CZAAWE Resource Article

Preference testing in intensively kept meat production rabbits for straw on wire grid floor
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
The main aim of the study was to determine to what extent young rabbits kept on wire-floor cages would be attracted by straw bedding and how would access to straw modify their behaviour, health and performance. A total of 384 hybrid commercial breed rabbits (Hycol®) were assigned to 16 pens of 1.6 m2 (15 rabbits/m2). Eight pens used as controls had an all-wire floor, while in eight other pens, rabbits could choose between a wire floor or a deep litter topped up once a week and completely replaced once during the course of the 40-day-long study. Behaviour was recorded by video camera between 7 and 10 weeks of age through 24 h observations consisting of 24 sequences of 1 min every 60 min. Reactions to a new environment were compared between both treatments through the use of an open-field test. Parasitism was monitored from faeces and growth performance analysed. Time budgets showed resting, 60%; grooming, 19%; and feeding, 19–20%; were poorly influenced either at 7 or 10 weeks of age by type of floor. The most unexpected result was the low attraction of straw. Rabbits in the littered pens spent most of their time on the wire (89% at 7 weeks and 77% at 10 weeks; P<0.01), especially when they were lying (96% at 7 weeks and 84% at 10 weeks; P<0.01). The most plausible explanation for this preference seems to be that rabbits were attracted to the cleanliness and the dryness of the wire. Reactions to a new environment, and parasitism were not significantly influenced by treatments. On the other hand, final bodyweight, carcass weight and daily gain significantly decreased by 8%, 6.5%, and 10%, respectively in the littered pens compared with the wire pens (P<0.05). These results demonstrated that fattening rabbits kept under intensive conditions preferred a wire floor to a straw deep litter.