Ah yes, the question that has been asked since the beginning of time (or possibly since lunch-time yesterday)…which came first, the chicken or the egg? But have you ever contemplated any real answers? Maybe? Who cares? Well, I’ve hatched the five following fine-feathered fowl scenarios (and they shouldn’t take more than five minutes to read):
The logical approach would suggest that the egg couldn’t have been laid without a mother, and the mother could not have grown up without being hatched from an egg (round and round we go). There seems to be a stalemate here, and for most, this is the point where the mind wanders on to something else equally as constructive. But, what if the mother wasn’t considered a chicken? The plot thickens.
According to Wikipedia, the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is a domesticated subspecies of the Red Junglefowl.
Science Alert: The idea behind scientific classification (animal naming) is something that humans made up to better structure our knowledge for all living things. In reality, nature doesn’t care about these classifications and the rules we define for classifying each type of living thing (animal, plant, bacteria, etc.) are not consistent. Generally for the animal kingdom, different subspecies can mate with one another and even some species.
With that said, what makes a chicken a chicken could be perceived in different ways. Lets say that a red junglefowl and a different species/subspecies of fowl were feeling a bit peckish, decided to mate, and were successful (which isn’t hard to imagine, other species have done it: donkey and horse, lion and tiger, etc.). That would create a hybrid offspring between the two. If the resulting offspring happened to be what we classify as a chicken, then we would conclude that the egg must have come first, because the mother wasn’t technically a chicken.
3) Reproductive isolation
Another possibility is that the mother was part of a group that became reproductively isolated from the rest of the Red Junglefowl population. Whether the isolation was caused by a tidal wave that swept her off to a separate island, or perhaps a radical new protest against flying that resulted in an awkward estrangement from the population, the mating between these two populations would cease, which would allow them to begin a genetic divergence.
Science Alert: The above is a loose definition of how a new species/subspecies begins in the animal kingdom. Whether by geography or behavior, if there is no gene flow passed between the 2 populations, their species will part ways through genetic drift or selection pressure. Interestingly, single mutations alone do not lead to new species.
3a) Geographical Isolation
In the geographical displacement argument, it is theoretically possible for either a group of fowl or a clutch of eggs to get stranded, thus giving us no definitive answer (stalemate).
3b) Behavioral Isolation
The behavioral argument, however, favors the chicken coming first because a fowl can only be estranged from mating after it has been hatched. Score one for the chicken.
One other technicality about the definition of a chicken is that it is domesticated. Perhaps the definition of a chicken immediately took effect as soon as we decided to start the process of adapting them for human use (eg, producing food). That would mean that as soon as a Red Junglefowl or her egg was collected from the wild and acclimated to Farmer John’s back yard (similar to the displacement argument), it became the first domesticated fowl or chicken. Alas, we have another stalemate.
5) Origin of the egg
But before we scrutinize the definition of a chicken, perhaps we need to take a closer look at the question itself. If we think about the egg in an evolutionary sense, then the capacity for creatures to lay eggs existed long before the first bird (many years before some hungry farmer’s belly started rumbling for domesticated chicken tenders). In this case, the egg came far before the chicken. If we were going to assume differently, then maybe the question should have been, Which came first, the chicken or the chicken egg?
Other possibilities like cloning, genetic engineering, divine creation, and dark magic are duly noted but will not be discussed because of their mystical nature. So to sum up, we came up with: 1 for the chicken, 2 for the egg, and 3 stalemates. But most importantly, you now have 5 different smarty-pants answers the next time lunch rolls around. Speaking of… what’s for lunch…chicken or egg salad (she rolls her eyes once again)?