A nest egg

On my writing blog I have been writing about idioms. In particular I have featured several idioms that relate to birds.

Today’s idiom: A nest egg


It is thought that this expression comes from the days before large batteries of laying hens were kept in cages in sheds. The farmer would place a porcelain or plastic artificial egg in each nest to encourage the hens to lay more eggs. I remember doing this on the farm where I grew up. I have no evidence that it actually worked in producing more eggs. To my way of thinking today, the hen will only lay an egg when she is well and truly ready. One cannot force the issue.


This expression has entered our language from that farming practice. Having “a nest egg” is to set aside some money as an investment for the future. Having such a sum is supposed to be an inducement to add to it, thus making the amount grow. Just like the false nest egg was meant to be an inducement for the hen to lay more, so too a nest egg of money was to encourage one to save more.

In today’s world of share portfolios, cash management funds, financial planners and the like this term is hardly ever used any more and seems quite quaint. One might only ever hear the elderly use this term, especially those who may have grown up during the Depression years of the 1930s.


“To save ten dollars a week from your pay would be a wise method of ensuring you have a little nest egg for the future,” advised Grandpa.


4 Responses to “A nest egg”

  1. Snail says:

    I’m amazed at how many bird-related metaphors and similes there are. If you’d asked me about them a couple of weeks ago, I would have said they’re as rare as hens’ teeth.

  2. Trevor says:

    Hang on to your hat, Snail. I’ve got another five ready to come on to my blog over the next two weeks.

    My daughter gave me a whole book of idioms last year. Fascinating book and wonderful stories around their origins.

    And I will be posting more idioms of a more general nature on my writing blog, plus several short stories containing several idioms in every sentence. These were written with both children and “groan-ups” in mind.

  3. BirdAdvocate says:

    A nest egg will sometimes keep a chicken from laying in random places. They aren’t very bright.

  4. Trevor says:

    True – but being bright does not mean that you don’t have endearing qualities. My friend has six chooks he calls his “girls”. They lay faithfully for him every day and follow him around the yard. They do the same for me when I go to feed them when my friend is away.

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