Chickens terrified of dried sunflower head

On her Green Frieda blog, Audrey writes that her chickens, which are not easily frightened (even by dogs and cats) are terrified by a dried sunflower head she placed in their pen. She thought the hens would enjoy picking the seeds out. Instead, they hid in their coop, refusing to come out until the fear-inducing object was removed.

200911241107When I entered the chicken run with the sunflower, Peggy immediately flipped out. She started squawking and flapping and jumping back and forth across the coop. Tina joined in, but with less gusto, as if she wasn't entirely sure what was happening, but trusted Peggy that it was serious. Eventually, both hens scrambled their way into the coop to hide. I was a bit confused about what the problem was, and, honestly, I was late for work. So, I figured I'd just put the sunflower head up as planned and the chickens would eventually calm down and come outside to have their treat. I had also scattered some carrot peels, which they love, in the run, so I figured they would venture out for those for sure.

The following morning, when I went down to let the chickens out for their morning free range, it was clear Peggy and Tina had not left the coop since I last saw them. The carrot peels were untouched, their feeder still had food in it and there they were, huddled together inside the coop. Now, my chickens are extremely food motivated and there is no food inside the coop (just water). They spent a whole day inside, not eating their feed, which they love, or the carrot peels, which they really love, because they didn't want to risk walking past the dreaded sunflower head. That is how afraid they are of this inanimate object.

Any idea why chickens would be so frightened of a sunflower head?

Terror in the Coop