pieces (above middle).  I hide treats in the willow balls and stack the loofah bits on top of one another with treats hidden inside in the holes.  Minipetz is also a good site.

My husband made a lovely wooden shack for my new degus which they have completely ignored (above right), and instead still sleep in the scrappy old cardboard box that came with them in their carry cage from Notts Nibblers (below left).  They didn’t even care about the blanket I put in for them which surprised me.

 

 

The photo above middle shows the cardboard insert from a box of wine that I hide treats in.  My boys love it and it just gives all you wine-lovers out there an excuse to drink more!  My boys don’t have a food bowl in their cage at all – I just hide their food all over, like in the toilet roll stack in the photo above right.  You can stuff toilet rolls with hay and add a treat to keep them busy.

 

 

I use newspaper to cover the shelves (as long as the ink doesn’t come off you should be okay – I’ve certainly never had problems with it), although the shelves are wipeable anyway.  But in the bottom of the cage I use ‘Easibed’ for them to have a dig in (below left).  I use Easibed for all of my pets.  The consistency is like very small wood chips and there’s no dust, which is important for small pets.

I bought a wheel for my boys from Pets@Home for about £18 and I don’t recommend it (above middle).  It bounces around all over the place and makes a racket, even after pinning it to the floor.  After several months of being driven made by it I have taken the plunge and bought a metal ‘TicTac’ wheel which is silent (above right).  Degus do a LOT of running and I don’t think you would regret purchasing one either.  They are pricey but it is the Jaguar E-Type of wheels and it’s the only one you’ll ever need.  I can’t get my degu Saxon off it – I swear you could power a small family home when he’s on it.

I’ve also filled an oval Pyrex baking dish with ‘chinchilla’ sand so my degus can splash around in their sand bath.  Degus take their baths seriously!

The one thing that’s missing from the cage at the moment are hanging toys like hammocks, but I hope to rectify this soon and make use of the undershelf space.  I can feel a blog post about making your own hammocks coming on soon!

My cage now looks something like this, although I have changed the toys around a bit and added different ones since I took these photos (please click them to enlarge):

 

 

It was so exciting to bring my three rescue degus home and watch them play in the degu palace.  After all that hard work they love it if I pop a microwavable heatpad into their den so they can relax…..

 

Degus Kanga, Pan and Saxon

Kanga, Pan and Saxon

 

If you want to know more about degus, the best site has to be Degutopia.  It’s written by a scientist and has all the dietary info you will need to keep your degus happy and healthy.  It has a brilliant page on cage enrichment which I often refer to when I’m stuck for ideas to keep my boys occupied. And for friendly advice and a place to show off photos off your furry children, look no further than the Anything Degu group on Facebook, where I asked some of the friendly folk there if I could use some of their photos of their own degu cages (below).

Unfortunately I don’t have a credit for the photo top left (below), but I thought it was too nice not to share.  It’s nice to see that the inhabitants will get lots of natural light.  You can always put a daylight bulb in your degus’ cage, but remember to switch it off at night so it doesn’t interrupt their natural rhythms, and obviously make sure your degus can’t get to any part of it.

The photo top middle (below) is from Jenna Pragliola.  Karen Thistleton made the cage top right from Ikea cabinets, and the photos bottom left and middle show some of the modifications that Karen Einarsdottir has made to a shop-bought cage.  It’s nice to see a hamster enjoying the large handmade cage in Sarah Larking’s photo, bottom right, as they are so often kept in inadequate cages.

 

 

Thanks guys for letting me share your photos!  If you have any you’d like to see here please send them to me and I will add them.  I hope these examples have given you some ideas for your own degus!

Kelly.

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