Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Physical injuries and hair corticosterone concentrations in rabbit kits from single- and group-housed does kept on a commercial farm

In intense breeding programs, rabbits are exposed to numerous stress factors which could affect their welfare and health. It has been suggested that group housing is more comfortable for does and similar to the living conditions of European wild rabbits. In this study, we compared three different housing systems—single housing; housing in pairs; and housing in groups of three does—to test whether there is a measurable impact on skin lesions, health, and hair corticosterone concentration (HCC) of their kits. The number of kits with lesions increased with the number of does kept together. The probability of kits getting injured was higher in groups of three does than in pens of single-housed does (p = 0.041). When does were pair-housed, kits seemed to have fewer disease symptoms compared to the other treatments. Concerning HCC of kits, there was no significant difference between the housing systems (p > 0.05). The mean HCC of kits was 2.94 pg/mg, while pair housing had the lowest HCC (2.59 pg/mg). This study focused on the welfare of kits from group-housed does. From this perspective, pair housing of does may be appropriate to allow social interaction between does without unduly affecting the welfare of their kits.

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