Feeds

Chickens show empathy: Official

Chilling chick torture experiment proves hens hurt too

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
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?
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.