So the other day as I was walking along a narrow path in Bangwa, I spotted a man coming from the opposite direction making his way towards me. As we walked towards each other my eyes immediately zoomed in on the package he had under his arm. I did a double take to make sure that it was indeed what I thought it was. As soon as my suspicions were confirmed, I swiftly made a u-turn and walked away as fast as I could, with a pounding heart and a great sense of uneasiness.
You may wonder what it was that made me react that way. And I’m pretty sure if I told you, you’d most probably laugh. That’s the reaction I usually get when I tell people that I have a phobia of chickens. They usually make a comment about me being the first person they’ve ever come across who has this phobia. I tell them that there is even a word for this phobia in the dictionary, so I can’t possibly be the only person in the world who suffers from it. The word, by the way, is Alektorophobia.
I first came to realise that I was afraid of chickens at the tender age of five. I remember that day as if it were yesterday, it’s so clear and vivid in my mind. My mother was bent over a steel wash basin under a tree, humming inaudibly as she did the laundry. I played with my dolls on the stoep , quite contentedly. It was a beautiful autumn day in the township of Orange Farm, which is located about 45 minutes from Johannesburg. Anyway, she asked me to be a darling and fetch some pegs from inside our shack. Immediately, I obeyed and skipped my way into our simple but cosy shack. Thereafter, I just remember hearing a thud and seeing a big white chicken staring at me with its two beady eyes! The next thing I remember is being outside near the gate, shaking like a leaf, sobbing and trying to explain to my confused and concerned mother what the matter was . She thought it was just a stage that would come to pass as I grew older.
She was wrong . I can remember numerous other encounters with our feathered friends that had me absolutely petrified! I remember visiting a friend and running like my heels were on fire when I saw a chicken underneath one of the kitchen chairs (I must’ve been at least 7 years old). Fast forward to my pre and early teens. I lived in a relatively chicken free area in Wentworth and I remember how I absolutely dreaded visiting family and friends who lived in Umlazi because they usually owned chickens as pets. Whenever I’d visit the township, I’d quickly scan the yard before entering for any signs of chickens, such as; some stray feathers, eggs, feces and mealie kernels. I’d also listen carefully for any sounds of clucking. When I was safely in the house, I’d also check under the seats, tables and corners. You may wonder why I didn’t simply inform the people I visited at the outset about my phobia, but I did that once and had a baby chick put in my blouse while I was wearing it and I was forced to sleep in a room full of caged chickens! That was one of the most frightening nights of my life (even more frightening than when we had burglars outside my home ). So I thought it best not to make too many people aware of my problem.
Now that I’m in my twenties, I feel that my fear has intensified. Two years ago I was sitting in a taxi in Johannesburg and I suddenly felt something feathery brush against legs. I dared not even look to confirm my suspicions. The way my body was reacting was proof enough-my mouth went dry, my heart beat faster, and I had an overwhelming feeling of panic. I asked the driver to stop the taxi and I jumped out before he could bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Everybody was puzzled. Last year I visited a friend here in Bangkok. I heard a clucking sound. Panic stricken, I asked if there was a chicken in the house. She replied,”Yes.” I didn’t realise that she was just yanking my chain. I must have really looked horrified. She laughed, told me she was only joking and made a remark that I looked like I was ready to jump out the window. About two months ago, a friend sent me a picture of big red rooster via whatsapp. When I saw the picture, I immediately flung my poor phone to the floor.
So as you can see, I have a serious problem. When I try to analyse it, I’m not quite sure what it is that frightens me so much about chickens. I’m not sure if it’s their feathers, their constantly bobbing heads, the beady eyes, their claws…Even writing about it gives me the shivers! I really wish I could overcome overcome this fear but at this point in time, I’m not sure how. I guess for now, avoidance is the best strategy.