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This context comes from the movie "Annie Hall" with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

“It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”

I know this phrase in the sense of:

"turn in"

  1. To surrender, deliver, or give information about someone or oneself to the authorities, typically the police. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "turn" and "in." I was so racked with guilt over the accident that I turned myself in to police.(Farlex Dictionary of Idioms).

I'm not sure if this is the sense conveyed in the scene from the movie though. There is another definition that I suspect might be more fitting here.

"turn in"

to submit or refer someone or something to someone or a group, especially in some official capacity. The good citizen turned his neighbor in for watering his lawn during the wrong hours. I turned in the report to the treasurer.(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

The second definition says to refer someone. Does the psychiatrist from the joke say "why don't you refer him to a psychiatrist"(or him for that matter)?

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  • This one: refer someone or something to someone or a group, e.g. local mental health services. Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 20:49
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    In fact in most, if not all places, health services would not care about a person behaving oddly unless they were likely to harm themselves or other people, so there would be nowhere to turn him in. Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 20:52
  • It doesn't make a lot of sense as a joke. Unless they were planning to turn him in to a farmer.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 20:58
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    @ChrisH - I just told the OP's joke to my 10 year old niece, and she chuckled, and then said 'I don't think I'd like the kind of 'eggs' that a man might produce'. Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 11:25
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    @ChrisH - my wife is vegetarian but is OK with dairy and eggs. Early in our relationship she said she tried not to think about where they come from. I thought she meant the precise part of the hen's anatomy but no, she meant she preferred to pretend they grow on some kind of bush. Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 12:54

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It is the first defintion. "Deliver to the authorities". In this specfic case you would understand it to be "Deliver him to a secure mental hospital (insane asylum)"

Of course in real life, that's not how mental health crises are managed, but this is a joke.

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  • These days I think we are supposed to just call them 'hospitals', but at home, when no-one else is there, my wife and I talk about 'the nut house' and chez les dingues. Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 21:28

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