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Growth Performance, Feed Preference and Circadian Variation in Behavioural Traits of Rabbits Reared Singly and in Group

Cosmas Chikezie Ogbu, Augustine Ogbonnaya Ani, Peterclever Nwogwugwu.

The study was carried out to determine (1) the effects of feed type on feed preference, (2) the effects of rearing condition (group, GRR and single, SRR rearing) on performance and duration of behavioural traits, and (3) the effect of time period on circardian variation in behavioural traits of rabbits. Ten 8 wk old rabbits were employed for the study. The rabbits were divided into two groups of five each. The first group were housed singly (SRR) while the second group were housed together (GRR) at 50 cm2/rabbit. The trial feeds were Centrosema pubescens (CTP), Ipomea batatas (IP), Tridax procumbens (TDP), pelleted (PC), and ground (GC) concentrates. 2 wk adaptation to thebfeed materials was allowed. During the experiment, feed and water were provided ad libitum. Data collected included production traits: final body weight (FBWT), total body weight gain (TBWG), daily weight gain (DWG), feed intake (FI), and feed conversion ratio (FCR), and behavioural traits: duration of feed intake (DFI), water intake (DWI), standing (DST) and lying down (DLD). Duration of behavioural traits were recorded 1 day/wk for 8 wk within 8 time periods (3 h each starting from 06.00 h). Rearing condition significantly (P ˂ 0.05) influenced FI, FCR, DWI, DST and DLD but not FBWT, TBWG, DWG and DFI. Centrosema pubescens and pelleted feed were the most preferred by the rabbits. Time period significantly (P ˂ 0.05) influenced the duration of all the behavioural traits studied and pattern of activity suggested the existence of circadian variation in the behavioural activities of the rabbits. Rearing condition x time period interaction significantly (P ˂ 0.05) altered the time period for longest and shortest duration of behavioural activities. A total of 257.1 min or 4.3 h was allotted to feeding, 24.4 min or 0.4 h to drinking, 297.0 min or 5.0 h to standing and 737.4 min or 12.3 h to lying down by the rabbits which indicate that approximately 91% of the 24 h day was spent on these activities. Furthermore, about 56.0 % of the total activity time was spent lying down, 17.8 % for feeding and 1.71 % for drinking water. Therefore rabbits should be fed at peak periods of nutrient intake namely early diurnal (03:00 06:00 hrs), late diurnal (15:00 18:00 hrs) and early nocturnal (18:00 21:00 hrs) periods to maximize intake and minimize rejects. Again, rabbits should be provided enough space for exercise and rest.

Key words: Behaviour, circadian variation, feed preference, group and single rearing, performance.

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