Chickens blush based on their emotions, study reveals

To arrive at this discovery, researchers from the National Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment relied on 18,000 photos of six Sussex breed hens.



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A Sussex rooster walks in Arvieu (Aveyron), August 28, 2019. (MARIO FOURMY/SIPA / SIPA)

They can blush when they have “goosebumps”. The chickens have “more or less severe blushing depending on their emotional state”reports the National Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (Inrae) in a press release published Tuesday April 23, citing a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science.

It is thanks to imaging software and 18,000 photos of six Sussex hens studied from every angle over three weeks that INRAE ​​researchers were able to distinguish shades of redness in this species of gallinaceous birds. In an orchard, the INRAE ​​team was able to observe that when faced with mealworms, chickens blushed, but that they turned scarlet when they had a negative experience such as capture.

A new avenue for assessing animal welfare

Based on these findings, the INRAE ​​research team isolated 13 hens to accustom them to the presence of a human for five weeks. Compared to other chickens, the researchers were able to observe that the group subjected to the experiment had a lighter face, “reflecting a calmer state” in the presence of this human being.

“This index (…) can constitute a new tool for assessing animal welfare”, says INRAE ​​in its press release. Above all, this research opens avenues before exploring the correlations of these blushes with other expressions of chickens. Finally, researchers would like to understand the possible meanings of this blushing between hens, particularly during interactions of dominance or subordination.

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