Chickens and Eggs

Hello and welcome back to another week of free falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! It’s been a while since I answered a science question, so this week I will address a time-honoured one that was asked by Shari:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now, the fact of the matter is, this question itself is problematic. If pressed, one would have to answer that, of course, chickens precede chicken eggs– indeed, chickens precede all eggs. But the bigger part of the question is why.

In truth, there is no such thing as naturally-occurring eggs. Chickens, like all members of the Animal Kingdom, bear live young (the only exception to this is the marsupial family, whose young spring fully-formed from the parent’s forehead).

But if chickens bear live young, then what exactly is a chicken egg? Eggs are a human construct. Many years ago, someone discovered that newborn chickens tasted particularly delicious but were, unfortunately, somewhat messy to eat on account of not being fully grown, and therefore not fully baked, yet. Until they had spent a summer in the hot sun, baby chicks would be runny, their mothers constantly sweeping them back up from the little puddles they would become when excited. And a runny animal, once slaughtered, becomes a runny, messy dish.

So one clever person thought that if this delicacy, the chick, were contained in some sort of individual wrapping, a dish or bowl that would hold the creature, it would be infinitely easier to serve and to eat. Thus, after some experimentation, this individual– whose name, alas, is lost to the mists of time– created an ovoid enamel “shell”, thin but hard, an undyed white, in which he encased a chick before serving. The endeavour was a success, and soon farmers were building factories to produce their own shells, so that the chicks on their farms could be encased as soon as they were born, to reduce mess and waste.

So it is true that chickens were around long before eggs; however, insofar as the question was originally intended as a query as to the parent-child relationship, it would be better put as “Which came first, the chicken or the chicken?”

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Disclaimer: Some of the statements in this blog may be untrue. No known cases of chicks spontaneously changing state from solid to liquid have been recorded.

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