Rabbit preference for cages and pens with or without mirrors

Antonella Dalle Zotte, Zoltán Princz, Zsolt Matics, Zsolt Gerencsér, Szilvia Metzger, Zsolt Szendro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Five-week-old Pannon White rabbits were housed in a closed climatized rabbitry and randomly assigned to either pens (56 rabbits) having a basic area of 1 m2 with a stocking density of 16 and 12 rabbits/m2 or to 18 individual cages (0.24 m2/cage). The pens and the cages were divided into two halves and animals could move freely between the two halves through swing doors. The walls of one half of the pens and cages were completely covered with mirrors while the other half was covered with white plastic panels. A 24 h video recording was made twice a week using infrared cameras and the number of rabbits in each pen and cage was counted every 15 min. The duration of the trial was 6 weeks. The lighting period was 16L/8D. In each half of the cage or pen, a feeder and nipple drinkers were available and feed intake was measured separately. Throughout the entire rearing period, 72% of the individually caged rabbits showed a preference for the cage half enriched with mirrors (P < 0.001). This preference decreased slightly with increasing age. Preference toward the cage half provided with mirror walls was independent of the time of day; in other words, during the active period (23:00-05:00) corresponding to the dark part of the day, rabbits continued to prefer the mirrored half even if the vision of the reflected image was reduced. The presence of conspecifics at different stocking densities (12 vs. 16 rabbits/m2) did not reduce this interest in mirrors: averaging the ages, 66% of animals living at 16 rabbits/m2 stocking density and 63% of those living at 12 rabbits/m2 density were found in the half pen with mirrors (P < 0.001). Group-penned rabbits showed a marked preference toward mirrors during the active period (73-76% for 12 and 16 rabbits/m2 stocking densities, respectively; P < 0.001). The results suggest that the presence of mirrors offers advantages perhaps related to comfort and welfare, and therefore might be used as environmental enrichment for fattening rabbits and advised for rabbits caged individually for long periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-278
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume116
Issue number2-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 31 2009

Keywords

  • Group-penned
  • Growing rabbits
  • Individually caged
  • Mirrors
  • Preference test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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