’30 Cows & 28 Chickens’ Riddle: Answer to the Viral Puzzle Explained

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There’s an old riddle making the rounds again on social media that asks about 30 cows and 28 chickens. It’s one of many riddles getting more attention while people stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic. If the riddle’s confusing you, we have an answer and explanation below.

The riddle is pretty simple, but also confusing in how it’s worded. No, the riddle doesn’t have any words left out. You might be tempted to think it’s missing something when you read it on a social media status or post, but it’s worded correctly.

The riddle reads like this:

There are 30 cows in the field, 28 chickens. How many didn’t?

Yes, this is worded correctly. But it’s also worded confusingly to throw you off.

Want to know the answer to the riddle? Read on.

Here’s the Answer to the Riddle

The answer to the riddle is:

Ten didn’t. 

The reason this is so confusing is because you have to read the question without thinking about how it’s written. Read it out loud for a moment and “hear” the riddle without “reading” it.

The correct reading of the riddle is this:

“Ther are 30 cows in the field. Twenty ate chickens. How many didn’t.”

See the trick? There aren’t 28 chickens in the field too. There are 20 cows in the field (out of 30) that ate (not 8) the chickens.

So that means if 20 cows out of 30 ate chickens, then 10 cows did not eat chickens. Thus the answer is 10.

If someone asks the questioner: “Didn’t what?” a good hint might be just to say, “Read the riddle out loud!” Of course, that hint might give it away.

As with most riddles, this is a play on words. But it’s a little easier to figure out than some of the others that are circulating. Plus, there are fewer alternative answers that people can successfully argue for.

Some people who try to get really technical might say the riddle is just wrong on its face because cows don’t eat chickens. But even that would be inaccurate, because in some very rare circumstances it might happen. Smithsonian Magazine published a story about a cow that ate a chicken back in 2014. Smithsonian reports a cow named Lal in India ate up to 48 chickens in a month. Although cows are herbivores, they occasionally eat chickens, the magazine reported. It’s just not very common. Maybe the cows in this riddle were super hungry.

This is just one of many riddles circulating on sites like Facebook and Instagram during the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve seen the “How Many Ducks Do You See?” riddle and were stumped, check out Heavy’s explanation here. If you ran into the “I Met a Man on London Bridge” riddle and have no idea what the man’s name is, you can find the answer in Heavy’s story here. The answer to the “You Enter a Bedroom” riddle is here, and the answer to the “Can You Open the Lock Using These Clues?” riddle is here.

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