Science Questions

Can a cockerel lay an egg?

Tue, 19th Apr 2016

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Question

Milo asked:

Can a cockerel lay an egg?

Answer

Kat Arney put this question to Chris Smith...An adult male chicken

Chris - Well to be honest Kat, I think this is a bit more cuckoo than cockerel.  There’s not really any evidence that a male bird, which is what a cockerel is, ought to be able to lay eggs actually… what is an egg? Well it’s basically a pre-made incubator.  It’s a hard shell with albumen (that’s the white) and a yolk in the middle, which is your embryo and it’s fat that the embryo’s going to consume. Male’s provide sperm that fertilise eggs - they don’t produce eggs themselves, so I don’t think there’s any evidence for this. 

It probably is more folklore because going back in history, there is a story that people used to occasionally find what they call blind eggs (these are eggs with no yolks in them) and anecdotally they said “oh, they’ve come from the cockerel.”  No evidence for that.  What’s probably happening is that when a young chicken is beginning to establish it’s laying cycle, it occasionally produces eggs that are all alumen (the white stuff) and no yoke and it goes away as the egg production inside the chicken is more established.  Male chickens have got all the wrong machine, all the wrong bits to make eggs - they can’t do it.

Kat - A friend of mine started keeping chickens and quails.  And she sent her husband off to get some quails and he met a guy in the pub whose like  “Ah, I’ve got this box of live quails do you want them, they’re really cheap.”  And he said “yes, brilliant” and they got them home and wondered why they weren't laying any eggs… and they were all male.  So, yes…

Chris - I had another friend who said  “the best thing to do if your chickens are going off to lay is you feed them curry.”  So they fed these chickens all of his leftover curry and then one of the chickens looked a bit unwell.  So they took it to the vet and the vet said “it’s gone into a corma.”

Kat - You’re listening to the Naked Scientists.  Our forte is science and not comedy...

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