It is difficult to find a clear, unambiguous list about which woods are safe or toxic for Degus. Below is a list which has been translated and made English friendly from a German website (degu.re4.ch) of woods and why they are suitable or toxic. Also follow our wood preparation guidelines before using any of this wood unless it has already been done for you.
Rule of thumb for safe woods
Organic (not commercially treated in anyway or form)
Untreated (not like plywood and commercially 'glued' products) with no pesticides, chemicals and definitely no painted or coloured woods (although vegetable dyed is safe)
If the sap inside 'leaks' - then it could be toxic
Very 'red' looking woods, like redwoods, are toxic
Difference between 'kiln dried' and 'air dried' Many woods with bark contain flora and fauna in the form of insects, pitch, mould and fungus. High kiln temperatures sterilize the wood, killing fungus and mould spores, insect eggs and larvae. Kiln drying also crystallizes the pitch so it doesn’t ooze out of the log and cause stains when exposed to warm temperatures.
Air-dried products make no provision for these natural nuisances. Warmer temperatures encourage mould and fungus growth, awaken dormant insect eggs and larvae and cause sap to seep down the face of the log
Wood that is PRESSURE TREATED - is this safe?
NO - there is general use of chemicals with the treatment: http://www.taunton.com/finegardening/pages/g00028.asp
Note: This list is not complete...It is also going to be merged into one long alphabetical list and colour co-ordinated with a traffic-light system so you can easily scan through the list for the woods you want...any trees we DON'T know conclusively will be left uncoloured
- Birch plants
- Birch ( Betula pendula Roth ) (Although Degutopia states "Wood and dust are respiratory sensitisers. Dust is carcinogenic to human white blood cells, and to mice white blood cells at high concentrations.")
- Alder ( Alnus Mill ) (Although Degutopia states "Hardwood found to have cytotoxic effects on mice when used as bedding.")
- Hazelnut plants
- Hornbeam ( Carpinus betulus L. )
- Hazel ( Corylus avellana L. )
- Filbert ( Corylus maxima Mill ) : A close relative of hazelnut.
- Willow ( Salix L. ) (Although Degutopia states "Wood, dust, leaves and bark cause nausea and are respiratory sensitisers.") - READ the wiki article for specific details
- Linden ( Tilia L. )
- Poplar ( Populus L. )
- Plane ( Platanus L. )
- Rose family ( Rosaceae )
- Of fruit trees
- Apple ( Malus Mill )
- Pear ( Pyrus L. )
- Quince ( Cydonia oblonga Mill )
- Stone fruit trees ( Prunus spp. , cherry, plum ... ): The seeds are toxic, as it contains a large concentration of cyanogenic glycosides (prussic acid.) The hydrocyanic acid content in the cortex (out-most layer/bark) is much more widespread. (Although Degutopia states of most, if not all, stone fruit trees "Wood contains cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide when ingested.")
- Hawthorn ( Crateagus L. ) : Non-toxic (contains heart-affecting agents, see link)
- Of fruit trees
Due suitable (wonder what "due suitable" means...coming soon)
- Maple ( Acer ) (Although Degutopia states "Dust is a respiratory sensitiser.")
- Field maple ( Acer campestre L. )
- Adoxaceae ( Adoxaceae ) (Elderberry listed in Degutopia as a toxic wood but gives no reason)
- Red Elderberry ( Sambucus racemosa L. ) : Flowers may be fed in small amounts. All other parts of the plant are slightly poisonous.
- Black Elderberry ( Sambucus nigra L. ) : Flowers may be fed in small amounts. All other parts of the plant are slightly poisonous.
- Amelanchier ( Amelanchier Medik.) : Non-toxic, at most slightly toxic. The seeds of the berries contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides.
- Attich, dwarf elder ( Sambucus ebulus L. ) : Toxic.
- Beech ( f*gus sylvatica ) : The beechnuts are toxic. From the Degu forums there is a known case, which resulted in fatal poisoning.
- Oak ( Querus robur ) : Contain tannins, which isn't good for Degus. The Oak wood dust is a carcinogen (an agent which causes cancer.)
- Spruce ( Picea ) : The bark and needles are toxic, the wood mounted is suitable.
- Forsythia ( Forsythia spp. ) : Slightly toxic
- Dogwood ( Cornus ) : Raw fruits and leaves of C. sanguinea are inedible. Also the fruits of C. sericea.
- Fig, fig tree ( Ficus carica L. ) : The white milky sap is toxic.
- Horse chestnut ( Aesculus hippocastanium L. )
- Red maple ( Acer rubrum L. ) : ALL redwoods are poisonous.
- Fir ( Abies ) : The bark and needles are toxic, the wood mounted is suitable.
- Juniper ( Juniperus communis L. ) : It is poisonous.
- Walnut ( Juglans regia ) : The plant has a herbizidähnliche (herbicide-like) effect.
- Cedar ( Cedrus ) : Contains oils even in the wood.
- Grapefruit, grapefruit : See citrus plants.
- Orange : See citrus plants.
- Tangerines : See citrus plants.
- Lime : See citrus plants.
- Lemon : See citrus plants.
- Citrus ( Citrus spp. ) : Contains oil in leaves and branches. The fruits have a high acidity
(English version of list taken from http://deguworld.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=health&thread=3667&page=2)
Additionally, Chloe @ Degutopia states: "Safe wood for degus includes eating Apple, Hazelnut, Hawthorn and Kiln-dried Pine" and includes the footnote "Safe wood must be Organic, untreated and contain no pesticides, chemical treatments or paint" (as stated at the top). Obviously this list provided by Chloe is a lot shorter than the above list, but these are the SAFEST woods chosen by her and her personal preference (i.e. what she'd use with her degus)
Chloe references ChinCare at a number of points, and they have a list of toxic woods for Chinchillas HERE but it might not be right to assume that what's toxic to a chinchilla is toxic to a Degu...if you're erring on the side of caution then check this list out...or just go with the woods Chloe mentioned above.