Taking eggs from chicken

Greetings to all,
I present my respectul salutations to the members of the Saṃgha :pray: :pray: :pray:

As I wished to elucidate a specific matter in terms of right livelihood (which may shine some light on other matters), I appreciate being able to ask the following question :

Does taking eggs from chicken constitute a breach of the second precept ?

I have read at least two background stories revolving around unwholesome results due to taking eggs from chicken (one seemed to be a story to comment a Dhammapada verse and another of which I couldn’t find the actual reference to be found in the suttas, so I wonder at the validity of them) and as I’ve had the chance of having an exchange with a Venerable bhikkhu who thinks it isn’t an issue to take eggs based on the suttas, I’d greatly appreciate learning more on this matter in order to deepen my understanding on what is proper and what isn’t :pray:

I thank you for reading me,
Wishing you all well,
With mettā :star2:


Not an answer you need but I’m also curious myself because as I understand it, chicken eggs are usually not yet fertilized so there isn’t a life inside them yet, therefore nothing dies by your hand. Although there are chicken and duck embryos or such that’s common in Asia–that’s not much different from eating meat I guess.

I guess too that makes me think of the question: if you’re not the one harming the being but benefiting and enjoying from its death (in this case through eating), is there a karmic result? Hmmhmm. But yeah, I wonder what the more sutta-knowledgeable folks here have to say!

Indeed, and (almost) all the birds I’ve ever kept are smart enough to realize on their own that their eggs aren’t fertilized and simply abandon them, in which case it’s definitely not stealing. It’s not like (most) birds waste their time sitting on and guarding unfertilized eggs (again, in my experience raising birds of different species).

But, that said, many of the industrial farming techniques used these days to make eggs are very cruel, including the mass “culling” (i.e. killing) of the male chicks of the egg-laying breed, which definitely breaks the first precept.

Good question though!


I will simplify the question:
"Is taking egg from chicken, stealing? "

So it doesn’t matter if the egg fertilized or not.

I will wait for the answer with you.

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"Is taking egg from chicken, stealing? "

This is a really interesting take! But one that probably applies to the person who takes the egg?

So one who buys an egg from the person who stole the egg from the chicken, or the person who bought it from the person who then bought it and packaged it from the person who stole it…would not apply to the precept of taking that which is not given.

Because once it’s stolen and sold as their own product, unless the persons in between knew it was stolen, would understand it to be the ownership of the person who harvested the egg. The buyer can’t verify if the chickens willingly gave their eggs to the seller or harvester, because it can & does happen I think that an animal willingly gives to a human.

Although this might be a very different discussion than the OP

OP is talking about second precept. It is about taking what is not given.


Given that there is a sutta in which a deva tells a bhikkhu that smelling a flower is taking what is not given, I think taking an egg from a chicken definitely qualifies!


As in this context the deva adresses a bhikkhu, not a lay disciple, it makes thus a great difference in the dynamics of what “taking what is not given” means for each person (e.g. a lay disciple may certainly engage in farming to earn a living yet a bhikkhu cannot).


Thank you very much for your answer bhante :pray: :pray: :pray:

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LOL You’re right, I totally misread.

Let us not take an egg from a chicken, but purchase a “beyond burger” from a factory that in order for its creation land was plowed over, animal habitats destroyed, ecosystems impacted, and the return of any animal (rats mice etc) is met with poison stations around the perimeter of the building.

Let us truly think here, what does more harm?

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Thank you for your answer rcdaley.
Respectfully, it seems to me that intention is key and someone purchasing a burger doesn’t necessarily have the intention to inflict such harm, wouldn’t the unwholesome kamma pertain to the ones actually engaging in harmful activities ? Otherwise one could suggest that even buying toilet paper could be considered harmful (let’s say if they ravage forests and thus wildlife).

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That is actually, exactly the reason I added my comment. Generally, the way humans live (for the most part) is harmful in many ways. The best thing we can do is do our best to mitigate it by doing better than yesterday. We can try to adjust our habits to do more good than bad.

I am a vegetarian, and have been for a long time. I also was vegan for a long time. But the whole offloading of harm to feel better about oneself is silly, and quite prominent in vegan culture, and it seems Buddhist “culture” as well (I use culture here as a general term not pertaining to any particular actual culture).

It is like Bhutan not slaughtering animals in their country, but importing it—in turn, exporting the killing to another country. But lets be real, isn’t that kind of silly? If let’s say killing one cow feeds a family for a year, but the beyond meat factory destroys hundreds in its erection … what is actually causing more harm? Do cows deserve a higher station in life than mice, rabbits, insects, microbiology in soil, etc?

I just know in Buddhist circles this thing about diet is like a never ending feedback loop, which honestly, I don’t see how it is even reconcilable. Factory farming animals is just as bad as conventional agriculture growing vegetables for plant-based food that poisons the land with chemicals or disrupts ecosystems/kills pest animals/etc. So, yes, intention is important, but being blind to reality or lying to oneself is another issue.

Myself personally, see absolutely no harm in taking non-fertilized eggs from chickens, for food, whom otherwise want nothing to do with them, but cannot disable their biological functions.



No, it’s not. The chicken lays the egg, announces it to you and walks off - not looking at it again. :grin:

This is the chicken in a natural environment. Once it gets clucky, you need to lift it - still not stealing, as it’s “wrong perception” of the chicken :slightly_smiling_face:

:sun_with_face:Happy day


I think that if you’re practicing for enlightenment, you need to eventually see any taking of an egg - unless offered to you by another person - as taking what is not given. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

From the Vibhanga:

‘If a monk, intending to steal, takes from an inhabited area or from the wilderness what has not been given to him—the sort of stealing for which kings, having caught a thief, would beat, imprison, or banish him, saying, “You’re a bandit, you’re a fool, you’ve gone astray, you’re a thief”—he too is expelled and excluded from the community.’”
There is no offense: […] if it is the possession of a ghost; if it is the possession of an animal; if he perceives it as discarded […].


ooooh thank you for this. i daresay this settles the “stealing” question.

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Good to know, thank you.