Thursday, June 24, 2010

A chicken parable

When I was growing up, my grandfather raised chickens and other animals on his ranch. Each chicken laid approximately one egg a day, so if he had seven chickens at the time, we would expect to see seven eggs. My grandfather was always very careful to feed the chickens and collect the eggs everyday and taught me to be equally diligent when I stayed with him. If not, he said, the chickens might turn to eating their own eggs, and once a chicken has a taste for egg, it will continue eating eggs and have to be killed. I don't know if it is really true that there is no cure for a cannibalistic chicken, but that is what he told me to scare me into feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs regularly. One time while I was gone, he got sick and couldn't visit the chicken coop every day to feed them and collect their eggs. When he finally did get out there, he saw broken egg shells everywhere, the evidence of egg eating. Ever after, there were always one or two eggs missing from or pecked over in the daily collections. At least one chicken had gotten a taste for egg and wasn't willing to give it up, even with the renewed ample food source.

"How are we going to find out which one of them it is?" I asked.

"What do you mean."

"We need to kill the chicken that is eating the other eggs."

He just laughed. "No, seriously, grandpa. One of these chickens is eating our food, taking up room in our coop, and ruining our eggs. We have to find out which one it is and kill it, right?"

"I don't have time to sit watching chickens. Plus that chicken actually helps. It helps to remind me to stay vigilant about caring for the other chickens and collecting the eggs. It also reminds me that nature is cutthroat, and that human nature is just that."

I wasn't satisfied with my grandfather's reasoning. The next day I woke up early and kept watch over the chicken coop. I saw the chickens go into the nesting area and lay their eggs, one by one. I also saw one of the chickens begin toying with an egg with its claws and pecking at it with its beak. I thought about killing the chicken. I had learned how to slaughter a chicken by hanging it up by its feet, securing its head in my weak hand, and with my strong hand locating the jugular vein with a knife and slitting it open, spilling the blood on the ground while the chicken flapped itself to death. The whole process took no longer than five minutes. Instead I yelled at the chicken, causing it to scurry away. I gathered the remaining viable eggs and walked back into the house.


  1. so what's the conclusion ? don't let chicken eat their own eggs ? or is it that something bad happening isn't that bad ? what is it ?

  2. I agree with Anon.

    WTF is the conclusion?

    Is M.E. talking about the psychopath's want to do x but the fact that rule a or rule a, b, c. . . keeps the psychopath from being able to do x?

  3. "i don't have time to sit watching chickens. plus that chicken actually helps. it helps to remind me to stay vigilant about caring for the other chickens and collecting the eggs. it also reminds me that nature is cutthroat, and that human nature is just that."

    we need a few bad chickens to keep us on our toes..

  4. I know this isn't the point, but there are actually a couple of ways to stop chickens from eating their own eggs once they get into the habit. Golf balls would have sorted them out.


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