Chickens come home to roost

Chickens come home to roost is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. We will examine the meaning of the idiom chickens come home to roost, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Chickens come home to roost is an idiom that describes a situation in which one suffers the consequences of one’s previous bad actions or mistakes. The first rendition of this idiom occurs in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Parson’s Tale written in the 1390s: “And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.” In this case, the image is of a bird returning to its nest. Robert Southey is credited with inventing the expression chickens come home to roost in his 1810 poem, The Curse of Kehama: “…for curses, like chickens, come home to roost.” Today, only the later half of the idiom, chickens come home to roost, is still in use.

Examples

“This year with COVID, diesel prices way down . . . and you use today’s (oil) prices, the chickens come home to roost.” (The Calgary Herald)

Protester Fran Witt urged the Conservative councillor “not to let East Sussex County Council’s fossil fuel chickens come home to roost”. (The Argus)

Here a bump, there a bump, and one day the chickens come home to roost. (The Las Vegas Sun)

Column: Will the economic chickens come home to roost in 2019? (The Los Angeles Times)