Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

RFID Enables Study of Chicken Pessimism

The smaller tracking devices become, the more applications they find.

  • March 30, 2012

The coolest thing about RFID chips – those ultra-cheap, ultra-tiny devices allow remote tracking, even without batteries – is that these qualities make them suitable for types of research that would otherwise be impossible. Or at least challenging.

This chicken is crying on the inside.

Other trackers have shrunk enough to enable research in a similar vein – remember bats equipped with ultra-tiny GPS receivers? – but implantable RFID chips smaller than a grain of rice are opening up even further horizons. Like the disposition of chickens.

Researchers at the University of New England in Australia are “taking a closer look at how chickens’ moods are connected to their desire to spend time outdoors,” reports the Armidale Express.

It seems that sans technology, measuring the emotional state of chickens isn’t easy. Most behavioral studies involve long hours of scoring either live behavior or videotapes of interactions. But using RFID chips allows researchers to automate the process of determining when chickens who are offered access to the outdoors take advantage of their “free range” status.

“[W]e set up a situation where birds have to make a choice and see if they make an optimistic or pessimistic choice,” says Geoff Hinch, the professor at UNE heading up the study.

Access to the outdoors turns out to be a good litmus test for chicken mood, because chickens who are feeling good will make the “optimistic” choice to go outside, says Hinch. The point isn’t to determine which hens should be put in chicken therapy, whatever that is. Rather, Hinch aims to understand which factors stress chickens, in hopes of figuring out how to make their well being compatible with high productivity.

 Follow @Mims or get in touch

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.