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Hypnotize a Chicken: Dr. Phil's Got Nothing on Me!

Chicken ManForget Dr. Phil, I can hypnotize a chicken! So, myth be told, there is a legend chickens can be hypnotized. Riiiiiight!!! And I am the Duchess Of York.

First of all, who cares? Second of all, I need to try now, and third of all, WHY? Why can a chicken be hypnotized?

Ingredients needed for hypnotism – sounds very new-agey and weird, but you need stuff.

            1 – daughter
            1 – niece
            1 – camera
            5 – chickens
            1 – place to roll around on the ground laughing – where you won’t hurt the chickens that are in their trance.

My daughter and niece proceed to go into the backyard and round up the chickens. Once in hand, they flip them over on their back, rub their chest, place them on the ground, make a mark / gesture with your finger around their heads and viola! El Chickoni is in La La Land …

Serves: As many people as you can round up.

Hypnotized chickens

The remarks from the event goers are everything from hysteria to drooling. Statements like “NO WAY,” “WHY?” “How long will they lay there?” “Ewww they’re dirty now,” and “You’ve got to be kidding me?” flowed like my hair on a speedboat – ummm OK, flowed like water through a dam. This experiment turned into a circus, and once the Dancing Bears got there, we were set. It also got me thinking. WHY? Who discovered this? When? Is there some science to this? I know sharks, if tipped on their back are basically puppy dogs, so what of chickens on their backs? Are they feigning what they look like on a platter? Are their brains little valves, that if tipped one direction they lose motor control and all other functions? So, I began my quest to know. I talked about it on my blog I asked about on and began searching the annals of the web. What I found was shocking. There is very little in terms of straight up science, but a lot of historical references … so here goes.

In 1646, chicken hypnotizing was referenced in a book called Mirabile Experimentum de Imaginatione Gallinae by Athanasius Kircher. The web seems to parrot this regardless of the site you visit. Athanasius Kircher was a German Jesuit Priest and based on what I can ascertain his writings focused on a myriad of subjects – all of which I don’t understand. I am still working on the TV remote for Pete’s sake. At some point in his book he talks of hypnotizing chickens, and I can only surmise from his body of work and study that hypnotics, mysticism and other mind-gadgetry were studied. Further references indicate H.B. Gibson wrote about it in a book called Hypnosis – Its Nature and Therapeutic Uses and noted a record 3 hours and 47 minutes of chicken hypnosis. Seriously, who would have the patience to sit and time a chicken in this state without getting hungry and beginnning to imagine the little chicken with a little honey BBQ sauce on it? Someone did it, and I am sure the time ended because the chicken was eaten. So it probably wasn’t a fair test.

The overriding use for hypnotizing a chicken has been for terminating their life for meat, but that can’t be the only physiological reason. Regardless, people other than me have talked about this, so I feel a little off the back, and while the over-riding reason is to put them in a trance to off them, others have found it, as I have, to be unbelievably funny. And since it seems to do no physical harm, and chickens are such a novelty as a pet, this provides endless hours of fun!

I found a few other chicken hypnotizers:

  • Friedrich Nietzsche, renowned 19th-century German philosopher, in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra used a philosophical metaphor referring to the hypnosis of the chicken. It is in Chapter 6, “The Pale Criminal”, and reads as follows: “The streak of chalk bewitcheth the hen; the stroke he struck bewitched his weak reason. Madness AFTER the deed, I call this.”
  • DC Comics hero The Vigilante hypnotizes a menacing rooster to protect himself and Stuff the Chinatown Kid, in the story “The Little Men who Were There” (Action Comics #69, 1944).
  • Werner Herzog’s 1974 film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser features a scene in which a chicken is hypnotized by a line drawn by chalk.
  • Federico Fellini’s 1984 And the Ship Sails On features a scene in which a male opera singer hypnotises a chicken in the mess hall.
  • Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” includes the line “I’ve been hurting since I bought the gimmick/About something called love ... Well, that’s like hypnotizing chickens.”
  • Ernest Hemingway briefly describes the process in The Dangerous Summer, comparing it to the hypnotic effect of a bullfighters’ cape.
  • In E. Nesbit’s book The House of Arden an old woman says that she has left a chicken in this state.
  • Criss Angel in his show Criss Angel Mindfreak hypnotized a chicken as a magic trick in the episode “Burning Man.” I think someone needs to hypnotize this dude and send him to military school. He is a wing-nut.

Anywho… In The 1985 Old Farmer’s Alamanac, Linda Riggins has the following to say on hypnotized birds:

“A bird will stay hypnotized for a couple of seconds, minutes, or hours,” says White, although in her demonstrations they’re “out” for only minutes. Regardless of the method used, a sudden movement or loud noise will bring the chicken out of the hypnotic trance.

White adds, “Pheasants go out faster than any other bird. Wild pheasants are very nervous and high-strung, and usually very easy to hypnotize.” In her demonstrations, she is protective of pheasants, because after they come out of hypnosis, they are likely to hurt themselves unless they are carefully monitored. Noting that domestic birds are more difficult to hypnotize than wild ones, she suggests that one reason may be wild birds are using a survival skill when they submit to hypnosis.

White has reported the results of her experiments at several New Jersey science conferences and fairs. In one of her studies of 11 birds, the heart and respiration rates, when measured five minutes after hypnosis, were significantly lower than in the pre-hypnotic state. For example, in a Bantam White Cochin cock, the heart rate before hypnosis was 457 beats per minute and after hypnosis 372. The rates for this bird’s respiration were 22 and 20 breaths per minute, respectively. The temperatures of nine of these birds went down or were unchanged in the posthypnotic state.

Here’s to someone dropping me on my back, drawing a line on the ground and letting me lay there … just don’t eat me! Otherwise, the real science is probably buried in some obscure university’s laboratory file room, like my transcripts.