Chickens Come Home To Roost

Meanings of “Chickens Come Home To Roost”

The phrase “chickens come home to roost” means to commit bad deeds with severe, if not the same consequences inflicted on the other person. It also means that as boomerang returns to the person, the person will suffer the same situation he or she tried to cause the other person.

Origin of “Chickens Come Home To Roost”

The phrase “chickens come home to roost” originated from a classical English poetic work, The Parson’s Tale, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1390. However, it was not in the same words. It was just an allusion to birds and nests. Later, it was used in a poem, “The Curse of Kehama” by Robert Southey. It was published in 1810. The phrase goes thus; “Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Home to Roost by Kay Ryan

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again. These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

This metaphorical poem comments on this phrase using chickens as a metaphor. The poet believes that the chickens, you let loose, gather in the sun, turn into a full breed and then return home to roost. They come back with the same speed with which they have left.

 Example #2

To The Teeth by Ani DiFranco

And he said the chickens all come home to roost
Yeah, Malcolm forecasted this flood
Are we really going to sleep through another century
While the rich profit off our blood?
And true, may take some doing
To see this undoing through
But in my humble opinion
Here’s what I suggest we do

The first line shows the use of this phrase attributing to a third person named, Malcolm, who has forecasted it. It means that the chickens are like a flood which means that the singer will have to live life in poverty for another century on account of his negligence on which the rich have profited. The phrase has been used as a metaphor for the acts of negligence that have come back like the flood.

 Example #3

Chickens Come Home to Roost by Robert Kirkland Kenighan

When the chickens come home to roost.

The words you say are hidden away
On the fateful judgment shelf ;

You ‘ll yield your breath in a fearful death
‘Neath the wall you Ve built yourself.

Be careful, then, ye sons of men,

When the shadows are all unloosed,

For soon or late you must face your fate
When your chickens come home to roost.

These lines state that whatever you say through your words come back to haunt you in the future. The poet seems to state that whatever action you commit, they haunt you and come back to you. Therefore, you must be ready to face the music of your doings. In fact, the phrase has been used in its literal sense though it is already a metaphor.

Example #4

Speaking of Animals: A Dictionary of Animal Metaphors by Robert Allen Palmatier

 CHICKENS COME HOME TO ROOST: The chickens always come home to roost. Your ill words and deeds always come back to haunt you. EWPO: 1810 (Robert Southey, “The Curse of Kehama”). Source: Chicken. WNNCD: O.E. The original expression, a modification of Southey’s line, was; “Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost.” Since that time, ill deeds have joined ill words, and the modern expression is almost equivalent to “a bad penny always returns.” Chickens roam the barnyard during the daytime but always come back to the henhouse at night to roost.

Robert Allen Palmatier has traced the source of this expression saying that it is the version used by Southey, a poet, in 1810. He explains it after giving the exact lines, saying that ill words and ill deeds are the same things, and they always come to haunt the people. Therefore, they are like chickens which return at night after having spent the day in the barnyard. The phrase has been shown used as a metaphor.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Chickens come home to roost after Joseph cheated in the exam. Now, he is disqualified for a term.”

Example #2: “Chickens will come home to roost if the engineers do not stop the fraudulent activities on the new construction site.”

Example #3: “Jeremy’s father warned him not to bully his classmates, ‘remember chickens come home to roost’ he said.

Example #4: “Everyone has to give an account of the bad things they have done, if they are lucky the chickens come home to roost before anything worse happens.

Example #5: “Chickens come home to roost to anyone who tries to harm the Glens, they were known to be aggressive and never forgave their enemies.”