Domestic chickens display signs of empathy, the ability to ''feel another's pain'' that is at the heart of compassion, a study has found.
The discovery has important implications for the welfare of farm and laboratory animals, say researchers.
Empathy, long thought to be a defining human trait, causes one individual to be affected by the emotional state of another.
Feelings are ''mirrored'' in the observer, leading to a shared experience of being happy, sad or distressed.
The research demonstrated that hens possess a fundamental capacity to empathise, at least with their own chicks.
Scientists chose hens and chicks for the study because it is thought empathy probably evolved to aid parental care.
A number of controlled procedures were carried out which involved ruffling the feathers of chicks and mother hens with an air puff.
When chicks were exposed to puffs of air, they showed signs of distress that were mirrored by their mothers. The hens' heart rate increased, their eye temperature lowered - a recognised stress sign - and they became increasingly alert. Levels of preening were reduced, and the hens made more clucking noises directed at their chicks. ...
via Chickens are capable of feeling empathy, scientists believe - Telegraph.