Chickens Experience Empathy When Their Chicks Are Disturbed

hen with chicks photo

photo: James Emery/Creative Commons

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.

More on Animals:
Gorilla Inconsolable After Death of Her Lifelong Mate
Elephants Cooperate With One Another As Well As Apes Do

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