Humans can identify chicken moods, research says

The estimated 100 million chickens in Australia might be able to make their feelings known, after a University of Queensland study found humans can tell if chickens are excited or displeased, just by the sound of their clucks.  

The study used recordings of the noises chickens made when they anticipated a reward, such as food, which researchers labelled the ‘food’ call, or the ‘fast cluck’, and a second set of recordings made when a reward was withheld, which they called the ‘whine’ and ‘gakel’ calls. 

Participants in the survey were played the recordings to see if they could tell the context of the chicken sounds, and whether various demographics and levels of experience with chickens affected their correct identification.

Joerg Henning from UQ’s School of Veterinary Science said the findings were significant. 

“We found 69 per cent of all participants could correctly tell if a chicken sounded excited or displeased,” Henning said.

“This is a remarkable result and further strengthens evidence that humans have the ability to perceive the emotional context of vocalisations made by different species. It provides confidence that people involved in chicken husbandry can identify the emotional state of the birds they look after, even if they don’t have prior experience.”

Henning hopes that future research will expand on the findings, potentially developing into artificially intelligent based detection systems to monitor vocalisations in chickens to assist in monitoring the welfare of farmed birds. 


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