Is it true that you can hypnotise a chicken?

BBC Wildlife contributor Stuart Blackman answers your wild question. 

S+  S+  Close-up of an organically raised, free range hen, with defocussed meadow grass in the background.

If YouTube is anything to go by, chicken hypnosis is quite a popular pastime. It involves holding a bird on its belly and slowly drawing a line with a pen or finger from the tip of its beak into the distance.

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The result is a floppy, prostrate animal apparently oblivious to the world around it. Hypnotism is probably the wrong word, though. The trick is thought to be a gentle way of inducing ‘tonic immobility’, a state of temporary paralysis that enables an animal to feign death when cornered by a predator.

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Similar methods work on other species, too. Rabbits and sharks, for example, can be immobilised by turning them on their backs and stroking their muzzles – a technique that is employed by vets and marine biologists.