Can chickens be hypnotised?

There is an abundance of videos and websites online claiming that it is possible to hypnotise a chicken. They claim that by holding the chicken’s head down to the ground and drawing a straight line from the beak extending outwards from the chicken, it will be put in a trance lasting between 30 seconds and 30 minutes. This is true, sort of. While it is possible to render a chicken immobile with this technique, it’s not exactly hypnosis as we know it.

 

So what is actually happening?

It is more likely the response to being held down is called ‘tonic immobility’, which is what happens when an animal is absolutely convinced it is about to die; it becomes too scared to move. It has been noted in other animals, and even in humans during particularly traumatic events. So while is may appear comical to try and hypnotise a chicken, it is probably quite cruel in reality.

 

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Photograph: Steven Lilley