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Rottler, Sarah; Schoerwerth, Andrea; Lee, Hye-Won; Schmidt, Paul; Erhard, Michael H. and Bergmann, Shana (2019): Vergleich einer Bodenhaltung mit der Kombihaltung für Mastkaninchen unter ethologischen Gesichtspunkten zur Bewertung der Tiergerechtheit. In: Berliner und Munchener Tierarztliche Wochenschrift, Vol. 132, No. 11-12: pp. 513-531

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Intensive rabbit farming in Germany is subject to the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and since 2014 also to the special requirements of the Order on the Protection of Animals and the Keeping of Production Animals (German designation:Tierschutz-Nutztierhaltungsverordnung). Due to legally anchored minimum requirements as well as growing consumer pressure, it is necessary to develop new ways of farming for fattening rabbits and to test the systems for animal welfare. The main problems of intensive fattening rabbit housing are restrictions of species-specific locomotion and behaviour, lack of structured spaces or enrichment and high stocking densities. Two commercially applied, group housing sys- tems were examined for different aspects of animal behaviour. In the field trial, 56 fattening rabbits per floor pen section (12.1 Animals/m(2)) and 52 animals per each dual purpose cage compartment (12.7 animals/m(2)) were put in.The behaviour of the animals was recorded at the age of 40, 54 and 75 days with infrared video cameras over 24 hours. The analysis of the pen usage was evaluated using scan sampling method, selected behaviours with behaviour sampling and continuous recording. Rabbits well used the offered elevated platforms and preferred larger platforms compared to the smaller ones. Nevertheless, only about 20% of the animals were on the elevated platforms. In addition, hayracks, gnawing blocks and gnawing sticks were installed.The fibre-rich enrichment was significantly (o<0,05) preferred. Solitary lying without body contact with other rabbits increased with each week of fattening. Therefore the stocking density allowed the rabbits to rest without body contact even at the end of fattening, but relaxed resting positions were interrupted in 50% of observations due to a conspecific. Agonistic behaviour increased with each week of fattening. In both systems, rabbits were able to dodge effectively. Locomotion of higher intensity (including game) occurred significantly more frequently in floor pens than in the long-drawn dual purpose cage. Also the rabbit couldn't rest at the floor as often as in the floor pen. Both systems were therefore suitable for fattening larger groups of rabbits, but from a ethological point of view, the dual purpose cage is not yet preferable to the floor pen system, as it shows restrictions in the use of space.

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