Birds experience 'empathy' for their hatchlings

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
March 09, 2011



A new study has uncovered what many chicken owners would say is evident: a mother hen experiences empathy for her hatchlings. Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study found that mother hens show both physiological responses and changes in behaviors when their chicks are even mildly distressed.

For example, when chicks were exposed to a puff of air, scientists non-invasively recorded the hens' physiological responses: its heart rate increasing, while its eye temperature decreased. Behaviorally, the hens' alertness and vocalizations increased.

"Our research has addressed the fundamental question of whether birds have the capacity to show empathic responses," Jo Edgar, PhD student in the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol, said. "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 say the study could have implications on human-use of chickens and other birds.

"The extent to which animals are affected by the distress of others is of high relevance to the welfare of farm and laboratory animals," says Edgar.



CITATION: ‘Avian maternal response to chick distress’, J L Edgar, J C Lowe, E S Paul, C J Nicol, published online ahead of print Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 9 March 2011.

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A "spared-life" rooster at Ringa Monastery, which has been saved from the butcher and set free at the monastery in Tibetan Yunnan a part of southern China. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 09, 2011).

Birds experience 'empathy' for their hatchlings.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0308-hance_chickens.html