The legend of the cock egg

Every once in awhile when I collect eggs from the coop I find a miniature egg. It looks exactly like a normal sized egg, but tiny. Of course we all know it's simply a really small egg. A glitch in the system of an inexperienced layer. Back around the 14th century though, it was believed to be a far more dangerous thing. It was thought that a rooster had actually laid the egg and that if this cock egg was incubated under the right circumstances, it would hatch a rooster-dragon beast!

Legend of the cock egg

Of course the right circumstances had to do with a toad incubating it, which seems highly unlikely but let's continue anyway. A cock egg is the tiny, often yolkless egg we would call a fart egg, fairy egg, wind egg or witch egg. It truly is just a glitch in the reproductive cycle of a hen or more often, a pullet. It is often yolkless though sometimes it does have a tiny yolk. These mini eggs are edible. 

 What is a cock egg?


Legend has it that these tiny eggs were actually laid by the rooster. It sort of makes sense since fairy eggs aren't always the same color as the regular eggs the hen lays, so it would make a farmer wonder where it came from. Now I'm not sure how it went from "I think the rooster laid an egg" to "it's going to hatch and kill us all" but cock eggs were not something to be taken lightly! In fact, in 1474 a rooster was actually put on trial for laying an egg.

I swear I'm not making this up! A rooster was put on trial and found guilty of laying an egg.


Tiny pullet eggs next to regular hens eggs. fairy eggs

Let me introduce you to the rooster that was put on trial and burned at the stake for laying an egg. From Olla Podrida: At Basle, in 1474 it appears that a cock was accused of the enormous crime of having laid an egg : he was brought to trial and condemned to be burnt alive, as a warning to all cocks not to lay eggs, from which it was well known would have hatched a cockatrice or basilisk.

They took their folklore rather seriously wouldn't you say? So, what is this creature that will hatch from such an egg?

A Cockatrice is a mythical beast, essentially a two-legged dragon or serpent-like creature with a rooster's head. It has the reputed ability to kill people by either looking at them, touching them, or sometimes breathing on them.

A cockatrice overdoor at Belvedere Castle in New York's Central Park.

In the event that your rooster laid an egg and you did not want this egg to hatch and bring about mass destruction, you could simply toss the egg over the house (without touching the roof) so that it smashes to the ground on the other side. 

Do not bring it inside the house for any reason! Cock eggs were believed to be used in witchcraft so it needed destroyed immediately lest it very existence attract charges of witchcraft. 

As with any good legend there has to be a bit of odd circumstance and this legend has it in the form of the eggs incubation. You see, just incubating a cocks egg will not produce this fearsome beast. Oh no. A toad must incubate the egg at the behest of Satan for it to turn into a Cockatrice. Although, as time has gone by the toad in this tale has often been replaced by a serpent.

Tiny pullet eggs.

Many farmers have witnessed hens take on the role of rooster when there is none in the flock. She will often crow, sometimes cease to lay eggs and even attempt to mate other hens. So this makes me wonder, is that what happened so far back in time? Was it a hen who acted like a rooster but was really a hen, laying the eggs?

Or was it simply a tiny egg that a pullet laid on the barn floor (since they often get those first few eggs wrong) and the flock owner assumed that since it wasn't in a nest box, that it was the roosters doing? I guess we'll never know.

I know that seems like it would be the end of the tiny egg story...but it does get weirder! There is another similar creature that the rooster has a hand err...wing, in creating. It's the other creature that was mentioned earlier in the rooster trial quote. The Basilisk. 

A Basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be a serpent king, which was hybrid from a rooster and a serpent, who can cause death with a single glance. The basilisk is alleged to be hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or toad (the reverse of the cockatrice, which was hatched from a cockerel's "egg" incubated by a serpent or toad).


What the heck was going on back then that roosters and toads were stealing each others eggs to hatch? I'm honestly not sure I want to know but it has been way too fun learning about the folklore surrounding these tiny eggs. I hope you've enjoyed my retelling of these legends!

Related reading: How to add a rooster to your flock

~L

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3 comments:

  1. Definitely fun to read about! Glad to live now, and not then!

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    Replies
    1. Agreed! The past seems like a much simpler time, but they sure had some weird ideas! lol

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