Degus are undoubtedly cute. They are also known for being very social and fun to keep as pets. But how large are they and how much space do you need to keep them? Here is all you need to know.
So, how big do degus get? The average degu will grow to a length of 9-11″ (25-30 cm). This includes the tail, which typically measures at 6″ (15cm). They generally weigh between 150-300 grams at full size. As such, they are considered small rodents.
While they may be small, degus certainly like to be kept busy.
They are no slouches and love to play and explore, which needs to be considered when it comes to their enclosure.
They are also social animals who can be tamed and held (so long as it is done so correctly and not by the tail).
As such, this is the kind of pet that is great for young children. They can interact, play, and, better still, hold them if they are careful.
And at a weight of 300 grams and length of 15cm, they’re not too heavy and fit quite nicely into the hands of a human.
Let us now take a closer look at some important considerations regarding their size.
We’ll be looking at when a baby degu commonly reaches its final size before looking at how a full-grown degu compares with other rodents and potential pets.
We will then be covering how much space you need to keep one, should you decide to do so.
When Do Degus Reach Their Full Size?
Degus will generally reach their full size between the ages of 10-12 months. At this age, they will have reached full bone growth, will have complete maturation of the reproductive organs, and their teeth will have properly developed.
A newborn Degus is, on average, only 15g.
When you consider that degus are put up for adoption at around 8 weeks of age, and they put on 2-3 grams per day for the first few months of life, chances are you’ll be taking home a rodent that is only around 100 grams!
That’s incredibly small.
So you need to be careful. They’re fragile. Particularly to begin with.
Growth does slow down, until they reach around 150-300 grams.
And at this point they generally be between 9-11 inches in length (when measured from the nose to the end of the tail). They’ll be between 5.1 and 5.9 inches in height.
After the age of 1 year of age, degus will begin shedding their fur during the shedding season too.
Degus are known to grow pretty slowly compared to other rodents (such as hamsters and rats known to grow at a much faster rate).
It takes them quite a while for all their adult characteristics to develop, and they are known to sleep a lot during this age.
And before a degu reaches adulthood, they are considered a ‘juvenile’ – which is the term used to refer to their adolescence stage.
Many owners report that their degus sleep more during this stage and particularly around growth spurts.
This appears to be somewhat common in this rodent.
One thing to consider is that degus are typically sold around 8 week old.
In fact, a store should not be selling any early than 5 weeks.
So, a degu that you purchase at the pet store has quite some growing to do and will be far from the degu you will own within just under a year’s time.
They’ll change quite dramatically during this time.
Degu Size vs Other Rodents
In order to fully appreciate the size of the degu, it is useful to compare them to other rodents. Especially those commonly kept as household pets:
|Guinea Pig||3-5″||8-19″||N/A||0.7 – 1.2 kg|
|Chinchilla||4-6″||9-21″||4″||0.3 – 1.4 kg|
So how do they compare?
Well, the average degu is bigger than a hamster, yet smaller than a rat.
They are bigger than a gerbil too. In fact, they can grow as much as 3x their size.
But they are much smaller than a guinea pig and a chinchilla.
But there is one consideration we are yet to mention – tail size.
Not all these pet rodents are known for having long tails; the mouse and hamster being prime examples.
The guinea pig does not even have a tail altogether! Well, at least in the traditional sense.
But for a degu, the tail adds a lot of length. Up to 6″ (15 cm).
So, it really adds to their overall length.
This is why weight is a better reference for overall size.
You get a better understanding of their frame.
How Much Space Do Degus Need?
Due to their active and exploratory nature, degus require quite a lot of space and a sufficiently large cage to be housed in. Generally, the larger, the better. But, a cage of at least 27″ (length) by 18″ (width) by 27-40″ (height) is advised as a minimum.
Degus can be kept in pairs, depending on the gender pairing, and it naturally follows that the two degus require a larger cage than if you are keeping one.
But either way, bigger is certainly better.
Better still is a multi-level cage.
These are often designed with ferrets and chinchillas in mind, but they afford degus sufficient space to roam, explore, and keep physically and mentally stimulated.
From an owner’s perspective, they are great too; because they take up less ground space in your home.
When looking for this type of cage, you need to ensure it is sufficiently sturdy, made out of appropriate materials, and it should also come with a roof.
Degus are prey animals in the wild, so they can become stressed with an open enclosure. Besides, there is always the risk of escape with an open cage too.
Similarly, adding hiding spots is advised for this very reason.
So, with these factors in mind, you should be looking at a cage just like this from Amazon.
In their cage, degus will commonly run around, climb and exercise.
In the wild, degus live in complex burrows, so you need to ensure that their living space is set up appropriately too.
Replicating these natural living conditions will go a long way to supporting their wellbeing.
If you intend on keeping two degus, you’ll notice that they are generally affectionate with one another and will sleep close and together.
Thus, the cage will also need to have a comfortable area to sleep, which sufficient space to relax.
Nesting boxes are often advised, as they provide a replication of a burrow environment. The material of such a nest box is essential too; wood can be gnawed and cardboard destroyed.
When it comes to the cage, it should be kept hygienic by being lined with a soft litter substrate that can absorb waste and moisture.
There are various options when it comes to bedding, with some much better than others. Some should be avoided altogether such as cedarwood chips and sawdust.
Of course, you should provide plenty of safe and approved toys (as they chew) and dust baths to bathe in too.
Other than the space inside the cage, it would be best if you looked to let your degus out every day for some additional exercise.
It is advised to do so for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, preferably in the morning or evening when they are naturally most active.
When you do so, it is essential that the area has been ‘degu-proofed’; with all potential hazards being removed.
They should not have any access to wires or anything that they can chew on and should be closely monitored at all times.
If you can keep them in a concealed and contained hallway, this could work.
Otherwise, put them in a playpen.
This one on Amazon is fantastic because you can make it as big or small or adapt the shape as you see fit.
Degus are certainly not the largest rodent you could look to own as a pet, but this does not mean that they do not need much space.
Quite the opposite.
These are busy creatures who thrive on the ability to play and explore.
So, if you do decide to get one; investing in a large, multi-tiered cage is going to be one of the best investments you make.
Along with a playpen, you will be able to meet their needs.
Thankfully, due to their smaller size and loving temperament, degus can be routinely interacted with.
You can hold and play with them, so long as you do so safely and correctly, and they are an excellent fit for children too.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.