Feed intake limitation strategies for the growing rabbit: effect on feeding behaviour, welfare, performance, digestive physiology and health: a review

Animal. 2012 Sep;6(9):1407-19. doi: 10.1017/S1751731112000389.


This review aims to present the different effects produced by a post-weaning intake limitation strategy on the growing rabbit, now largely used by French professional rabbit breeders. Although a quantitative feed restriction leads to slower growth, feed conversion (FC) is improved, particularly when the rabbits are again fed freely, as compensatory growth occurs. This better FC or the healthy rabbit is because of better digestion resulting from slower passage through the intestine, whereas the digestive physiology is slightly modified (morphometry of the intestinal mucosa, fermentation pattern, microbiota). Meat quality and carcass characteristics are not greatly affected by feed restriction, except for a lower dressing-out percentage. One of the main advantages of limiting post-weaning intake of the rabbit is to reduce the mortality and morbidity rate due to digestive disorders (particularly epizootic rabbit enteropathy syndrome). The consequences for animal welfare are debatable, as feed restriction probably leads to hunger, but it reduces the incidence of digestive troubles after weaning. However, the growing rabbit adapts very well to an intake limitation strategy, without any aggressive behaviour for congener. In conclusion, restriction strategies could improve profitability of rabbit breeding, but they should be adapted to any specific breeding situation, according to the national market, feed prices, etc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Meat / standards
  • Rabbits / growth & development
  • Rabbits / physiology*