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In the wild it happens again and again that both young and adult animals leave the group, since this is not possible in pet keeping, it can sometimes lead to fights within a group.
From the 6th month of life, degus begin to test their limits and clarify the order of precedence. At 1-1.5 years of age, the fighting becomes more intense, as it is about the position of group leader. During puberty (up to a maximum of 2 years), there is more fighting, after which it weakens significantly.
Degus (both in the wild and in captivity) are seasonal "breeders" (Ebensperger et al. 2002; Bozinovic et al. 2004; Ebensperger and Hurtado 2005). Females begin the mating season in late autumn and young animals are usually born in spring (Bozinovic et al. 2004; Ebensperger and Hurtado 2005). It has been researched that female degus regularly mate between November and January , making them more susceptible to fights within the group. This season of the year is often referred to as "Herbsteln" by Degus.
It has no influence whether you keep a purely female or male group.
The hierarchy in the group is repeatedly clarified anew at different intervals. There are harmless fights that have no intention of injury, or vicious fights in which a degu is / should be expelled from the group.
It is important to be able to differentiate between the different types of fights.
Quarrel - harmless
The quarreling degus stand on their back legs and box each other with their front paws, while doing so they prance around each other and whine loudly and even kick their back legs. The harmless "fight" usually ends quickly when the inferior animal withdraws. This is all about ranking.
Behaviors that indicate easy fighting:
Quarrel - intermediate stage
The mediocrity in degu fights is often difficult to guess, especially if the owner does not have years of experience with it. A supposedly harmless argument can quickly degenerate, so be careful with the following behaviors, here the degus should be watched closely.
Quarrel - vicious
Serious fighting suggests that neither degus is ready to withdraw and submit to the other. It starts in a similar way to a harmless argument, but the opponents try to bite each other pretty quickly. Usually they aim to bite the throat or the abdominal region. The fight is almost completely silent. The high-ranking animal clearly tries to drive away the opponent, if he does not withdraw he is sometimes seriously injured or even killed by the superior degu. The inferior animal must be removed from the group and resocialized.
Behaviors that indicate heavy fighting:
In general, degus must distinguish between territory and rank fights.
Typical fights for rank within the group. These fights occur again and again, even with long-standing groups. These fights are the main reason why socialization can only be carried out with a partition and patience.
These fights take place both in a neutral environment (exercise etc.) and in the cage, usually when a new cage is moved or the cage has been completely cleaned. Also in the case of socialization, when the group is newly created and both territory and rank have to be reassigned.
Therefore, if there should be a dispute in a group for a long time - NEVER put the degus on neutral ground.
Don't part too early!
Keep your nerve, degu fights can often look very bad, but it is important not to do that too soon
In harmless disputes - the owner must keep calm and ONLY observe. It should always be quiet
stop in the cage so that the attacked degu can recover.
The separation should not take place immediately after a small quarrel or after the formation of the so-called "ball", it can certainly lead to ball formation without bites or injuries - for this the owner must check his animal for wounds. Smaller scratches or occasional bites "are ok" and should only be disinfected and observed. Abscesses often form that can only be felt but not seen, so it is important to check the animal on a daily basis.
Separation of the degus is only necessary in the case of bite wounds towards the head or stomach area - or of course
with extremely many and deep bites on the back or significant exhaustion.
The degu should not be completely removed from the cage, but only separated by a partition.
Do not reach in between with your hand!
The degus are usually so enraged that they bite everything that comes too close to them with excitement - and a degus bite is very painful. With a piece of cardboard or a slipper, towel you can easily step in between and take out a degu as soon as they have moved away from each other. Blowing on or making noise on the cage is sometimes also successful, so the degus let off each other briefly and you can separate them.
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