Effect of handling in pre-weaning rabbits

Daniela Zucca, Veronica Redaelli, S.P. Marelli, Vittorio Bonazza, Eugenio Heinzl, Marina Verga, Fabio Luzi


The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of regular daily handling on weight gain and on the fear reaction towards a new environment and human beings in domestic kits (Tonic Immobility test: TI, Emergence test: ET). Two groups in the same environment and fed the same diet were analysed: handled group and control (17 litters, 9 kits/litter per group). No differences in weight gain were recorded. During ET at 33 days of age, handled kits took less time to enter the arena than control group kits. TI duration was shorter in handled kits, which required more inductions than the control group. It was found that minimal human contact imposed before nursing reduced the fear of humans in rabbit kits. Our handling method requires minimal contact and can be used to reduce fear and improve welfare in rabbits. Moreover, the short length of the handling procedure allows stockpersons to produce tamer rabbits, reducing stress levels.


Kits; handling; body weight; behavioural test; fear; rabbit

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 Universitat Politècnica de València


Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)


e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011   https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs