A Fitbit for chickens? Sounds silly, but it could revolutionize poultry farms

chicken wearable uc riverside sensor murillo
Amy Murillo

There was a time, not that long ago, when wearable devices were only the province of humans. How far we’ve come since then! Here in 2018, there are high-tech wearables available, regardless of whether you’re a tiny grasshopper or a significantly larger animal like a cow.

Sitting neatly between these two size extremes is a new project coming out of the University of California, Riverside. Researchers there have developed a sort of “Fitbit for chickens.” It’s essentially a miniature backpack that’s capable of analyzing behavior — such as revealing if a chicken is pecking, preening, or dust-bathing — with an accuracy level of more than 85 percent. This is thanks to an algorithm trained on data gathered during the study. Crucially, the algorithm can also inform when something goes wrong, such as an outbreak of blood-drinking parasites.

“We are interested in studying chicken behaviors, but traditional behavior studies required the researchers to make in-person observations or watch hours of video,” Amy Murillo, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “Both techniques limit the number of animals that can be observed and the total observation time. In our study, we used sensors with 3-axis accelerometers to track chicken movement. These sensors are worn by chickens and can collect data for long periods of time — continuously for up to two weeks on one battery charge.”

Alireza Abdoli, who also worked on the project, notes that the plan is not that every chicken is outfitted with its own sensor. While this could provide useful information, it would also be highly impractical. Instead, the idea is to use it as a tool to gather information on chicken health, and then apply those lessons to the brood at large.

“We are interested in knowing how ectoparasite infestations — mites or lice — impact chicken behaviors,” Murillo said. “So our next step is to use these sensors on birds with or without infestations to see if there are detectable behavioral differences. If significant behavioral differences are found, then it may be possible one day for commercial producers to use behavioral changes in their flocks to assess ectoparasite infestations. This may be especially useful for detecting early mite or louse infestations, or for assessing the success of a mite [and] louse control program on poultry farms.”

Longer term, she said the technology could be commercialized to help farmers assess the health of their chicken broods. Doing this would save considerable time, since at present farmers must manually check their chickens one a time to seek out mites. However, this commercialization is still a way off.

“Our next step is to evaluate chicken behavioral differences using these sensors on healthy versus unhealthy birds,” Murillo said.

Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

Caltech’s bird-inspired robot uses thrusters to help stay on its feet

Researchers from Caltech have developed a new bird-inspired robot that uses thrusters on its torso to help it to walk with more stability. Here's why that challenge is so important.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

Groundbreaking new technique can turn plastic waste into energy-dense fuel

The world has a waste plastic problem. Chemists from Purdue University have a potentially game changing solution: They want to turn it into a gasoline or diesel-like fuel. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

After a record-setting 15 years, NASA ends Opportunity rover’s tour of Mars

NASA has officially called it quits on its record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, eight months after last hearing from the lander. The Rover landed on the Red Planet in early 2004.
Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Words are so 2018. The Peeqo robot speaks exclusively in GIFs and video clips

Move over, Amazon Echo! Peeqo is a cute robot that will answer your spoken word questions by displaying a specially selected short video or GIF. Because, you know, it’s the year 2019.
Emerging Tech

Airbus will stop making the world’s biggest passenger plane

Airbus announced this week that it will stop building the world's biggest passenger plane in 2021. The maker of the double-decker A380 said a changing market and lack of orders gave it little choice but to end production.
Emerging Tech

Exploding vape pen battery starts fire on SkyWest flight

A vape pen battery caused a fire in an overhead bin on a SkyWest Airlines flight on Wednesday. It's the latest in a string of incidents where faulty or poorly made lithium-ion batteries have caused gadgets to catch fire.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.