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Trick Question: Which Is First - The Chicken or the Egg?

Updated on May 16, 2008
Gary Larson knew the answer!
Gary Larson knew the answer!

Chicken? Egg?

We've all said this saying at one stage or another. Usually it's in regard to a question about putting first things first. When you ask "What comes first; the chicken or the egg?" have you really thought about what you are asking? Do you know the answer yourself?

What really does come first? It's a riddle to be sure or is it a trick question? If you go by the title of this hub then it is a quick question...or maybe it's a question without a satisfying answer.

To be sure, there are both a chicken and an egg. Perhaps what is needed is a closer examination of the question itself. After all, a possible solution to many puzzles lies in this direction. Now, I'm not saying that this is a trick question. Honestly. But it is a really good puzzle based on many parameters.

Scientists and philosophers have been debating this question for thousands of years, after all. Admittedly they haven't been using the exact same question. They have instead been asking questions like: "If a tree falls in the forest and no-body is there, did it make a sound?" and "What is the origin of the universe?" and "Is there a god? And who is this God-person anyway?" This hub will not be answering those specific questions. Douglas Adams did a far better job than I could in that regard.

Given that this is a question worth investigating more fully, and it is, we'll start off with looking at the question literally and pulling out a few components. The Chicken and the egg. Maybe the answer is simple enough, and a reasonable explanation can be found right there.

Consider the Chicken

The chicken, or fowl, or the chook, or dinner, depending on what you want to call them, are classified as a bird. A flightless bird at that. They have a reputation for being, well, a bit dim. We see them as a food source, both for themselves and for their eggs.

Ah hah! I hear you saying. The chicken lays the egg and therefore the chicken comes first. QED, end of conversation, and from here on everything you have to say is invalid. You might think just that, but bear with me here. Chicken then egg.

Where does the chicken come from?

Not every egg a chicken lays is fertilized, and therefore they are eating eggs. Not that the chicken necessarily approves of this situation. Ask any hen who has had their eggs rudely removed from under them. You need a rooster to finish off the deal with the chicken. So, it's a hen and a rooster required and only then we have a chick.

But where did the first egg come from? How, you may ask, did that egg appear? Was it out of thin air. Didn't you need an egg or two first in order to have the first pair of very randy chickens?

There may be a little more to this than meets the eye.

Maybe Evolution or Creationism Will Show the Way

There's a theory or two about how life appeared on Earth in its present form. In fact there are two camps out there staring at one another with evil-eyes, but only when the other one isn't looking, naturally. The Big Two theories are known as Darwinism and Creationism. Let's look at what they have to say about the chicken and the egg.

Darwinism, as it's known for short is based on Charles Darwin's book called "The Theory of Evolution" and what it basically states is that life evolved gradually from simple to more complex forms through a series of eliminations. What worked in an ecosystem stayed and what didn't died out. This theory has a scientific basis, and is currently being investigated based on both the fossil record and current ecosystems.

The theory of evolution says that neither the chicken or the egg existed first. They came about slowly, slowly over millions of years. In fact, the first chicken and egg were most probably amoeba from the oceans.

Verdict: Neither.

Creationism, on the other hand, is a religious theory based on the Bible. What it basically states is that life began in its current form in recent time. The universe, and Earth formed recently as the result of a God or an outside force. And everything appeared exactly as it is now. No help there at all...

Verdict: Neither.

We may have to move a little further afield to answer this question.

Maybe the Philosophers are the Key

The chicken or the egg? Now, I don't claim to be a philosopher. They are deep thinkers. Very deep, in fact, and they ask the questions many of us are afraid to ask. Like "Would God ever build a rock so large that even he could not lift it?" Then, they could debate the answer forever.

The great thing about philosophy is that you can have a really snazzy question and keep on asking it over and over again. The answer matters, of course, but the question has to be right. Let's face it, the really big ones are the most exciting. The ones like "Why are we here?" and "What is that blue thing they put on my bagel this morning?" Well, maybe not the latter question, it's a bit too answerable and you may not want to know anyway.

The key here is to have a question which can keep the philosopher occupied for a long, long time. I considered finding a philosopher to ask the chicken and egg question to, but was worried about how long I would be in the room before I got an answer.

Let's face it. There'll be dust on the shelves before a philosopher has even got through the introduction to the chicken and egg question:

Verdict: They'll have an answer eventually. Come back in a century or three.

Getting Nowhere Fast

So, in conclusion, what comes first?

In searching for an answer we found out that: The egg is needed for the chicken and the chicken for the egg. It's dizzying how they go around and around. Darwin thinks that the chicken and the egg came from an amoeba millions of years ago. Creationists think that the chicken and the egg popped into existence complete a few thousand years ago, so neither.

The philosopher will get back to us a bit, um, a lot later.

Maybe the problem is not the theories, but rather the question. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Why does it matter?

Comments

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  • jamterrell profile image

    jamterrell 

    7 years ago

    Fun and interesting hub! Love this article.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    7 years ago from Australia

    Some people just don't get it, do they? Hunter, don't pass 'Go', don't collect $200.

  • profile image

    hunter 

    7 years ago

    Seriously...... we are studying this stupid crap instead of trying to find cures for people that are dyeing out there!!!??? Scientist are retarded...

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    7 years ago from Australia

    So, you are suggesting a mutant chicken laid the egg? Ahh, so you are voting for the evolution option vs the spontaneous god-thing option. Good for you! So did the mutant bird also come from an egg? So, the next question will be: Which came first: the mutant bird-thing or the egg?

  • profile image

    Joe 

    7 years ago

    Obviously the Egg came first.

    Something (a bird most likely, but not a "chicken") laid a mutant Egg from which the "early chicken" hatched. From this "early chicken" (and / or other chance-mutant-Egg's offspring) the Breed of "modern-Chicken" came to be.

    Duh,

    Joe

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    8 years ago from Australia

    Thanks, Portia. I'm glad you enjoyed the read! :-)

  • profile image

    portia 

    8 years ago

    very fun to read and very interesting...

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    9 years ago from Australia

    But...where did the egg come from? Don't you need a hen to lay the egg, and a rooster to fertlise it? How'd the egg get there without them?

  • profile image

    Jo. 

    9 years ago

    Isn't it obvious that the egg came first? I believe dinosaurs laid eggs? And the dinosaurs did so long before the chicken came into the picture??

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Hmmm food. </Homer Simpson impression>

  • Tater2tot profile image

    Tater2tot 

    10 years ago from ~~~

    Haha I agree with Kpfingaz. Eggs for breakfast and chicken for lunch. Ha-ha.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    But how was that first egg created? Therein lies the riddle. For the first chicken to come from an egg, that egg had to come from somewhere, so where was that?

  • phantom_moon profile image

    phantom_moon 

    10 years ago from Sacramento California America

    Ok people...the egg came first. Thousands of eggs have been laid before the creation of the chicken. Or any bird for that matter. Now because chickens do come from eggs we know that the chicken's ancestors came from eggs and their ancestors ancestors and so on till the very first egg was created. So in conclusion to this age old question/riddle it was the EGG that came first.

  • kpfingaz profile image

    kpfingaz 

    10 years ago from ~~~

    Eggs for breakfast and chicken for lunch.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Woody Marx, I wonder indeed! Maybe there is no chicken or egg at all, and they are all mass delusions. Hey, it's a theory. ;-)

    Baban, you could be right at that. It was all accidental, and therefore it never really happened at all. I'm liking that theory muchly. :-)

  • baban78 profile image

    baban78 

    10 years ago from California

    my theory , they're all accidents

  • Woody Marx profile image

    Woody Marx 

    10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Well, if it takes a village to raise a child, according to Hillary?...then it must take a chicken coop to raise an egg. Could this be a clue I wonder? ;) Love the hub.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Hi Desert Blondie, I'm so sorry it took me so long to reply to this post. *G* Your theory has great merit! Just a question, did the egg that produced the mutated chicken come before the egg she produced, therefore producing the current day chick, or after? Oh man I even confused myself just asking the question. Eek!

  • desert blondie profile image

    desert blondie 

    10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

    Hummm. I'm thinking that Darwin/Evolution had the answer. And as I interpret DArwin, the Chicken came first. Here's why.  Somewhere along the way, a creature who wasn't quite technically one of our current-era chickens was in the process of mutating to adapt to a changing environment, consequently, so was the not-quite-current-era-rooster she was hanging around with.  These two produced an egg whose little chick inside hatched and Voila! A new little critter...neither identical to the mother bird or the father bird, but our current day first-ever chicken!  The eggs this brand new chicken would lay come AFTER the chicken.  Now, I'm one of those who believes that God's plan is evolution...I mean what's more or a miracle than the evolution of our planet and all it's creatures, including man.  And who else but God could create such a miracle!  Well, rambled on long enough! Best!

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Hee! It really does save a lot of heavy thinking. The chicken will be glad for your vote. :-)

    I think for the exercise with the chocolate we should start with the eggs. Do Cadbury Creme eggs taste like real eggs? Or do they just pretend to? I charge you, Jason, with following this up. Make sure your experiment is thorough and more importantly, that you enjoy the experience. Then move onto the chicken. If there isn't a chocolate chicken recipe then there should be! ;-)

    Thanks for reading.

  • Jason Stanley profile image

    Jason Stanley 

    10 years ago

    Just to make it perfectly clear.... It had to be the chicken. That is my story and I'm sticking to it!

    Too bad about the chocolate thing for Patty, after all it clearly is a major food group. Would chocolate chicken taste like chicken or chocolate?

    Thanks for the fun.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 

    10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    You can have mine - chocolate is not my friend. :)

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    How about chocolate bunnies instead? ;-)

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 

    10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    Horvalis - Agnostic? No Easter Eggs for you! - joking. :)

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    I'm sure the philosophers, more than likely, will have an answer eventually! Thanks for the reply, Jaclee. :-)

  • profile image

    jaclee05 

    10 years ago

    Thanks for reply, I take on board what u say , and can only give u my opinion on my beliefs. Unfortunately I cannot give u proof.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    It depends on whether or not you believe in God. I am an Agnostic. So, therefore I need some proof that God created the chicken. Can you prove it beyond a doubt?

  • profile image

    jaclee05 

    10 years ago

    The answer is quite simple if you think about it. Because God created all creatures and one of them  was the chicken and then she laid the egg and so it goes on.........

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    You're not the only one confused. I've left it in the hands of the philosopher. He'll be back to us in a little while. (Although I believe his concept of time and yours and mine may differ).

  • MM Del Rosario profile image

    MM Del Rosario 

    10 years ago from NSW, Australia

    I am still confuse, which comes first?

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Zuzzy it goes around and around and around and around. You get the picture. I tried, really I did! Glad you liked it. :-)

  • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

    Zsuzsy Bee 

    10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

    You mean there actually was an answer? Did I miss it? ....I knew it it was the egg that came first...No? okay so it was the chicken...There is a 50% chance of being right or being wrong. How confusing!

    I just loved your fun hub

    regards Zsuzsy

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Thanks Liam, And yet still no answer. Oops! Glad you liked it. :-)

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 

    10 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Wonderful! Very funny.

    Nice touches throughout and this ancient question gets a whole new look.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Hi rmr I'm glad I managed to divert you for a bit, even if the answer was somewhat...elusive.

    Thanks, Patty!

    Steph, I just love Glen Larson's cartoons, and this request was the perfect excuse to dust off my all-time favourite one. Thanks!

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 

    10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    Excellent - very entertaining and funny! Gotta love Gary Larson, too!

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 

    10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    I love your Hubs, Hovalis, as well as your comments!

  • rmr profile image

    rmr 

    10 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Excellent analysis of an age old question. Thanks for the pleasant diversion.

  • Hovalis profile imageAUTHOR

    Hovalis 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Gerg, I was really considering the KFC after finishing this, believe me!

    Patty, that doesn't sound so good. In your case it really is the chicken or the egg.

    Thanks, Whitney. :-)

  • Whitney05 profile image

    Whitney 

    10 years ago from Georgia

    This was a cute hub! Fun to read.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish 

    10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

    All I know for sure is, if I eat chicken meat and chicken eggs in the same meal, I get sick.

  • Gerg profile image

    Gerg 

    10 years ago from California

    This was fun - thank you! Your Amazon ad references add a lot of humor to the piece too - I love "the Best Chicken Recipes" at the end when, the reader, like you is probably tired of the question and just now wants some KFC (or an omelette!)

    G

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