Feeds

Chickens show empathy: Official

Chilling chick torture experiment proves hens hurt too

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A crack team from the University of Bristol has demonstrated that chickens show empathy – or at least hens do when their chicks are being tortured with puffed air.

The researchers suggest that empathy "most probably evolved to facilitate parental care", so they decided to see whether mother hens "responded to an aversive stimulus directed at their chicks".

That adverse stimulus involved delivering "air puff to chicks", a treatment chillingly abbreviated to "APC". The mums' reaction was "increased heart rate and maternal vocalisation" which happened "exclusively during the APC treatment, even though chicks produced few distress vocalisations".

The scientists conclude: "The pronounced and specific reaction observed indicates that adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of empathy."

Team member Jo Edgar, of Bristol Uni's School of Veterinary Sciences, said: "The extent to which animals are affected by the distress of others is of high relevance to the welfare of farm and laboratory animals. Our research has addressed the fundamental question of whether birds have the capacity to show empathic responses.

"We found that adult female birds possess at least one of the essential underpinning attributes of 'empathy', the ability to be affected by, and share, the emotional state of another."

Quite how the findings impact on the UK's chicken breeding industry remains to be seen, but since the research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council's Animal Welfare Initiative, we suspect a ban on subjecting chickens to APC is pretty much a certainty.

The abstract* of Avian maternal response to chick distress can be found down at the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. You'll need to pay for the full-fat, finger-lickin' good version. ®

Bootnote

* One of the paper's authors is listed as CJ Nicol. We assume this is the same Christine Nicol who previously had a hand in proving that cows bear grudges.

No doubt she regularly compares notes with fellow Bristol Uni academic Gareth Jones, who last year secured an Ig Nobel for demonstrating that fellatio in fruit bats prolongs copulation time.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?