Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Go To Bed With The Chickens And Get Up With The Cows

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 21, 2012

Back in the day when farming was dependent on being able to see what was going on and clocks weren’t necessarily around yet, farmers would do as the chickens did and go to bed around dusk. There wasn’t much to do after dusk anyway, so it made sense for all to get a good night’s sleep so they could get up with the cows, shortly after daybreak. This way, the greatest amount of daylight was used to get all the chores done on the farm.

On January 5, 2011 CBC News published a story about sleep patterns and interrupted sleep entitled, “The Genes Behind Sleep Patterns.”  The article talked about circadian and homeostatic rhythms and stated in part:

The idea that someone can change his or her morning or night person status is pretty widespread. People who couldn’t get up in the morning are often seen as lazy, while those who go to bed with the chickens are seen as boring —- the types who can never last during a night on the town.

In the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, the following passage is found in Chapter 24:

And so they went, down the row of laughing women, around the diningroom, refilling coffee cups, dishing out goodies as though their only regret was the temporary domestic disaster of losing Calpurnia.  The gentle hum began again.  “Yes sir, Mrs. Perkins, that J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he needed to get married so they ran to the beauty parlor every Sunday afternoon soon as the sun goes down.  He goes to bed with the chickens, a crate full of sock chickens, Fred says that’s what started it all.  Fred says …”

On July 10, 1920 the Morning Leader newspaper published an article entitled, “Two Ohio Newspapermen May Fight It Out For The American Presidency.”  It read in part:

Governor Cox has just turned the half-century mark.  He was born March 31, 1870 on a farm near Jacksonburg, Butler County, Ohio.  His early training was that of a farm boy of the period, up with the cows and to bed with the chickens.  He attended the country schools, and finally the Middletown High school.

The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Connecticut published an article on December 27, 1907 entitled “Rolling Thunder Beat Bill Meader.”  It was an interesting article that revealed the younger generation’s view of the older generation by stating the following:

Some of the young bloods about town are of the opinion that residents of Manchester in the early days were a lot of old fossils who went to bed with the chickens and did not get out at all nights just because there were no electric lights to steer them home.

While the expression hasn’t been used very often in literature or news stories, the expression is what is called a Southernism and hails from the southern states in the U.S.  Since it was used so freely in this news article dating back to 1907, Idiomation believes it can easily be placed in the vernacular of the generation before 1907 putting it to some time around 1875.

That being said, maybe a good night’s sleep will reveal more in the morning when we get up with the cows.

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2 Responses to “Go To Bed With The Chickens And Get Up With The Cows”

  1. […] Saturday In California – Featuring Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, Bobby Heenan & More…Go To Bed With The Chickens And Get Up With The Cows […]

  2. Cherie Morris said

    I live in NC.I grew up on a farm.I go to bed with the chickens and get up with the cows feeling and looking rested.lol.

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