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Behaviour, wounds, weight loss and adrenal weight of rabbit does as affected by semi-group housing

By S. Buijs, L. Maertens, K. Hermans, J. Vangeyte, F. A. M. Tuyttens

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Group housing is often assumed to improve the welfare of gregarious species. Whether this is actually the case depends on the advantages (e.g. more opportunity for social and locomotor behaviour) and disadvantages (e.g. increased fighting and wounding) induced by the specific housing type. We evaluated the effects of a semi-group system (grouping four does for half of each reproductive cycle) on welfare by comparing it to single-doe cages. Compared to this control, our semi-group system provided more total space when does were grouped and more space per doe (a confounding deemed necessary to avoid overt aggression). Thus, the results should be interpreted as a systems comparison. In each of the four experimental cycles semi-group does were housed separately for 21 days around parturition and housed in newly assembled groups for the next 21 days. Behaviour was observed in semi-group and single-doe systems immediately after the second time semi-group does were mixed, and during five timeslots divided over the second experimental cycle. Skin lesion and weight loss were determined in each cycle. Adrenal weight was measured post-mortem. Semi-group systems with different floor types were included but floor type effects were scarce and semi-group systems were therefore treated as one category. In the timeslot subsequent to mixing semi-group does spent a greater percentage of their time on locomotion (4.3 vs. 0.7%, P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 172
Pages 44-51
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.09.003
Language English
Author Address Animal Sciences Unit, Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Scheldeweg 68, Melle,
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adrenal glands
  2. Aggression
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animal housing
  5. Animals
  6. Birth
  7. Cages
  8. Effect
  9. Estrous cycle
  10. Grooming
  11. Lactation
  12. Lagomorpha
  13. Leporidae
  14. Lesions
  15. Locomotion
  16. Mammals
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. rabbits
  19. skin
  20. skin lesions
  21. Social behavior
  22. vertebrates
  23. Weight
  24. welfare
  25. Wounds and injuries
  1. peer-reviewed