• Abstract

    This study was conducted to investigate different housing systems and their effects on the growth performance and behaviour of fattening rabbits. The 120 animals were randomly allocated into 3 treatment groups based on the type of housing, from 35 to 84 days: cages (CG), 10 collective wire cages; each housing, 4 animals in 0.3 m²; closed pens (CP), 10 closed pens accommodating 4 rabbits, each with 0.525 m² and straw bedding on the ground; and an open-air system (OA), with 2 pens in the field each measuring 80 m², housing 20 rabbits in each pen. Live weight and feed intake were monitored every week. At the ages of 70 and 84 days, 10 rabbits per treatment were slaughtered, and blood samples were collected to measure haematocrit, cortisol and corticosterone levels. At the same age, 10 additional rabbits per treatment were chosen for an open field test. Compared with CG rabbits, OA rabbits exhibited a significantly lower final weight (2563 g vs. 2980 g). Compared with CG rabbits, OA rabbits also demonstrated reduced weight gain (33.1 vs. 41.8 g/d) and a decreased intake of pelletized feed (111.5 vs. 139.6 g/d). Corticosterone and haematocrit levels were smaller in other lodgements than in caged rabbits, which may suggest a poorer wellbeing status. This study indicated that animals housed in the outdoor system travelled greater distances (P<0.05) than did those housed in other housing types. The choice of rabbit housing during the growing period has an impact on growth performance, which is compromised in the outdoor system, and behaviour, which is negatively affected in the cage system.

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How to cite

Pinheiro, V., Silva, S., Mourão, J. L., Teixeira, J., & Monteiro, D. (2024). Effect of housing systems on behaviour and growth performance in fattening rabbits. Journal of Animal Behaviour and Biometeorology, 12(2), 2024013. https://doi.org/10.31893/jabb.2024013
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