Rabbits behaviour under modern commercial production conditions – a review
Abstract. Recently, much work has been done to record the diurnal peak of does receptivity. It was found that the highest was in the morning and before allowing suckling. Such studies suggested that mating should be achieved in the morning or before suckling to avoid the negative effect of the circadian peak of prolactin on receptivity that occur around 15.00 to 19.00 h and after each suckling. Some cases of pseudo-pregnancy might be prevented by double mating; the second mating should be within at most five hours after the first, since mating later than this would have no effect. Total parturition time would be 10–14 minutes for a large litter and 5–7 minutes for an average litter, although parturition could be induced to allow prompt attention to does with poor maternal instinct and to those kindle for the first time kindling and to avoid situations such as: kindling at night or in cold weather and/or to avoid the variability in gestation periods (29 to 34 days). Mother-litter separation during night can influence species specific nursing behaviour and may lead to lower weaning weights of pups. Applying good management programs, as well as, change of place, gentle handling of the stressed dams, correcting nutritional deficiencies and inadequate drinking water and provision of adequate amount of straw, may well eliminate stress, correct behavioural disorders and certain types of maternal anomalies which appear to be not under the control of hormonal or genetic factors. Welfare for caged rabbits can be improved by feeding the animals in the afternoon rather than in the morning. Aggressive behaviour was greater in rabbits on nipple drinkers than in those on troughs. In conclusion, better understanding of rabbits natural behaviour under the different conditions, maintains optimal production compatible with welfare demands.
Below, description of rabbits behaviour and its relation with modern commercial production conditions, were discussed.