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Different regrouping schedules in semi group-housed rabbit does: Effects on agonistic behaviour, stress and lesions

By Michèle Braconnier, Yamenah Gómez, Sabine G. Gebhardt-Henrich

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Abstract

Although group housing of naturally social animals like rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is desirable for ethical reasons, social conflicts can significantly increase the risk for injuries as well as stress incidences and negatively affect their welfare. A common housing system in Switzerland is the "semi group-housing". Here, rabbit does are kept individually shortly before the birth of their kits until 12 days post-partum (pp) after which they are regrouped. Despite positive aspects of this housing system, like the reduction of pseudo pregnancy and crushing of kits, fights between the does often occur after the regrouping process. This study examined whether prolonged postpartum separation may reduce agonistic interactions, stress, and lesions. In total, data were collected over 5 trials on 57 Hycole breeding does. Per trial, three groups of 8 does each were artificially inseminated on day 10 pp and regrouped on either day 12, 18 or 22 pp. Non-pregnant does were replaced in every trial. Agonistic behaviour, anogenital distance, lesions and increased body temperature, as a stress indicator, were documented. The effect of the regrouping treatment on the rate of injury and agonistic interactions was different depending on the trial (lesions: interaction trial x treatment χ2 = 44.21, df = 8, P 

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 228
Pages 105024
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2020.105024
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Tags
  1. Group housing
  2. Interactions
  3. Lesions
  4. Management
  5. Stress