Why Do Chickens Get Hypnotized By a Line? The Surprising Answer!

You might have seen or read about chickens being “hypnotized” when you draw a line using chalk in front of the chicken, starting from its beak, straight ahead. The chicken appears to remain in a trance – almost paralyzed. Some chickens are known to remain in such a catatonic state for almost 30 minutes.

So what causes this trance? Why do lines on the ground affect chickens in this manner? This guide answers these questions and more.

Why Do Chickens Get Hypnotized By a Line? (The Short Answer)

Chickens appear to get hypnotized when you draw a line in front of them due to tonic immobility – a fear-initiated response. Researchers who studied this phenomenon in chickens and other quails found that the action of drawing a line in front of the chicken straight ahead convinced the bird “that it was going to die.” Another theory is that the line seems like a snake to the chicken and it goes into a trance out of extreme fear.

What is Chicken Hypnosis?

Chickens appear to get hypnotized when you draw a line in front of them on the ground due to the following reasons:

Tonic Immobility/Fear Response

Researcher and agronomist Dimitrios Beredimas clarifies that chickens and other animals cannot get hypnotized like humans. Instead, they display tonic immobility. This is a fear-initiated response, which is not like hypnosis because you cannot make the chicken do anything.

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To put a chicken into a tonic immobility trance or catatonic state, you place the chicken on the ground and draw a line on the ground from its beak, going straight ahead. The chicken’s brain goes into shock as it is convinced it is going to die. This causes the bird to get paralyzed – it simply cannot move. Many “shocked” chickens are known to stay in such a state for anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.

This fear response has also been studied in other birds, like quails.

Man kneels by white chicken near blue line.

The Line Appears Like Snake

Chickens are extremely afraid of snakes. The line on the ground probably appears like a snake to the chicken, which causes the bird to go into a state of shock. This shock or trauma paralyzes the chicken and it cannot move.

What Does Hypnotizing a Chicken Do? How Long Will a Chicken Stay Hypnotized?

As explained above, chickens cannot be hypnotized. Drawing a line on the ground in front of the bird’s beak sends the chicken into a state of shock. However, it is not “hypnotized.” 

In hypnosis, the subject is completely relaxed and has greater focus and concentration. A hypnotized person is also in control (although movies and fiction have created the impression that the subject becomes a puppet in the hands of the hypnotizer). That isn’t the case at all.

A chicken goes into a state of tonic immobility, which arises out of fear. The chicken is so afraid or traumatized that it becomes catatonic. It can remain in such a state for a few seconds or up to half an hour. In this state, you cannot make the chicken do anything. It believes it is going to die and its body almost shuts down.

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How Do You Calm a Chicken or Rooster?

An aggressive chicken or rooster can be dangerous to its flock members and might even attack children or vulnerable elderly humans. Here are some methods of calming a chicken or rooster:

  • Stand your ground – don’t let the bird sense your fear.
  • When the bird attacks you, flip it over. You will have to grab the chicken, hold it firmly like you’d hold a rugby ball, and flip it upside down. This will get the aggressive bird to stop flapping its wings.
  • You can also squirt some water on the attacking chicken. Use a hose to spray the chicken or rooster – but make sure not to hurt it.
  • Cull the bird if it is threatening other flock members or has injured someone.

How Do You Make a Chicken Fall Asleep?

Sometimes, you want your chickens to sleep when you have to transport them. Some butchers also like to make the chickens feel relaxed before killing them. Here are some safe methods to make your chicken sleep without stressing it out:

Place its Head Under Its Wing

Your chicken will relax and fall asleep if you tuck its head gently under its wing. Keep its head under its wing for a few minutes. Your bird will go to sleep.

Two people hold brown chicken by white line.

Pet The Bird’s Neck Feathers

Some chickens are known to relax and become sleepy when you pet them. You can stroke your pet’s neck feathers towards its body. Speak soothingly to your chicken and it will relax and doze off.

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Place it on the Ground and Draw a Circle or a Line

Chickens also stay still as if in a trance when you place them on the ground and draw a circle or a line before their eyes in the mud. As explained above, this is a fear response that sends the chicken into tonic immobility. The ‘paralysis’ could last for a few seconds or even up to half an hour.

Can Chickens Sense Emotions?

Yes, chickens are empaths, and they can sense emotions in their flockmates. There have been reports where two chickens have formed loving bonds despite not being related to each other. They may freak out if they don’t see each other. To save its flockmate, a chicken might even throw itself in front of a predator, such as a dog or a cat, puff itself up to look bigger, and make loud clucking sounds to scare the predator away.

Chickens tend to show such protective behavior because they are hard-wired to protect their eggs and take care of their young ones. A mother hen will get very distressed when it is separated from its chick and will be vocal about her displeasure if her chick wanders far away.

Chickens also have complex and powerful instincts. Nature has made them prey animals; hence, they quickly respond to predators with flight or fight. Moreover, chickens can get sad, despondent, and scared if one of their flockmates is sad, hurt, or taken away by a predator. 

Chickens also get attached to their human caregivers because they understand who treats them well. They may even sense the mood of their humans and can get sad or upset if the human is upset. All these behaviors show us that chickens can sense emotions.

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