A review of recent research outcomes on the housing of farmed domestic rabbits: reproducing does

Zsolt Szendrő, Angela Trocino, Steffen Hoy, Gerolamo Xiccato, Arantxa Villagrá, Luc Maertens

Abstract

The housing of farmed animals is increasingly scrutinised by society and thereby subject to a change towards more animal-friendly systems. For rabbits, also kept as pets, there are no EC regulations regarding their housing under farming conditions. In many countries, studies have been carried out to improve their welfare and health under current and alternative housing systems. This paper reviews and integrates the research efforts made since the EFSA report in 2005 on reproducing rabbit does and provides some conclusions, where possible, with special emphasis on animal welfare according to the principles stated by the Welfare Quality® project, i.e. good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour. The use of an elevated platform provides greater opportunities for does and their kits to move, jumping up and down. Management and housing systems (especially flooring) must guarantee good hygienic conditions (all-in, all-out) and separation of the rabbits from their excreta for proper resting places, hygiene and health. Plastic floors and footrests and environmental enrichments (e.g. gnawing material) are also recommended. Continuous group housing systems for reproducing females have been definitively proven to challenge animal welfare by increased aggression and injuries among does and to kits. Part-time group housing systems have proven to have potential, but cannot yet be recommended in farms until major problems of aggression and injuries among animals are solved.


Keywords

rabbit does; housing equipment; enrichment; welfare; group-housing

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References

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