Hypnotizing Chickens

“You like grab a chicken, lay it on the ground, hold it, so the chicken lays with its head on the ground. Chickens don’t have binocular vision so they can only see with one eye at a time. So one eye is down and one eye is up. You hold the chicken calmly, not in a mean way, and it lays there calmly and you wave your hand down and over it… round and round, up and down, over the eye… it’s like snake charming. You release. And the chicken will just lie there for minutes. It’s totally mesmerized. Someone showed me how to do this on a farm in eastern Oregon. And then I showed my sons when we were children. We went to an apple farm and I captured a loose chicken. People just do it for fun.”


The more I asked the informant about this practice, the more insistent he was that it was magic, but then his wife jumped in and said that the practice was not magical and it just disorients the chicken. She said it must have to do with biology. The informant was still insistent that it was magic.

At first glance, this seems like just a fun activity or a way to pretend to have magical powers. On the other hand, it is easy to see how it could serve a practical purpose, or maybe once served a purpose in the past. After all, the “hypnosis” calms down the animals, which might help a farmer round up some loose chickens or calm down a bunch of chickens who are running around and giving him or her trouble.