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Research towards more animal friendly rabbit housing systems (RABBITRY)

Main research question/goal
The RABBITRY project focuses on the evaluation of an innovative group housing system for rabbit does. How can we develop a system for does and their young which is compatible with modern husbandry procedures, responds to animal welfare demands, and minimizes aggression? We perform an extensive empirical study to answer these questions.

Research approach
We compare productivity, welfare and health of does (and their offspring) housed in conventional cages, wire-floor group housing pens, and plastic-floor group housing pens. In addition, we evaluate how aggression is affected by housing during adolescence, extra hiding places, and extra enrichment. The possibility to predict adult aggression based on juvenile characteristics (behavioural and physiological) is determined. We also contribute to the development of a protocol for welfare evaluations on commercial farms. Our part in the development of this protocol is to validate fear tests.

The Belgian federal government plans to make group housing of rabbit does compulsory by 2021 depending on whether the RABBITRY project shows that group housing is acceptable in terms of production, welfare, and health.

Funding provider(s)
Collectief 'Eigen Inbreng'
FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu

External partner(s)
Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
Date:1 Nov 2011 →  31 Oct 2014