Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Chicken and the Egg

Keeping chickens, I can honestly say, is one of the most fulfilling endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. From being in awe of the first egg my flock laid to being freaked out by Bronny’s first molt. From dealing with a broody Silkie to dealing with ‘Straw-mageddon’. Each and every day is a learning experience.

Here's Miss Lynn
looking at me differently.
In addition to the everyday ‘here’s-what-you-got-yourself-into-by-deciding-to-raise-chickens’ knowledge, I’ve also been a huge advocate of diving in (to google) and trying to wrap my head around actual cold, hard facts about chickens.

Some are small facts. Chickens have more bones in their necks than giraffes, for example. Others are eye-opening. Like the chicken is the closest living relative of the t-rex. With each new piece of information, I look at chickens in a new light. And since I’m looking at chickens differently, I’m obviously looking at eggs differently.
In my latest sojourn into all things chicken (and egg), I decide a history lesson was in order. So here’s what found...

A little chicken history.
Chickens have been around since before humans, obviously. And way before historians. So, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when chickens became domesticated but there’s speculation that it happened 8000 years ago in what’s now Thailand. But recent research suggests the good old chicken may have multiple origins in different areas of South and Southeast Asia. (More on that here)
And then there were the Egyptians. And the Chinese. Both of whom domesticated chickens like crazy not only for meat but for eggs. In about 600 B.C. domestication happened in Europe. And then Columbus went out to find the new world and took along some chickens. These chickens, whose strains originated in Asia, are the ancestors of the chickens that lay eggs in North America now. (More info here)

Now, a little egg history.
We (humans) have been eating eggs since forever. Eggs have always been easy to find (unless you run out of them at 11:00pm on Christmas Eve and still have three dozen cookies to bake), they’re easy to cook, and they were (and still are) part of a lot of socio-religious symbolism and tradition. Just look at Easter.

At some point someone realized that if they take the eggs out from under a chicken, that chicken would lay another one instead of going broody (unless that chicken is my Silkie Arabella). So, eggs became a good and easy source of food. And this all happened around 3200 B.C. in India. And in China and Egypt in 1400 B.C.-ish. Maybe earlier.
Interesting. Possibly even fascinating. Or boring. Depending on where you stand on history lessons from blogs.

Anyway, with all that early chicken and egg history running through my mind, it got me thinking about a question that has been haunting civilization since the beginning of time.

So, here it is. The biggest chicken question of them all:
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Well, the argument usually goes something like this: The chicken came first! Then where did the chicken come from? The egg! But what laid the egg? The chicken! Then where did the chicken come from? The egg!
Up until a couple years ago this was it. There was no real answer. But, in July of 2010 the answer was found. At least that’s what scientists in Great Britain claimed. They say that they discovered a protein in chicken ovaries that is absolutely necessary to form a chicken egg. Without this protein the egg isn’t truly ‘chicken’. Which means, in order for there to have been a chicken egg laid at all, there had to be a chicken to lay it. No chicken. No Protein. Therefore, no egg. So. There’s your answer. The chicken came first.
And here's the link to prove it!

Very exciting. Or boring. Depending on where you stand on awesome answers to impossible questions on blogs.
***   ***
Want to know more? Click HERE for a great page (where I got a lot of my info) about eggs and the history of different variations on their cooking.

--Chicken Dup