When Uncle John learned that it was possible to do this, his first thought was, “Why would anyone want to hypnotize a chicken?” Good question. As Sir Edmund Hillary would say, “because it’s there.” (And it’s a lot easier than climbing Mt. Everest.)
(This article was originally published in Uncle John’s Weird Weird World EPIC.)
Your Chicken is Getting VERRRY Sleepy
It wasn’t very long ago that most Americans lived on farms, and lots of people knew how to hypnotize chickens. Not anymore—how many people can say they know anything about chickens, let alone how to hypnotize one? But if you ever get a chance to place a chicken under your spell, give it a try—it’s fascinating to watch, harmless and painless for the chicken, and it provides an interesting insight into animal intelligence and behavior. (Who knows—you might even win a bar bet.) Turn the page to find out how.
Techniques vary widely from place to place. Some methods call for laying the chicken gently on its side, with one wing under its body, holding it in place with one hand so that your other hand is free. Others say that turning the chicken upside down, lying on its back with its feet up in the air, is best. Either way, the disoriented bird will need a second to regain its bearings, but once it does it will not be bothered by being in this unfamiliar position.
Some hypnotists advocate placing a finger on the ground at the tip of the chicken’s beak and drawing a line four inches long in the dirt extending out from the beak and parallel to it (picture Pinocchio’s nose growing). Trace your finger back and forth along the line for several seconds. Other practitioners say that drawing a circle, not lines, in the dirt around the chicken’s head works best. Still others say all you need to do is stroke the chicken on its head and neck with your index finger. If one method doesn’t seem to work, try another.
Whichever method you try, keep at it for several seconds. That’s about how long it takes for a chicken to go into a trance. Its breathing and heart rate will slow considerably, and its body temperature may even drop a few degrees.
You can now let go of the chicken. It will lie perfectly still in a trancelike state for several seconds, several minutes, or even an hour or more before it comes out of the trance on its own. You can also awaken the chicken yourself by clapping your hands or nudging it gently. (The unofficial world record for a chicken trance: 3 hours, 47 minutes.)
If holding a chicken in one hand while hypnotizing it with the other proves too difficult, another technique calls for putting the chicken in the same position it goes into when it’s asleep—with its head under one wing—and rocking it gently to induce a trance.
Just as there are different theories as to which method of chicken hypnotism is best, so too are opinions divided as to what exactly is going on with the chicken when it is being hypnotized:
- The trance could be a panic “freeze” response, similar to a deer stopping in the middle of the road when it sees headlights.
- It may also be an example of tonic immobility, a reflex similar to an opossum’s ability to go into a trancelike state when it feels threatened. Chickens roost in the branches of trees or other high places at night; the trance reflex, if that is indeed what it is, may help the chicken to remain perfectly still, silent, and (hopefully) unnoticed as foxes, raccoons, and other predators prowl below.