Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Foundations of empathy in chickens? Avian maternal response to chick distress studied

Date:
March 10, 2011
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Researchers in the UK have gained new insight into the minds of domestic hens, discovering, for the first time, that domestic hens show a clear physiological and behavioral response when their chicks are mildly distressed.

In a new study, researchers have found that domestic hens show a clear physiological and behavioral response when their chicks are mildly distressed.
Credit: iStockphoto/Predrag Kolakovic

Researchers in the UK have gained new insight into the minds of domestic hens, discovering, for the first time, that domestic hens show a clear physiological and behavioral response when their chicks are mildly distressed.

Related Articles


The research by academics at the University of Bristol's Animal Welfare and Behaviour research group, and funded by the BBSRC Animal Welfare Initiative, is published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The study is the first to demonstrate that birds possess one of the important attributes that underpins empathy, and the first study to use both behavioral and physiological methods to measure these traits in birds.

Using a well controlled experimental procedure and making use of technical advances in non-invasive physiological monitoring, the researchers found that domestic hens show a clear physiological and behavioral response to their chicks' distress.

During one of the controlled procedures, when the chicks were exposed to a puff of air, the hens' heart rate increased and eye temperature decreased. The hens also changed their behavior, and reacted with increased alertness, decreased preening and increased vocalizations directed to their chicks.

Some of these responses have previously been used as indicators of an emotional response in animals. In domestic chickens, time spent standing alert is associated with higher levels of fear. Previous research carried out by the same group has shown that hens also selectively avoid surroundings associated with high levels of standing and low levels of preening.

Jo Edgar, Ph.D. student in the 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."

The researchers used chickens as a model species because, under commercial conditions, chickens will regularly encounter other chickens showing signs of pain or distress due to routine husbandry practices or because of the high levels of conditions such as bone fractures or leg disorders.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. L. Edgar, J. C. Lowe, E. S. Paul, C. J. Nicol. Avian maternal response to chick distress. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2701

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Foundations of empathy in chickens? Avian maternal response to chick distress studied." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073724.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2011, March 10). Foundations of empathy in chickens? Avian maternal response to chick distress studied. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073724.htm
University of Bristol. "Foundations of empathy in chickens? Avian maternal response to chick distress studied." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110309073724.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins