Description of nestbox visits and suckling events in a group housing system for rabbit does as compared to individual cages
Research was conducted to study nursing associated events of lactating rabbit does. Nest box visits and suckling events were investigated using 6 group pens (8 does/pen) and 12 enriched individual cages. Each group pen and individual cage was observed by video for one day per week until weaning at 35 d of lactation, with exception of the third week of lactation. In the first 2 wk of lactation, videotapes were analysed for the frequency and duration of nest box visits per day. The fourth and fifth week of lactation, suckling events on the floor of the group pens and nest box visits in the individual cages were analysed for one day per week. The first 2 wk of lactation, does visits to the nest boxes were less frequent (respectively 1.9±0.2 vs. 2.6±0.3, P<0.1) and shorter (respectively 113±9 s vs. 158±15 s, P< 0.05) in the group pens than in the individual cages. In the group pens, 32% of the does had intervals of >24 h between nest box visits. In the cages, all does visited the nest boxes at least once a day. In the last 2 wk of lactation, in the group pens suckling duration (mean±standard deviation) was 89±49 and 92.2±37 s in respectively week 4 and 5. In 79% of the suckling events a mix of the does’ own and other kits were suckled. No difference was found in suckling duration between litters consisting of own and/or other kits. Thirty-two per cent of the does in week 4 and 62% of the does in week 5 did not suckle kits on the floor of the pen, whereas all the does in the cages still visited the nest boxes at least once every 24 h. Based on this study, it can be concluded that in group housing less frequent and shorter nest box visits as well as suckling events were found as compared to individual housing.
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1. Effects of group housing system, pen floor type, and lactation management on performance and behaviour in rabbit does
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Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol: 203 first page: 55 year: 2018
Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)
e-ISSN: 1989-8886 ISSN: 1257-5011 https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs