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Effect of hiding places, straw and territory on aggression in group-housed rabbit does

By J. M. Rommers, B. J. F. Reuvekamp, H. Gunnink, I. C. de Jong

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Abstract

Group-housing of rabbit does may be preferred from welfare point of view. However, group-housing causes agonistic behaviour which may cause severe injuries. Severe injuries may be prevented by offering hiding places for attacked does. Providing enrichment (straw) may reduce agonistic behaviour by attracting attention from fighting. In contrast, acquisition of a territory within a group may evoke aggression. An experiment was conducted in which the effect of hiding places, straw and territory on aggression in intermittent group-housed rabbit does was studied. The group-housing system consisted of four adjacent enriched individual cages that had been transformed into one group pen for four does by taking out three side walls. Group pens were 1.0 m * 1.5 m * 0.6 m (length * width * height). Does were housed individually until 18 days of lactation. As of day 18 of lactation, four multiparous hybrid does (Hycole) with their kits were housed in a group until 35 days of lactation. All combinations of the following factors were randomly assigned: hiding places (platform and PVC pipe), straw and territory (i.e. familiarity with the cage before grouping) (8 treatments). Sixteen pens were used during 5 successive lactations of 35 days ( n=10/treatment). Behavioural observations were performed at two afternoons at the start and end of the group-housing period of each lactation and skin injuries were registered on 4, 7, 10, 14 and 17 days after being group-housed. Does were resting 70% of the observed time. Does with territory showed significantly more comfort behaviour than does without territory (13% vs. 9% of the observed time, respectively; P

Date 2014
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 157
Pages 117-126
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.05.011
Author Address Wageningen UR, Livestock Research, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, Netherlands.jorine.rommers@wur.nl
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Aggression
  2. Agonistic behavior
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animal genetics
  5. Animal physiology
  6. Animals
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Cages
  9. Diseases and injuries of animals
  10. Effect
  11. Enrichment
  12. Hybrids
  13. Lactation
  14. Lagomorpha
  15. Leporidae
  16. Locomotion
  17. Mammals
  18. Occupations and Professions
  19. pens
  20. rabbits
  21. Straw
  22. trauma
  23. vertebrates