As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Finding signs of happiness in chickens could help us understand their lives in captivity

AUGUST 2, 2019

by Mary Baxter,, The Conversation

When animal welfare campaigner Ruth Harrison published a book in 1964 called Animal Machines, there was a public outcry. Her vivid descriptions of post-war intensive farming started a discussion about animal welfare that led to new guidelines for safeguarding animals in human care. From this, the "Five Freedoms" were born.

They stated that animals should have:
Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, injury or disease
Freedom to express normal behaviours
Freedom from fear and distress

The Five Freedoms are used as a way to assess animal welfare around the world, but they've been criticised for their focus on limiting suffering rather than giving animals a good environment to live in. The Farm Animal Welfare Council revisited these standards in 2009 and asked a new question that has shifted the way we think about animal welfare. Does this animal have a "life worth living?"

It's no longer enough to know if an animal is suffering, we also need to know if it's happy. But in the absence of a big toothy grin or a wagging tail, how do we do that for a chicken?

Those studying long-domesticated animals with expressive features are at an advantage. We know that dogs are happier when they wag their tail towards the right. We know that rats laugh when they are tickled, and we know which facial expressions mice, rats, rabbits, horses and sheep pull when they're pain free. But we don't yet have a positive behaviour marker for chickens—and we need one.

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