The Poo Rooster

And Other Chicken-Related Items My Mother Collects

Photo by Eric Hardenbrook

My mother collects Rooster- and Chicken-related items. You name it, she has it. Does your soap dispenser crow like a rooster when you use it? How about your fridge magnets? She’s got two of those that make moving the shopping list a little “Old McDonald,” if you know what I mean. Chicken slippers, rooster trivets, trivia books, videos, a weather vane, toy chickens that lay eggs, jewelry, door stops, wallpaper, artwork, clothing, wine bottles and stationary all add to the collection. It is in every room of her house – despite my father’s protests.

Listing the individual pieces makes it seem like it’s a gaudy, expansive mess. It’s not. Most of the figurines are contained in two curio cabinets in the living room of my parents’ modest ranch house. The other things are more subtle – or more insidious, if you’re being cynical. The wallpaper is a great example. It’s a light wheat color for the largest portions of the walls in the kitchen with a simple border along the top. The border shows various colorful varieties of roosters. Faded lightly into the background of the wheat color is a faint chicken wire pattern. If it wasn’t pointed out, you might not notice it. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t ignore it. The kitchen becomes the coop. Then you notice the toaster cover is a rooster. So is the cover to the butter dish. The pictures on the jars on the counter are roosters too. They’re color-coordinated. They match and they fit. They Are Everywhere.

When I first told my wife about it, she wondered why anyone would want a collection of chicken- and rooster-related kitsch. I had never given it a second thought. It was just something mom had always done. Aunt Joyce collected owls.

It has become something of a challenge to find new and interesting chicken or rooster items. Laugh if you want, but Picasso painted a rooster once. A rooster and foliage scene created from the punched metal lid of a fifty-gallon drum is hanging in the coop – uh, kitchen – now. The six-foot-tall plastic bird was rejected as too big for the house (along with being ugly as hell). Real, actual, live chickens are against local ordinances for the area where my parents live. My father is now pushing to have a chainsaw sculpture made from a log placed in the front yard.

I have discovered that my geeky nature has deeper roots than I thought. My mother’s lifetime of keeping her eyes open for something new makes my room-filling, 30-year-old collection of Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks, supplements, artwork, and miniatures pale by comparison. I think I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy of Ghost Tower of Inverness that isn’t as battered as mine next time I’m out – along with rooster- and chicken-related items, of course.

Photo by Eric Hardenbrook

Eric Interviews His Mom

Are there any special rules to the collection?
Yes. No salt-and-pepper shakers. Those are too easy, too common. At this point I’m looking for things that are different from what I have.

Different from what? What kinds of things do you have already?
You mentioned a few of the ones you remember, but I’ve got a lot of other things too. I’ve got chickens made from silver, gold, cut crystal, coal, malachite, antique ivory, crushed and molded pecan shells, and hand-blown glass. There’s a hand-carved wooden pickle fork with a rooster on top. There’s the antique tin toy that rolls and lays eggs, the rooster coin necklace, and even the fertilizer rooster.

Oh yeah, the poo rooster. I forgot. Where’s the farthest place you’ve gotten a rooster or chicken item from?
Two that are from other countries. There’s one from Mexico that a friend sent back from vacation, and the Russian nesting dolls.

Do you have a favorite from the collection?
Well, it’s very difficult to choose. I am particularly fond of the Murano-glass rooster. I also really enjoy the one made from the lid of a fifty-gallon drum that’s in the kitchen. It’s a nice way to recycle, don’t you think? I’d have to say my favorite of the whole collection is the next one we find. That’s really the point of the whole thing.

Eric Hardenbrook is a project manager for an architecture firm in Harrisburg, PA, and is a geek for D&D because he can spot an old module in a box at a yard sale while still in the car across the street.