Jerry Zezima: The great egg mystery

Why did the chicken cross the road? To lay an egg in my backyard.

That’s the real answer to the age-old question. I know because the other side of the road is on my property, where a sneaky hen left her unhatched offspring and then, probably knowing my wife, Sue, planned to make chicken for dinner, flew the coop.

The fowl deed must have been done a day or two before Sue peered through a window, spotted something white a few feet from the back of the house and thought it was a mushroom. But upon going outside for an inspection, she made a startling discovery.

“There’s an egg in the yard!” Sue shouted when she came back in.

I went out, saw the egg and said, “What, no bacon?”

The situation raised other questions: What animal laid it? How did the creature get over the fence? And, most pressing: Would I have to sit on the egg to hatch it?

“It looks too big to have been laid by a robin or a crow,” Sue said. “And it couldn’t have fallen from a nest in a tree.”

“Then it would be a scrambled egg,” I noted.

“Cats come through the yard, but they don’t lay eggs,” Sue said.

“Not unless they’re catbirds,” I replied.

“Maybe it was a snake,” Sue guessed.

It was a frightening possibility because a couple of weeks before, a 14-foot-long python was found dead on the side of a nearby road.

“It couldn’t have been hitchhiking to get here,” I said. “Snakes don’t have thumbs.”

Sue and I were baffled, so we took the egg to a veterinarian.

“It’s a chicken egg,” said the vet. “I’m surprised it wasn’t eaten by a possum.”

“If I saw one, I’d play dead,” I said.

“Put the egg back in the yard,” the vet recommended. “Maybe the chicken will return and hatch it.”

“With the price of eggs these days,” the vet’s receptionist chimed in, “you should get her to lay more of them.”

We now knew the answer to another age-old question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

But there was an even more confusing conundrum: Whose bird was it?

Since chickens are fryers, not flyers, we suspected it came through the same gaps in the fence that are used by the aforementioned felines.

So I knocked on the doors of neighbors around back.

“No chickens here,” said Bernie, who was babysitting for his newborn granddaughter. “Just a cat.”

Trevor said his family has dogs but no chickens.

“If I see any, I’ll let you know,” he promised.

I asked Arnie, our mailman, if he knew of anyone on his appointed rounds who has chickens.

“Try a couple of streets over,” Arnie said. “I hear chickens all the time.”

At one house, I was greeted by Dudley the dog and his owner, John, a pleasant guy who said, “I’ve lived here for 20 years and have never seen a chicken. At least not one I didn’t have for dinner.”

Still, I found out that a lot of people have chickens.

A family that used to live on a nearby street had a rooster that would wake up the entire neighborhood at 5 o’clock every morning, but someone complained and the racket stopped. The annoying avian must have been adopted by Colonel Sanders.

My sister Susan’s son Taylor and his wife, Carlin, watch their landlords’ chickens when the landlords are away. And Carlin’s mother and stepfather have chickens.

“The eggs are rich and wonderful,” Susan said.

“Better than what you can get at the store,” added my mother, Rosina.

Of course, there’s always an exception.

My barber, Maria, told me that she and her husband, Carlos, had tenants who owned chickens.

“The eggs were delicious — except for one,” Maria said. “I was baking and cracked an egg the tenants gave me. Whew!” she exclaimed. “It was rotten. Believe me, nothing smells worse. Now I buy my eggs at the supermarket.”

Melissa, a receptionist where Sue gets her hair done, said she has chickens. When Sue showed her a picture of the egg in our yard, Melissa said, “It’s been abandoned. You have a rogue chicken.”

It never returned, so Sue took the egg inside and placed it in a plastic container that she put next to the furnace to keep it warm.

Nothing happened, so I took out the egg, placed it on a rug and sat crossed-legged with the egg lying snugly against my sweatpants.

“What are you doing?” Sue asked incredulously.

“Trying to hatch it,” I answered. “I want to be a daddy hen.”

That didn’t work, either. Finally, Sue and I took the egg outside and cracked it, wondering if we would welcome a cute little chick into the world.

Instead, the yolk was on me. It was a regular egg, sunny-side up, like I eat for breakfast on Saturday mornings.

I didn’t eat this one, but I did learn a valuable lesson:

When it comes to being a chicken detective, I’m just a dumb cluck.

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via