Chickens Come Home to Roost

There is little disagreement that the expression refers to bad things happening as the result of past offensive words or actions. World Wide Words explains that the idea “…goes back to Chaucer, though he expressed it rather differently…writing that curses are like ‘a bird that returns again to his own nest’.” Chickens appeared in a poem by Robert Southey in 1890. He relied on the image of farm chickens “…foraging during the day but coming back to the safety of the hen-house at dusk…” There have been many variations, including “…curses come home to roost, which is in Margret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

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