Part-time grouping of rabbit does in enriched housing: effects on performances, injury occurrence and enrichment use.

TitlePart-time grouping of rabbit does in enriched housing: effects on performances, injury occurrence and enrichment use.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsHuang, Y, Breda, J, Savietto, D, Debrusse, A-M, Combes, S, Fortun-Lamothe, L
Date Published2021 Nov 26

Collective housing is perceived as a possible way to improve rabbit welfare, especially among adult females, which are normally individually housed. Part-time group housing seems to allow a better balance between welfare and health than continuous group housing, but practical implementation and consequences for reproductive performance have not been extensively studied. The aim of this work was to compare weight, feed intake, litter size, injury occurrence, body integrity, and spatial location of female rabbits housed part-time in group housing (PGH group, n = 32) or housed individually (IH group, n = 8). Females were grouped by opening connecting hatches between four individual enriched cages (platform, wood stick and gnawing block). Collective housing started 12 days after artificial insemination and was interrupted at the 10th day (instead of the 15th day later as originally planned) due to high injury rates and severe injuries caused by fighting. The proportion of injured females increased from 25% on the first day of grouping to 63% on the 10th day. Female weight gain during the experiment was similar in the two groups. Litter size at weaning was 9% lower in the PGH group than in the IH group (9.2 vs 10.0, P < 0.01). Platform use was recorded in 32% of the observations and was the highest during the 2 weeks before weaning (46% and 47% of total observations, P < 0.05). During the grouping period, there were at least two females in the same housing unit in 59.4% of the cases, at least two females were located on the same level in 31.3% of the cases. In conclusion, connecting individual cages is an ergonomic solution for part-time group housing, but does not prevent fights for the establishment of a social hierarchy. This is detrimental to the health and body integrity of female rabbits.

Alternate JournalAnimal
PubMed ID34844183