Yesteryear’s Memories — Hypnotizing Chickens

November 14, 2022

When you mention the phrase, “hypnotizing chickens” you may get blank stares or looks like you are crazy. It isn’t a topic of everyday conversation. But then you may get some knowing looks or chuckles from those few individuals who have experienced this strange phenomenon. Many people just shrug it off as if to say, “who cares anyway?” Personally I think it’s worth looking into.

Back in high school, I had a good friend who lived outside of town. His dad didn’t have a farm exactly but they always had some kind of livestock. Maybe some turkeys running around the yard or a calf or two to feed and care for. In most years though there were at least a bunch of chickens clucking and pecking and chasing each other around. It was fun and interesting for a teenage ‘city boy’ like me to visit their menagerie and experience the ways of animals. One spring morning I was visiting the family’s latest additions. They had purchased some Rhode Island Reds and some funny looking chicks that had green and white and pinkish feathers. I got to feed them and help fill their water dispensers. My friend asked me if I ever hypnotized a chicken. It was a casual comment and he acted like it was the most natural question in the world. Of course I thought he was kidding me just to get a reaction. He wasn’t. I quickly found out he was serious and I was intrigued. Of course I had to see it done.

All he did was to hold a chicken and slowly make a slow circle with his finger that wound closer and smaller as it got closer to the bird’s face. The poor chicken watched every move and by the time his finger was within a couple inches of it’s eyes, it just fell over.

It’s body went limp and it just stared off into the distance. I was floored and my friend cracked up laughing. He wasn’t laughing at the chicken, he was laughing at me! He did it again with other chickens. One time he just held the bird in place and traced a line in the dirt in front of it’s face. It laid there like it was dead. I was of course amazed. In the years since, I’ve seen it done and even hypnotized a few of my own. It’s a great little trick sure to amaze and delight an audience of kids or even adults. It even works on lizards and other animals. It’s fun and interesting, but I started thinking about it further. I think it’s perhaps more widespread now than it was years ago in farmyards.

All it takes now is a video game or a cellphone. Humans can be lulled into a state of nearly catatonic inactivity by watching a little screen. They can be oblivious to the rest of the world, staring like a zombie at a picture that isn’t even reality. Maybe it’s an alternate world of little people jumping through a maze or driving an imaginary car in a road race. Maybe it’s swirling colors or changing scenery, but the outcome is the same. We are immobilized by something that gets our attention even though it may be fake or meaningless. Playing a game or watching some story unfold keeps us from real life. I’d rather that we do something useful with our time, but it’s too easy to get mesmerized by trivial things that waste our time.

I just did it myself. I watched video clips of chickens and rabbits and chameleons lying dormant. Next thing I knew, it was an hour later! There I was, lying dormant just like a Rhode Island Red or a big white Leghorn. Flopped over like a lop-eared Belgian hare.

Laying still on my back like a vegged-out lizard. And it didn’t even require someone to point their finger at me. How ironic. How scary. And unfortunately, how American.

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