Project: Development and assessment of alternative animal-friendly housing systems for rabbit does with kits and growing rabbits.

Rabbits for meat production are still commonly housed in small, barren wire cages in contrast to many other species for which more animal-friendly alternatives have been developed. In many European countries, there are strong societal concerns about this type of rabbit housing. Therefore, research on alternative systems is important and urgent. In an international network alternative housing systems will be developed (group housing for does with kits and ?park? housing for growing rabbits) and the impact of these systems on mortality, morbidity, physiology, behaviour and performance will be assessed. The project is a continuation of the COST action 848, partly by the same teams. The link between the sub-projects is the use of the same methods in the groups (with the recording of the health, ethological and productive parameters). Also, we will evaluate the relative importance of different types of environmental enrichment by studying the rabbits? motivation to get access to these enrichments. The spectrum of methods includes the documentation of all losses and antibiotic treatments, skin lesions, the observation of the behaviour, the measurement of reproductive hormones, the registration of performance, pathological and histological findings. Also, we will carry out an economical evaluation. For growing rabbits the effect of housing system is combined with the impact of new feedstuffs (feed blocks or green feeding) to improve gut health and to prevent the occurrence of epizootic rabbit enteropathy. For group housed does, the investigation of agonistic behaviour among group-mates and options to reduce aggressiveness are in the centre of research. Basic research (e.g., the use of open field, aggressiveness and motivation tests) is linked to applied research (development and investigation of new housing systems under welfare aspects). A Good Practices Code for evaluation of rabbit housing will be developed as the result of the whole project.

Acronym RABHO Rabbit housing
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Network ANIHWA
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Project partner

Number Name Role Country
Justus Liebig University Giessen Coordinator Germany
Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale Umbria e Marche Italy
Kaposvár University Hungary
Valencian Institute for Agricultural Research Spain
French Technical Institute for Poultry Production France