Trocino, A., Zomeño, C., Filiou, E. et al. 2019. The use of environmental enrichments affects performance and behavior of growing rabbits housed in collective pens. Animals 9(8), 537.
This study assessed the effects of an elevated plastic-slatted platform and/or a plastic hiding tube in collective pens with large group sizes (27 or 36 rabbits/pen; 16 rabbits/m2) on the performance and welfare of rabbits kept from weaning (at 33 days of age) to slaughter (at 68 or 75 days of age). Growth performance, injuries, and behavior (video recorded for 24 h) of rabbits (n = 504) were recorded. The platform allowed rabbits to adopt the rearing position more frequently (+0.14 events during 2 min every 30 min across 24 h) and to rest with stretched body for longer (+3.8% of observed time) (p ≤ 0.001). Production parameters and reactivity at the open field test were not modified, but the occurrence of injured rabbits at the trial end was higher in pens with platforms (+8.9%; p ≤ 0.01). This result was possibly related to the higher group size in pens with platforms (36 rabbits) compared to those without platforms (27 rabbits). The inclusion of the tube decreased growth (−2.2 g/d; p ≤ 0.05), whereas it was scarcely used by rabbits and it did not substantially change their behavior or the occurrence of injuries. In conclusion, under the experimental conditions of this study, elevated platforms worked as a useful structural enrichment in view of animal behavior but negatively impacted on the rate of injuries, whereas the usefulness of the tube was not confirmed.