Diet of degus: what do rodents eat?

The diet of degus should be based on their natural eating habits. This means that the rodents eat plant-based, fiber-rich food that is similar to the sparse supply of the dry steppe regions of their home country of Chile. You can find out what that means and what you can feed them below.

Degus love to eat fresh hay and greens – Shutterstock / WronaART

Degus love to eat fresh hay and greens – Shutterstock / WronaART

Like guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas, degus are vegans, i.e. pure herbivores. Also, since they are rodents, their diet must include dental care. Degus prefer to eat fresh hay, which you can supplement with twigs, herbs, some vegetables and a little grain.

Hay essential for degus diet

High-quality, fresh hay should always be available to your degus. When buying, make sure that the hay has a slightly greenish color, is not dusty and has a pleasant smell. If it smells musty, it’s already too old. Good sources for hay are, for example, farms. There you will get large bales of hay, which you can then store away from light and moisture at home – this way you have enough of it available for a long time.

Degus eat the hay not only for the nutrients and fiber it contains, but also to rub their teeth on the rough structure. They also like to use the hay as nesting material. To keep your degus busy, you can offer small hay bales – so-called hay cobs – in addition to the loose hay. Danger! If you buy Heucobs in stores, check the ingredients on the list of ingredients: If it says anything other than meadow grass and meadow herbs, do not buy it.

Branches for dental care

In addition, branches for degu tooth care are a great addition to the diet. Both fresh and dried twigs are suitable. For example, the branches of the following trees and shrubs are popular and healthy:
● pasture
● Birch
● Hornbeam
● Linden
● cork oak
● Poplar
● apple
● pear
● cherry
● Mirabelle plums
● plum
● Quinces
● Hazelnut

Degus like to eat herbs, flowers and leaves

In order to provide your degus with sufficient vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates, they need herbs, flowers and leaves in addition to hay. For example, if you feed twigs, you can leave the leaves on directly. However, you first have to carefully get your rodents used to fresh green fodder – feed them small amounts at first and increase the portions over time. In addition, dried herbs, flowers and leaves are an option for healthy degu nutrition.

Some herbs can be found outside in nature, others in the supermarket – the greens of carrots, kohlrabi and fennel taste very good to rodents and they also tolerate kitchen herbs such as basil, parsley, dill and lemon balm. It is important that the green fodder from the supermarket is of organic quality and that you wash it before feeding – the degus do not get pesticides and other substances on the feed. Cat grass is also a possible supplement for the degu menu, in contrast to the velvet paws, the rodents also eat Cyprus grass without any danger.

Popular wild herbs and flowers are:
● Dandelion
● Daisies
● Chamomile flowers
● daisies
● Mallow blossoms
● Cornflower blossoms
● Plantain
● Shepherd’s purse
● Sunflowers

Caution! If one of your degu females is expecting young, shepherd’s purse and parsley are unsuitable for her.

Degus are extremely social and cuddly animals that should only ever be kept in groups - Shutterstock/Kelly Postma

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Vegetables for degus

If you slowly get your degus used to it, a piece of veg or two will be a welcome change in their diet. However, look into the cage each time you feed them to see whether they have eaten everything. If not, remove the old lining to keep it from getting moldy and give a smaller portion next time.

The following types of vegetables are usually well tolerated after the acclimatization period:
● Lettuce
● Iceberg lettuce
● Chicory
● Lamb’s lettuce
● Parsnips
● carrots
● Beetroot
● Kohlrabi
● fennel
● Broccoli
● Cucumbers
● Pumpkin
● Zucchini
● Peas
● Corn
● peppers

Which seeds and grains are suitable for degus?

The diet of the degus should consist of 80 percent hay, herbs and vegetables and around 20 percent seeds and grains. However, the total grain content should only make up about one percent. Possible types of grain are wheat, oats, barley, rye, millet and spelt as well as quinoa. Seeds contain a lot of fat, so if you notice your degus getting a bit plump, reduce the amount of seeds again. Conversely, you can put a few more seeds in the bowl of skinny degus. Young animals and pregnant and lactating degu mothers also require more seeds due to their increased energy requirements.

The following varieties are suitable as seeds and kernels:
● Dandelion
● fennel
● dill
● Nettles
● Sesame
● Linseed
● hemp
● Parsley
● Perilla
● Cardi
● Negro seed
● peanuts
● Hazelnuts
● Pumpkin seeds
● Sunflower seeds
● walnuts

Treats for degus: what can they eat?

In general, you should be careful with ready-made mixes from the trade – they often contain too much grain and too few nutrients that are important for degus. But it’s best to stay away from snacks and treats in the store. Yoghurt drops, snack sticks, rodent biscuits and the like often contain far too much sugar and nothing else that degus can use. The rodents are prone to diabetes, so they should generally not eat anything containing sugar. Fruit is only recommended in tiny amounts, if at all.

The following treats are also popular and much better tolerated by degus:
● Pea flakes
● Carrot Flakes
● Corn kernels
● Broad bean flakes

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