Regrouping female rabbits in group-housing systems is common management practice in rabbit breeding, which may, however, induce agonistic interactions resulting in social stress and severe injuries. Here we compared two methods of regrouping female rabbits with respect to their effects on behaviour, stress and injuries. Thus, we introduced two unfamiliar rabbits into a group of rabbits either in the group's familiar pen (HOME) or in a novel disinfected pen (NOVEL), and assessed the effects of these treatments on general activity, number and duration of agonistic interactions, number and severity of injuries and body temperature as a measure of stress. General activities were not affected by the method of regrouping. Also, treatment had no effect on the number and duration of agonistic interactions. However, the numbers of injuries (p=0.030) as well as body temperature on the first day after regrouping (p=0.0036) were increased in rabbits regrouped in a novel clean pen. These findings question the recommendation to introduce unfamiliar does into established groups in a neutral environment and indicate that regrouping in the group's home pen may decrease the risk of severe injuries and social stress.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
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