Count Your Chickens

Meanings of “Count Your Chickens”

The phrase “count your chickens” means not to be hasty or depend on your current assets with overconfidence. The phrase is also used to warn people for not being in a rush to evaluate a scenario, situation, or prospectus without seeing the results.

Origin of “Count Your Chickens”

The phrase “count your chickens” is originated from New Sonnets, published by Thomas Howell in 1570 where it goes thus; “Counte not thy Chickens that vnhatched be, Waye wordes as winde, till thou finde certaintee.”
In the year 1664, Samuel Butler, another poet, used this phrase in his “Hudibras,” a poem. The phrase thus goes;
“To swallow gudgeons ere they’re catch’d,
And count their chickens ere they’re hatched.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Position Paper by Paul Mauldon from New Yorker

“When in Rome, spare the rod
and spoil the whole barrel. It’s all grist
to those mills of God.
Don’t count your chickens till they come home to roost.

Loose lips tie knots.
Don’t put the cart before the storm.
Don’t wash your dirty linen in a watched pot.
The leopard can’t change horses in mid-stream.”

This poem is taken from an American magazine. These two stanzas discuss different phrases after breaking and rejoining them with other phrases, creating ridiculous and idiotic axioms. The first line shows how it goes when you are in Rome.  You should spare the rod and so on. However, the phrase in question appears in the last line of the first stanza and is related to how you should spend your sources. Although these phrases seem nonsensical or inconvenient marriages of incompatible ideas, they still exude some truth. The phrase is used as a connotation, evincing varied shades of meanings.

Example #2

Don’t Count Your Chickens by Stephen Robertson

Don’t count your chickens
. . . but if the chicken
just the egg’s
way of making
another egg
then what I should
not be doing
is counting
my eggs.

The poet openly challenges this proverb of the past to fit it into the modern context. He starts with a negative imperative that we should not count our chickens, but shows no objection or issue in counting the eggs before they hatch into chickens. In other words, this highly metaphorical extension of the phrase seems to allow the readers to let their imaginations about their achievements run wild before they are added to their portfolios. Therefore, the phrase seems to have been used as an extended metaphor.

Example #3

Don’t Count Your Chickens (Before They Hatch) by Honey Cone

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
No, no, no, you better treat me like a lady
You ain’t got my lovin’ yet
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
No, no, no, you better treat me with respect
Or my love you’ll never get.”

After starting with this phrase to imply that the lover should be treated with respect, the same echoes in the last lines with the implicit threat of the singer leaving his beloved immediately if she does not comply with his pleas. The phrase shows its use in an indirect sense.

Example #4

The Promised Land by Edith Bach Hall

The job that Theodore dreaded the most, remained. He handed poles about seven feet long and two inches in diameter to Alfred and Pete and climbed into the hog pen. As they herded the animals toward the chute, one after the other ambled up the ramp.
The boar remained.
“This is easy as eatn’ pie,” Pete said, grinning.
“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Dat board hasn’t walked up de ramp.”

In this passage, Theodore handed poles to his colleagues, Pete and Alfred, while he climbed on the hog pen. Pete is told that one hog was left behind at the ramp while herding the rest of the hogs and that he shouldn’t count by leaving that one out. He uses this phrase to point out that they are not correct in their counting.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Randy was thrilled about receiving the family’s property in a week. His friend, Carl advised him not to count his chickens before they hatched as his sibling had an eye on the property too.”

Example #2: “Kim was known for her patience when it came to dealing with people or situations. She never counted her chickens before they hatched.”

Example #3: “Life brought with itself a lot of disappointments and that eventually taught John not to count his chickens before they hatched but to only hope for the best.” 

Example #4: “Samantha started panicking after a huge fight with her husband. She was sure he would divorce her. But her mother kept reminding her not to count the chickens before they hatched to calm her down.”

Example #5: “After watching the battle, he started picturing his victory, but when he turned around, his soldiers were routed. It shows how important it is to not count  your chickens before they are hatched.”