What Came First - The Chicken Or The Egg?

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Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 07 December 2014


This is truly one of the great conundrums for the ages, that has left everyone from Ancient Greek’s to modern scientists scratching their heads in utter confusion!  Even when us normal folk think you’ve wrapped your head around this riddle, you start to second guess yourself a few minutes after.

“Surely, the chicken must have come first, otherwise who would’ve laid the egg? But...how did that chicken exist, when chickens hatch from eggs!” And so the circle of self doubt continues, round and round until our brains are naught but scramble.

Well, trusty ol’ science has actually provided us with an answer - after countless years of theorizing, equations and scientific testing, the answer is, drum roll please…..

On second thoughts, we’ll explain it first.

All birds lay, and hatch from, eggs. The eggs must be fertilized, which occurs when a mother bird and a father bird love each other very much...you get the idea.

Whatever hatches out of the egg has half the DNA from their mother, and half the DNA from their father. Hence why, when we collect fertilized eggs from parents that were Rhode Island Red chickens, we hatch Rhode Island Reds chicks!

But sometimes, the DNA doesn’t quiiiite fuse 100%, and a slight mutation in the DNA occurs. When this happens, it means there’ll be a small difference in the baby that pops out of the egg!

Hold up - we don’t mean that a hen whose laid an egg will hatch a chick that’s missing a beak or has grown a third foot.  It doesn’t happen that fast! Rather, these small genetic mutations happen over time - we are talking thousands, if not MILLIONS  of years!

SO. What does this have to do with our chicken and the egg riddle?

Well, this means that, a very, very, very long time ago, chicken-like female bird laid an egg that had been fertilized by a chicken-like male bird.

This egg contained a genetic mutation, out of which hatched an animal we identify as a chicken. So, this essentially means that it’s the EGG that came first, not the chicken.

Wait! Didn’t you just contradict yourself?

“But, hang on a second!” we hear you squawk - the bird had to LAY that egg for the chicken to hatch! Again, we re-iterate - it was a ‘chicken-like bird’ that laid the egg, which had the genetic mutation. NOT a chicken.

So, without further adieu...

The answer is THE EGG! Tah dah! One to wow your poultry enthusiast friends with next time they come over for eggs benny!

There’s certainly no question where YOUR eggs came from - the nesting box in your Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion, of course! Laid by happy, healthy, free-ranging hens.

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