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Behavioural effects of environmental enrichment for individually caged rabbits






Applied Animal Behaviour Science 52(1/2): 157-169

Behavioural effects of environmental enrichment for individually caged rabbits

The behavioural effects of providing male laboratory rabbits with one of four objects in their cage as environmental enrichment were investigated. A total of 60 New Zealand White rabbits housed individually in cages were used. The rabbits were assigned to one of 5 treatments by a random procedure; hay in a water bottle, grass-cubes, two gnawing sticks, a box, or nothing (controls). One week after purchase they were given their object and behavioural observations began. These were made by instantaneous recordings at 2 min intervals for one h/day and totaled 16 days. Rabbits given hay interacted more with their object than those given grass-cubes, gnawing sticks or a box (143, 58, 13 and 19 mean no. of rec. resp., p lt 0.0001 for each treatment), they showed less abnormal behaviour, such as excessive fur-licking, sham chewing and bar-biting, than the control rabbits (50 vs. 97 mean no. of rec., p lt 0.01), and they lay still less often than the control rabbits (179 vs. 256 mean no. of rec., p lt 0.05). Rabbits given grass-cubes interacted more often with their object than those given gnawing sticks (p lt 0.001) or a box (p lt 0.01), and they showed less abnormal behaviour than the control rabbits (p lt 0.001). Rabbits given gnawing sticks or a box interacted only rarely with their object, and they showed the same amount of abnormal behaviour as the control rabbits. The weight gain was higher for rabbits given grass-cubes (906 g, p lt 0.001), but not for rabbits given hay (650 g), gnawing sticks (61 1 g) or a box (570 g) compared to the control rabbits (617 g). It is concluded that hay was the most effective of the tested objects in reducing abnormal behaviour and giving the individually housed rabbits some alternative occupation.

Accession: 002763685

DOI: 10.1016/s0168-1591(96)01141-0

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