Reduction of aggression-based injuries in breeding does by improvement of management

Principal Investigator: Michèle Braconnier
Project Team: Hanno Würbel
Sabine Gebhardt
Funded by: Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)

Although group housing in social species like rabbits is desirable for ethological reasons, social conflicts in groups of rabbit does are common and can result in stress and injuries leading to reduced welfare. In one common Swiss commercial housing system, rabbit does are separated from the group for 12 days around parturition inclusive 2 days after artificial insemination (AI). In response to subsequent reunion with group mates, fighting occurs in the course of re-establishing a social hierarchy.

The project aims to identify a novel management schedule of separation in order to reduce aggression, acute stress and injuries by studying the individual behavior of rabbit does and their social status in the group during the reproductive cycle.

Additionally, as maternal care of rabbits is linked to estradiol, progesterone, testosterone and prolactin, knowledge about the impact of these hormones on behaviors will help to make recommendations about welfare-friendly housing systems and management of rabbit does while being practical for farmers.