Martha Stewart Hypnotizes a Chicken!
In the run-up to "The Chicken Show," which is no doubt going to be an epic episode of her daytime program, Martha Stewart posted a video on her blog demonstrating how to put a chicken to sleep. Tucking a brown hen's head under its wing, Stewart swung the bird around and around, then set it on the ground, where it sat very still, fast "asleep."
So what on earth was Martha Stewart doing? She posted on Twitter saying that it was a "harmless little 'relaxing' trick" taught to her recently, but were we to take her for her word? What if she was arbitrarily killing chickens? Or maybe she was using a robot chicken! We set out to investigate what was really going on, and discovered that Stewart was practicing what's known in poultry people parlance as chicken hypnotism.
"It relies on some natural behaviors and creates a kind of tonic immobility, similar to when a deer freezes in the headlights," says Christine Heinrichs, the author of How to Raise Chickens and historian for the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. "The chicken will just do that, stay completely immobile for a few seconds to a minute, but they're not actually asleep."
Chicken hypnotism works in a number of ways -- you can do what Stewart did, which was to put the chicken in its normal sleeping position, or turn it over on its back and stroke its feathers, or even drag a stick in circles along the ground in front of it. Why would you ever want to make a chicken stay totally still? It can help with aggression, or just distract it for a minute while you do something else.
Heinrichs could tell that Stewart, an "old chicken person from way back," was very comfortable with the bird, a traditional breed hen. And even though the chicken was surrounded by what seems like lots of noise, people and other stimuli, it did what it was supposed to do.
"I love them, they have great personalities," Heinrichs says.