Effect of Cage Density and Sex on Growth, Food Utilization and Some Stress Parameters of Young Rabbits
The aim of the experiment was to study the effects of cage density (1, 3 and 5 rabbits per cage) and sex (male and female) on stress parameters of young rabbits. A total of 90 (45 male and 45 female) weaned New Zealand White rabbits aged 35 days old were used in the experiment. Rabbits were allocated as 1, 3 and 5 rabbits, in each of 5 cages, to obtain three different cage density groups: 4200, 1400 and 840 cm2 floor area per rabbit, respectively. Mean values for total body weight gain, food intake, food:gain ratio, the plasma corticosterone level and serum levels of glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides were taken as indicators of stress. The group having 5 rabbits per cage had significantly lower total body weight gain (p<0.001), food intake (p<0,001) and higher food:gain ratio (p<0,01) than other groups during the experiment. The levels of plasma corticosterone and serum glucose were higher (p<0.001) in the group with 5 rabbits per cage than other groups. Values for serum levels of cholesterol and triglyceride were not affected by cage density. Gender effect was detected only in corticosterone level. Male rabbits had higher plasma corticosterone than female rabbits. The results suggest that the allocation of 1 or 3 rabbits per cage had no measurable adverse effects on the welfare of male and female young rabbits, whereas (at our cage densities) 5 ones.