The effects of spatial restriction on the behavior of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Dixon, Laura M., Hardiman, Jessica R. and Cooper, Jonathan J. (2010) The effects of spatial restriction on the behavior of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 5 (6). pp. 302-308. ISSN 1558-7878

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Companion rabbits can be housed in a wide variety of accommodations including hutches of smaller dimensions as compared with those that are legally required for laboratory and farmed rabbits. Small rabbit enclosures may restrict behavior patterns including hopping, stretching, and rearing and may compromise rabbit welfare especially when these activities are important to the rabbits. To investigate this possibility, 19 rabbits of different sizes and breeds were housed in small pens equivalent to floor areas of hutches (0.88 m 2), medium pens approximately twice the floor area of conventional hutches (1.68 m 2), and large pens approximately 4 times the floor area of conventional hutches (3.35 m 2). Through scan sampling, 24-hour time budgets of the rabbits were determined and their response to a change in enclosure size was assessed by continuously sampling their behavior for 2 hours after their transfer into different-sized pens. Mixed model analysis using rabbit as the repeated measure found that rabbits were generally more active and interacted more with environmental resources in larger pens compared with smaller pens (P < 0.05). Also, rabbits exhibited a rebound effect in activity and rearing when moved from a smaller sized pen to a larger sized pen (P < 0.05). These findings show that larger pens provide behavioral opportunities that are restricted in smaller pens, and suggest that smaller hutches can jeopardize rabbit welfare. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Keywords:Animalia, Oryctolagus cuniculus
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:10075
Deposited On:10 Jul 2013 14:47

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