A survey assessment of the incidence of fur-chewing in commercial chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) farms
Chinchilla lanigera intensive breeding programmes are affected by an abnormal repetitive behaviour called 'fur-chewing', yet the aetiology is still unknown and little scientific work has been published on this condition. Recent studies have supported the idea that fur-chewing is a stress-related behaviour. In the present study, we used a questionnaire survey in order to: 1) describe general aspects on the epidemiology of fur-chewing in Argentinian farms, and 2) identify which management and/or environmental factors within the breeding facilities may be influencing the occurrence of fur-chewing. The survey consisted of 28 questions focused on farm characteristics, environmental variables and husbandry routines, and was distributed to Argentinian chinchilla farmers. All quantitative variables were tested in a multiple logistic regression model. The mean incidence of fur-chewing was 4.32 ± 0.37% (n = 107 farms). Variables negatively related to fur-chewing were the breeder experience in the activity, the total volume of the facility, and the number of wood shaving changes per week. Positive relationships were found for space index, number of rooms in the facility and presence of different rooms for fur production and reproduction. Other tendencies suggested that farms with the presence of external sound disturbance nearby had higher incidence levels. Also, we detected a tendency towards lower numbers of affected animals with an increment in the provision of dusting baths per week. Finally, results suggested a female prevalence in the development of the behaviour.
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