Preference of rabbit does among different nest materials

T.P. Farkas, Zs. Szendrő, Zs. Matics, I. Radnai, I. Nagy, Zsolt Gerencsér

Abstract

Nest quality is important for the survival of new-born rabbits. Nesting material in rabbit farms generally consists of wood shavings, which is completely different from the dry grass used by the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The aim of the experiments was to examine which nest materials are preferred by rabbit does when building their nest. In experiment 1, the choice of multiparous rabbit does (n=37) among nest boxes bedded with different nesting materials was monitored. In each pen (1.0×1.83 m) 1 doe and 4 nest boxes (0.37×0.23×0.31 m) with different nest materials (meadow hay [H], wheat straw [S], fine fibre material [Lignocel®, L] or wood shavings [W]) were placed 3 days before the expected parturition (gestation length is about 31 d in the Pannon White breed). Some 48.6% of the does kindled in nest boxes that contained pure materials (L: 40.5%, S: 5.4%, H: 2.7%), and 51.3% of the does kindled in nest boxes where the nest materials of different nest boxes were mixed by the does (S with L: 21.5%, S with L and H: 5.4%, W with L: 8.1%, L with H and S: 5.4%). Does preferred kindling in the nest box bedded with L, and most of them refused the nest box with W. In experiment 2/a (n=32 does) and 2/b (n=25 does), each pen (1×0.91 m) was equipped with 3 and 2 hay racks and filled with H, S or L, and H or S, respectively. The experiments lasted from the 27th day of pregnancy until the day of parturition and 24-h video recordings (10 does/experiment) were evaluated throughout the experiment. The events of carrying the nest materials from the hay racks were registered. In experiment 2/a, the frequency of nest material carrying was highest on the day of parturition. The preferred nest material was L (compared to H and S) on each experimental day except day 30 of pregnancy. At the day of kindling, 87.5, 6.3 and 6.3% of the nests contained pure L, mixed L-H and L-S, respectively. In experiment 2/b, the frequency of nest material carrying (mostly S) was highest on the day of parturition, and on days 27 and 30 of pregnancy. More does built nests with only S (72%) than H (16%), and in 12% of the cases the S and H were mixed. For the purpose of nest building, material S was the most frequently used (72%) compared to other possibilities (H: 16%, S-H: 12%). It can be concluded that rabbit does showed the following clear preferences for specific nest building materials: L>S>H>W.

Keywords

rabbit does; nest material; hay rack; preference; parturition

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References

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