Study Finds Chickens More Optimistic When Well Cared For

A study by scientists from Linköping University in Sweden found that chickens can be optimists or pessimists.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study set out to determine whether stressful conditions affected chickens’ emotional stability. Researchers led by evolutionary biologist Hanne Løvlie achieved this by using both behavioral and chemical measures.

The researchers found that chickens living in complex environments were much more likely to be optimistic than those living in simple ones.

The study concluded:
The results from the current study demonstrate that additive stress can have a negative influence on behavior and cognitive processes in domestic chicks, and that environmental complexity can buffer against these negative effects. Further, we show that dopamine activity in the brain is related to judgment biases in young female chickens.
This isn’t the first study to show that chickens are complex creatures. From anticipating future events to recalling the trajectory of a hidden object, chickens are incredibly smart. They even possess self-control, holding out for a better food reward, and can assess their own position in the pecking order—both characteristics of self-awareness.

What’s more, chickens pass down knowledge from generation to generation and can recognize over 100 individual faces, not only of their fellow chickens but of humans. They also understand that recently hidden objects still exist, something beyond the capability of a two-year-old human child.

Chickens are also caring and sensitive animals. Consider this: Mother hens begin communicating with their chicks before they even hatch. When the babies are still inside their shells, the mother hen clucks softly to them and they chirp back. How sweet is that?

Chickens also experience joy, loneliness, frustration, fear, and pain just like the dogs and cats who share our homes. They even purr when they’re petted like cats!

Unfortunately, chickens are one of the most abused animals on the planet. In fact, chickens make up 98 percent of the land animals raised and killed for food in the U.S. and lead some of the most miserable lives. They are subjected to cruelties few of us can even imagine.

Chickens used for meat are confined in overcrowded, filthy sheds in near darkness. Bred to grow unnaturally fast, they endure chronic, debilitating pain and frequently become immobilized under their own weight. They also suffer organ failure and other problems because of rapid growth.

At the slaughterhouse, these innocent animals are violently shackled upside down, painfully shocked with electricity, and cut open at the throat—often while still conscious and able to feel pain.

To make matters worse, not a single U.S. federal law protects animals during their lives at factory farms, and the law that’s supposed to protect animals at slaughterhouses, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, doesn’t extend to birds, leaving chickens with virtually no protection from abuse.

Thankfully, with a wide variety of delicious and humane meat-free options readily available, everyone can enjoy their favorite flavors without hurting these precious animals.

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