What do we mean when we say, "the chicken has come to roost"?

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esoppelt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The phrase “the chicken has come home to roost” is an idiom or expression that means that bad things a person says or does will come back to hurt them.

The idea of a bird returned to its nest at night, or coming home to roost, representing bad actions coming back to haunt the perpetrator has been a common concept in English for centuries. The first time the idea (but not the exact phrase) appears in writing is in The Parson’s Tale, part of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The phrase as it stands today first appeared on the title page of Robert Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama in 1810. The title page said “Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost."