E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Chicken (plural chickens).
It is quite a mistake to suppose chickens to be a double plural. The Anglo-Saxon is cicen, plural cicen-u. We have a few plural forms in -en, as ox-en, brack-en, children, brethren, hosen, and eyen; but of these children and brethren are not the most ancient forms. Chick is a mere contraction of chicken.
The old plural forms of child are child-r-e, dialectic child-er; children is a later form. The old plural forms of brother are brothru, brothre, brethre; later forms are brethren and brothers (now brothers).
Children and chicken must always be pickin. Are always hungry and ready to eat food.
To count your chickens ere they are hatched (Hudibras). To anticipate profits before they come. One of Æsops fables describes a market woman saying she would get so much for her eggs, with the money she would buy a goose; the goose in time would bring her so much, with which she would buy a cow, and so on; but in her excitement she kicked over her basket, and all her eggs were broken. The Latins said, Dont sing your song of triumph before you have won the victory (ante victoriam canerë triumphum). Dont crow till you are out of the wood has a similar meaning. (See page 36, col. 2, ALNASCHARS DREAM.)
Curses like chickens come home to roost. (See under CURSES.)
Mother Careys chickens. (See MOTHER CAREY.)
Shes no chicken. Not young. The young child as well as the young fowl is called a chicken or chick.