BRITISH scientists proved that mother hens have emotional intelligence and feel the pain of their chicks, according to a study published today. A study of domestic hens and their offspring, conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol, in southwestern England, found that the female chickens became distressed when their young were threatened. The ability to feel empathy was long seen as a uniquely human trait, but recent studies suggested that animals can also be affected by others pain. The study of hens could have implications for chicken farmers and researchers who use the birds in experiments. The extent to which animals are affected by the distress of others is of high relevance to the welfare of farm and laboratory animals. Our research has addressed the fundamental question of whether birds have the capacity to show empathic responses, said Jo Edgar, from the universitys School of Veterinary Sciences. Herald Sun