A lecturer at Harper Adams University in Shropshire is investigating ways to improve the welfare of commercially bred rabbits through research that reviews their housing conditions.

Harper Adams University lecturer Sue Jeavons is committed to improving rebbit welfare.

Sue Jeavons is looking at whether practical improvements in nest box design can meet the nesting requirements of rabbits and, therefore, improve their welfare.

Mrs Jeavons, who teaches companion animal health and manages the on-campus Companion Animal House teaching facility, is researching the topic for her master of philosophy degree.

She said rabbit welfare was a particular area of interest because the animals could often be misunderstood and housed in less than favourable conditions.

“Having kept pet rabbits for a number of years and teaching their husbandry at Harper Adams, I have a genuine desire to improve their welfare,” she said.

Mrs Jeavons, who started working at Harper Adams seven years ago, will be considering nest box type, bedding and other influencing factors. She is also conducting a literature review and evaluation of pet rabbit breeding practices to identify the factors that influence nest use and suitability for rabbits.

“I hope to assess rabbit preference and motivation for nest box type, the substrate used close to the nest and the distance between the general hutch space and nest box,” she said.

“This research will enable us to invent an optimum nest box type and design that could potentially be implemented in large commercial pet rabbit breeding facilities, in the hope of improving doe welfare.

“With more than three million pet rabbits in the UK, this research will also raise awareness of pet breeding practices in the UK and, therefore, improve overall welfare.”

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