Time budget of two rabbit genotypes having access to different-sized pasture areas - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Applied Animal Behaviour Science Year : 2023

Time budget of two rabbit genotypes having access to different-sized pasture areas


Providing rabbits with an outdoor access allows them to express a large repertoire of their specific behaviours and addresses societal expectations concerning animal welfare in livestock systems. There is a need to provide knowledge on outdoor raised rabbits as, in Europe, almost all rabbits are raised in wired cages. The objective of this study was to describe the behaviours of rabbits living outdoors and the effect of genotype and pasture size. Focal sampling was used to score behaviours, and we tested the effects of pasture size and rabbit genotype on the expression of their specific behaviours. We divided 192 weaned rabbits into two experimental groups that differed in pasture size, i.e. a large pasture (LP) of 60 m2 (n = 96, in 4 pens with their own outdoor access) and a small pasture (SP) of 30 m2 (n = 96, in 4 pens with their own outdoor access). Each group contained rabbits of two genotypes, i.e. half male 1001 x female 1777 rabbits (1001) and half male PS119 x female 1777 rabbits (PS119). Rabbit behaviour was assessed for three 15-minutes periods (07:00-08:00 h, 14:00-15:00 h, and 19:00-20:00 h) when animals were aged 45, 59 and 71 days old by scoring behaviours from video recordings. The rabbits spent most of the time outside on the pastures than in the pens inside the building (56.9% vs 43.1% of the time, respectively). They expressed a large variety of species-specific behaviours, with grazing being predominant on the pastures (25.9% of observed time) and resting being predominant in the pens (34.2% of observed time). Results reflected the crepuscular nature of rabbits, as active behaviours were mainly displayed in the morning and in the evening. More time was spent hopping, grazing and watching in LP than SP pastures (on average, 2.5% vs 1.8%, 31.1% vs 24.6% and 9.9% vs 7.1%, respectively; P < 0.05). PS119 rabbits spent more time rearing and watching than 1001 rabbits (on average, 2.3% vs 1.1% and 9.6% vs 7.4%, respectively; P < 0.05), while 1001 rabbits spent more time grazing than PS119 rabbits (on average, 34.7% vs 22.1%, respectively; P < 0.05). This study finds that a larger pasture size promotes the expression of species-specific behaviours. Furthermore, patterns of some behaviours varied according to genotype. These results can be used to encourage farmers to provide an outdoor area to rabbits and to choose genotypes that are better adapted to outdoor conditions.
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hal-04123096 , version 1 (12-06-2023)


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Manon Fetiveau, Davi Savietto, Andrew Janczak, Carole Bannelier, Anne-Sophie Plagnet, et al.. Time budget of two rabbit genotypes having access to different-sized pasture areas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2023, 260, pp.105872. ⟨10.1016/j.applanim.2023.105872⟩. ⟨hal-04123096⟩
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