THE BARE CAGE
The most common pens for fattened rabbits are bare cage batteries. Rabbits are kept in cages, either individually or in small groups, with limited freedom of movement during their development. Farm rabbits are not protected by EU legislation, which prohibits laying hens from being kept in bare cage batteries.
Except for the feeding and watering station technology, the cages have wire floors and are completely bare. The rabbits are unable to perform most of their natural behaviors, such as lying stretched out, standing on their hind legs (due to the cages’ limited size), gnawing, hopping, and digging. Breeding rabbits are typically kept in individual cages, preventing social interaction and causing wire mesh sores on their feet. Disease and commonly used antibiotics cause a high rate of mortality.
THE DESIGNED CAGE
There are no legal requirements for designed cages across the EU. The “ethical cage” is a specially designed cage with a platform, a plastic-bottomed section, and a gnawing block. The available space is still limited, which restricts behavior; the floor is mostly made of wire, and there are no requirements for providing hay or hiding places. Breeding cibes, which are housed individually, are also housed in specially designed cages. Thousands of rabbits are usually housed in dark sheds in cages (bare and well-designed) such as best bunny hutch, in several rows and tiers one on top of the other.
ALTERNATIVES FOR ANIMAL HUSBANDRY THAT IS MORE SPECIES-APPROPRIATE
In Northern Europe, indoor pens for growing rabbits were developed in response to public concern about traditional bare cages. The Belgian “Park” system is used to keep rabbits in a more appropriate environment. In Germany, similar stall systems have been implemented in naturally lit stalls. The rabbits have more room to stretch out, move around, hop, and stand on their hind legs in the open bays. The growing rabbits are housed in groups for more social interaction and given enrichments like platforms, gnawing blocks, hay, and pipes to hide in.
On a large scale, there are no free-range systems for rabbits. Small-scale, organic farms with outside access are the most common. Mobile enclosures are made up of covered bays with a protected area and a covered grass area that is moved on a daily basis to ensure fresh grass, prevent disease and prevent overgrazing. The rabbits should be able to stand on their hind legs in these bays, and their surroundings should be improved. Even more uncommon is rabbit housing with access to an open paddock and shelter. To reduce the risk of disease and pathogen proliferation in the land, the pastures must be changed, with rest periods for each group of rabbits. Although this is the most natural system, rabbits can succumb to predators or disease at a high rate. To minimize the risk, sufficient precautions should be taken. Breeding cibes aren’t typically kept outside, but mobile enclosures allow them to do so.