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A rubber chicken is an imitation plucked fowl made in a latex injection mold. Popular sight gags and slapstick comedy props, rubber chickens are sometimes used by comics as a mock weapon. They are also sometimes used by jugglers in place of clubs, and (in extremely rare cases) as musical instruments in place of French horns. The origin of the rubber chicken is obscure, but is possibly based on the use of pig bladders, which were inflated, attached to a stick and used as props or mock-weapons by jesters in the days before the development of plastic and latex.
One account attributes the first use of a prop chicken to John Holmberg, the Swedish black-faced clown of the early 1900s. Holmberg would perform with his pockets full of fake food to mock the gluttony reportedly prevalent among the upper classes at the time. A claim that the symbol originated during the French Revolution with soldiers hanging a chicken from their muskets for luck is printed on the tag of rubber chickens manufactured by Archie McPhee.
A Discordian pseudo-secret society, The International Rubber Chicken Society, formed in New Fairfield, Connecticut, uses the emblem of the rubber chicken as a sight-gag with the initials "R.C." to suggest a link with the Rose Cross (also "R.C.") of Rosicrucianism.  Andrés Bustamante also featured rubber chickens during his shows in the 1990s.
A rubber chicken was customarily kept behind Johnny Carson's desk on NBC's "The Tonight Show" as a comedic talisman as it was believed that "A rubber chicken always gets a laugh."
Food and speechmaking
The term "rubber chicken" is used disparagingly to describe the food served at political or corporate events, weddings, and other gatherings where there are a large number of guests who require serving in a short timeframe. Often, pre-cooked chicken is held at serving temperature for some time and then dressed with a sauce as it is served. Consequently the meat may be tough or “rubbery.” Someone who "travels the rubber chicken circuit" is said to do so by attending or making speeches at many such gatherings, often as part of political campaigning.
Rubber chickens in the news
- At the staging of Ionesco's The Killing Game, theatre critic Gerhard Stadelmaier was sworn at and had a rubber chicken thrown at him by actor Thomas Lawinky, who later offered his resignation.
- During an interval in a curling match at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Mark Roberts streaked across the ice wearing nothing but an online gambling ad and a strategically placed rubber chicken. Chief referee Keith Wendorf tackled the man, and an umpire covered him with a coat before he was arrested by Italian police.
The Rubber chicken and the Hash House Harriers
Hundreds of kennels of the international group of non-competitive running and beer drinking club known as Hash House Harriers, have been using the "Rubber chicken" as one of their main symbols and a mayor role object during their social activities, where it is used as a "vessel" for drinking beer. It is also commonly featured on shirt prints, patches and other paraphernalia.
The Rubber Chicken Fix
The term "Rubber Chicken Fix" refers to holding a rubber chicken above a problem, often perplexing, and having the problem fix itself. The phrase can be applied to a variety of scenarios. Realistically, the solution to the problem cannot be explained so a rubber chicken is introduced to offer an explanation of how it was corrected.
- Buck Wolf, Flight of the Floppy Fowl, ABCNews.com, 2000.
- "His Excellency The Royal Governour of Virginia" & "The Seminar Leader". Official Newsletter of the International Rubber Chicken Society Volume 3, Issue 1 1997: 1-8 Print. (zine)
- BBC News, Fake bird row hits German play, February 23, 2006.
- Light The Torch, Drats I missed this .., February 26, 2006.
- Various Sources, Usage evident on a variety of websites on the web