Monday, August 22, 2011

Confessions of an alektorophobia sufferer

The dread chicken sitting on her eggs
It is a humbling thing to admit to one’s fears, especially when they seem silly.  I suffer from “alektorophobia”, which is a fear of chickens.  Yes, chickens.  Fortunately, I can trace the source of my fear to a childhood event that spurred and shaped the rest of my life.

When I was born, we lived on a remote farm where my parents raised Angus cattle and chickens, lots and lots of chickens.  Mom collected the eggs; once a week ‘the egg man’ would come by and pay her for the eggs.  She also made butter, so perhaps she sold that as well. 

Every day, my brother Robert and I would toddle along with her to the barn where the free-range chickens laid their eggs.  Robert held onto Mom’s skirt, and I held Robert’s hand.  It was a train, but it had flaws. 
Barn interior

Robert was three years old, and I was 10 ½ months younger.  So that put me at 2 ½ years old at the time of this event.  Most will question the validity of being able to recall events from such a young age, but the trauma of this event has made the memory indelible.  Add to that, my mother confirmed certain facts, ending with, “You remember that?  Why, Susie, that was just a silly chicken.”

As we entered the barn on that fateful day, I let go of Robert’s hand, the flaw in the train mentioned earlier.  I was wearing a brand-new red-and-white gingham dress, of which I was very proud.  I remembered the sun shining through the clouds, and my dress looked so bright.   

The train had moved on, but I could still see Mom’s back.  There was an old corn bin next to me, so I crawled up into it because I noticed a pile of shelled corn.  I plopped down beside it and began filtering my little fingers through the pile.  The corn showered down to the pile, over and over, and I laughed at the golden kernels.
Corn on cob, not yet shelled

A shadow filled the doorway through which I had climbed, the only way in or out of the corn bin.  I glanced up, and then looked up with real fear.  It was a rooster that stood taller than a little girl who was happily sitting in a pile of shelled corn.  The shelled corn was the chicken’s food, I was to find out later, and I was sitting square on top of it all.

Malevolent, evil rooster
The rooster came closer, cocking its head this way and that, the way chickens do.  It had evil eyes, malevolent eyes that were angry at me, a little girl in a new red-and-white gingham dress.  By the time it was only a few feet from me, I could see its angry red cockscomb and razor sharp beak.  It was about ten feet tall now, and I burst out in screams.  I probably wet my pants as well.  The rooster responded by flaring out its feathers, and came even closer.

Mom arrived, my dear brave mother who scooped up the rooster and tossed it out of the corn bin.  In her own mother hen way, she soothed me and hoisted me up on her hip.  Robert stood waiting outside the bin with the rooster, both looking at me with confusion. 

We made our little train, only this time Robert was the caboose.  We toddled back to the house.

My fear has manifested itself only a few times, but with enough vehemence that I pull up that memory and I shudder.  I do not wet my pants.


  1. chew extra hard when you eat that barbq chicken dinner..pretend it's that nasty rooster.

  2. So many of our fears come from incidences in our youth.

    It is comforting to know that this is one phobia I do not have. There were no chickens in our neighborhood in the Bronx where I grew up, just pigeons.

    Great writing! You tell a story so well.

  3. Oh, please, please, read the Junie B Jones children's book...A Peep in My Pocket...perfect for you, I think:)

  4. aawww, how horrible for you!!!! Thx for sharing.

  5. Chicken scare me too. Birds in general . . . are not my friends lol

  6. Evil chickens!! I don't blame you for fearing them...they're kind of creepy looking too...:)


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