Housing, Substrates & Bedding Materials

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Housing for Shaw's Jirds

A 30'' to 36'' aquarium is probably the best option to accommodate a pair of Shaw's Jirds. If you have room for a larger tank for the jirds, then so much the better. Make sure it's height is at least 15'' as they can be quite good jumpers. The aquarium also provides a comfortable draught free enclosure. Another advantage of an aquarium is that it will limit any mess, as jirds love to dig and kick their shavings. A wire mesh or vivarium lid completes the set-up.

Dunas are used mainly for housing young Jirds. They are becoming quite popular in pet shops but are relatively expensive for what they are, which is basically a plastic tank base, with a clear heavy duty Perspex lid. Its main advantages are its lightness and therefore mobility, plus it can be completely stripped down and cleaned in a matter of minutes. If you wish to use a duna for adult Jirds they have to be customised as an adult Jird can gnaw through a weak spot (such as the hole intended for the water bottle spout) in a matter of hours.

Cages such as a chinchilla one or converted bird cages are totally unsuitable for Shaw's Jirds. Apart from kicking a lot of the bedding through the bars, which creates a terrible mess, the bars of the cage themselves will be constantly chewed on by the Jird. This in turn will cause problems for the Jird, as it rubs fur off its snout and causes soreness within a short time. If left unchecked this could lead to your Jird getting an open wound on its snout, which can easily lead to infection. The bars are often plastic or chrome plated, in either case when this is removed it can easily get rusty, which makes cleaning difficult, and debris and bacteria will quickly collect on the rough steel bars, creating unhygienic conditions for the jirds.


image of sawdustSawdust is very cheap and easy to obtain both from pet shops, sawmills, or timber yards (make sure the sawdust from the last two sources is from untreated wood only). Because it is so fine it can cause irritability to the eyes and also respiratory problems. It can also have the potential to cause irritability to the skin of the Jird. Sawdust compacts very quickly causing poor aeration between the fine particles of wood. Odour can quickly build up and because of the poor aeration the atmosphere within the tank quickly becomes unhealthy for the Jirds. Although sawdust soaks up moisture, an accident like the draining of the water bottle contents can happen quite easily, if the Jirds decide to pile up the sawdust all to one side of the tank when digging. This can quickly encourages mould and mildew like conditions to form within the Jirds tank. This is accompanied by a very bad smell, necessitating you to clean the tank immediately to kill off any bacteria that had built up in the short amount of time.

image of peat

Peat Apart from not being very Eco-friendly, peat has to be thoroughly baked to kill off bacteria and bugs. If mixed with wood shavings and straw/chopped hay it becomes a reasonably suitable substrate. You have to keep a close eye to make sure the peat never gets water logged, which can all too easily happen in an aquarium. Left unchecked it can pose serious health risks for your Jird.



image of coir

 Coir I have heard of people using Coir compost in the past. Coir is a by-product of the coconut industry and is made from the fibres that surround the coconut. I personally don't use anything with fibres for gerbils or Jirds for obvious reasons. Also all the Coir compost I have come across has had fertilisers added to it.



image of magazorb

 Megazorb is a relatively new product, and is made from recycled cardboard. It has excellent absorbent qualities, isn't dusty, and seems to be a great substrate for Jirds, its only drawback is its price.





 image of paper & wood based litter

 Paper & Wood based litter  Again another recent introduction as a substrate. Like megazorb it has good absorbency qualities, and has little dust, but can be expensive if you have several tanks.




image of U.K. woodshavings

WOOD SHAVINGS (U.K.)  Good well-aired quality whitewood shavings are a viable option. The larger the flake the better. Always opt for dust extracted shavings as these are often kiln or air dried first, which reduces any dangerous phenols present considerably. Even so it's always best to air the product well before using.




Bedding Material

For bedding I use two sources- Plain economy toilet tissue, and/or shredded recycled p.c. paper, never use paper that has coloured ink on it, as often the toners used for colour ink can be toxic. Steer clear of any bedding made from fibrous material-This bedding is the type you may see for sale in some pet shops. It looks like brightly coloured Cotton wool, another type is similar to blue shredded kitchen cloth. These products can be harmful to Jirds if swallowed, plus the fibres can easily entangle a young pup's limb.

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