STUDY: No Evidence for Emotional Empathy in Chickens Observing Familiar Adult Conspecifics

The capacity of animals to empathise is of high potential relevance to the welfare of group-housed domestic animals. Emotional empathy is a multifaceted and multilayered phenomenon which ranges from relatively simple processes such as emotional matching behaviour to more complex processes involving interaction between emotional and cognitive perspective taking systems. Our previous research has demonstrated that hens show clear behavioural and physiological responses to the mild distress of their chicks. To investigate whether this capacity exists outside the mother/offspring bond, we conducted a similar experiment in which domestic hens were exposed to the mild distress of unrelated, but familiar adult conspecifics.