The earliest record of anyone asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?” appeared in 1847, in a monthly New York magazine called The Knickerbocker. The answer, as printed in the magazine: “Because it wanted to get to the other side.”
Since then, the question has spawned an infinite number of variations, and even an illustrated book called, appropriately enough, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? So why did the chicken cross the road?
Because it was a free-range chicken.
To prove to the opossum it can be done.
Because it takes too long to walk around.
This is America. A chicken can go anywhere it wants.
Some responses are attributed to famous people.
I missed one? — Colonel Sanders
Because the government had fooled him into thinking that he was crossing the road of his own free will, when he was really only serving their interests. — George Orwell
I have just released the new Chicken 2000, which will both cross roads and balance your checkbook, though when it divides 3 by 2 it gets 1.4999999999. — Bill Gates
Some responses are attributed to philosophers.
To actualize its potential. — Aristotle
It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained. — Machiavelli
Nerdy responses are often attributed to physicists.
Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference. — Albert Einstein
The only thing about the chicken we ever discuss is why it crossed the road. There are many more dimensions to it than that! — Lisa Randall
It appears to be a white chicken. Sorry, I deal only with black bodies. — Max Planck
Mathematicians like to ask: Why did the chicken cross the Möbius strip?
It couldn’t, because chickens cannot cross non-orientable manifolds.
It couldn’t, because there is no other side.
Right answer: To get to the same side.
Some responses are in the form of puns.
Why did the Roman chicken cross the road?
She was afraid someone would Caesar!
Why did the chicken cross the playground?
To get to the other slide
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To be with its flat mate. (British humor)
Why should the chicken not cross the road?
Because that would be a fowl proceeding.
Similar jokes involve other species.
Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
Because chickens hadn’t evolved yet.
Why did the pterodactyl cross the road?
To get there ahead of the chicken.
Why did the duck cross the road?
To prove he was no chicken
Why did the horse cross the road?
Because the chicken needed a day off.
Some responses attempt to put an end to the eternal question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
To avoid lame and outdated jokes.
When I was your age, we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.
And finally: I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, The Chicken Encyclopedia