Chickens Experience Empathy When Their Chicks Are Disturbed
Another interesting bit about the emotional lives of animals: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (h/t Mongabay) has published a study showing that mother hens show both physical and behavioral responses when their chicks are even mildly distressed that can be interpreted as displays of empathy.Research Jo Edgar, a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol, says,
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.
Important to note: All tests were done non-invasively.
I won't wax on about this too long as the implications for improving the conditions in which chickens are housed are great--even if you stop short of coming to think that perhaps we shouldn't be housing large amounts of chickens for our food at all.