Which Really Came First?

Feb 6, 2015

Want to know which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’ll tell you because I know. This is not a trick to keep you listening, I actually do have the answer.

Ever since I became a chicken owner, I have become increasingly aware of how difficult it is to discuss my flock. Not because this area of animal husbandry is particularly complex; in fact, the opposite is true. Tending chickens is so primal, so basic, that it defies metaphor itself.

Chicken metaphors aren't ordinary metaphors, but so ingrained in our thought and speech we could even call them -- in the words of George Lakoff -- metaphors we live by.

How would I tell you, for example, that one of my chickens seems depressed? I might say she’s brooding, that she’s cooped up because she’s no spring chicken. Same thing I might say about your or me of course, but with my broody hen getting her feathers ruffled there is no metaphor involved. When I tell you I get up with the chickens, I mean it!

Chickens have craws and things get stuck in them, a fact which tends to ruffle their feathers. The flock knows who gets fed first, a literal pecking order determining who rules the roost -- and if you squawk about it, you may have to fly the coop.

Looking over my chicken scratches here, I see I’m nearing the end and need to answer the age-old question I posed at the beginning.

You order chickens online and they are delivered to you in a box a few days old and thirsty … and it’ll be six months or more before you ever see in an egg.

So the chicken comes first. It isn’t even close.

I'm Dan Libman.