Stressed-Out Chicks

Are the most popular kids also the most stressed out?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying: You’d be surprised what the little birds tell us!

At Oxford and Saint Andrews universities, researchers investigated what factors make youngsters more social adults. The researchers turned to friendly birds – zebra finches – for insight. Here’s the experiment: Half the chicks were fed plain peanut oil. The other half were fed oil laced with the stress hormone corticosterone (cor-tuh-COST-er-own). All chicks were fitted with electronic tags to record their movements.

Surprising result? Stressed-out chicks foraged with more birds, and were less picky about finding new friends. Plus, they became independent from their parents earlier than their peers.

Downside? Stressed chicks showed fewer associations with small groups. This suggests that, while they may be more independent, they might be TOO independent. So stressed birds did not develop as many deep friendships.

The long-term effects remain a mystery: Is it better to fly the coop? Or to have the support of some close “peeps”?

No matter of how many followers you have on Twitter! Get it? Twitter? Birds?