Is there a phrase with a similar meaning to the phrase

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

which doesn't make reference to eggs?

I'm writing a story in which one character is a bird and I feel it doesn't make sense for them to use this specific phrase about eggs, given that eggs are essentially bird pregnancies

  • 28
    I think it's perfect, it adds a touch of humour to the story because birds don't use baskets to carry their eggs. If the bird is a cuckoo, replace the word basket with nest as they lay their eggs in other birds' nests :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 6 at 8:04
  • 5
    Don't bet everything on one throw of the dice/ horse / square. Not sure if birds gamble though. Strike that. It appears that they do. Here from the American Psychological Association: "The researchers' previous work showed that pigeons do gamble.". Aug 6 at 9:24
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    Although there are one or two idiomatic phrases with similar meaning, if your objective is to avoid "don't put all your eggs in one basket" then there are ways other than substituting a drop-in replacement phrase in its place. On the other hand, it might suit the style of a story such as you describe to coin your own expression, similar in form, that readers would understand by analogy. For example, "don't keep all your worms in one can." We don't say that, but your birds might. Aug 6 at 14:33
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    Don't count your... wait, that's no good either. The more you tighten your grip... uh....
    – Mazura
    Aug 6 at 19:15
  • 3
    If you're writing a fiction story about a bird, you're better off making up a phrase that sounds like 'eggs in one basket' that would mean the same thing for the character and make sense to the reader. Eggs are food for us, so it would make sense that the phrase would have something to do with what the bird eats. Something like "Don't rely on one tree for all your snacks.' Or maybe 'You can't build a nest with one twig'.
    – LeLetter
    Aug 7 at 15:49

17 Answers 17


Expanding on a comment:

The best well-known phrase that would serve as a drop-in replacement would probably be hedge your bets, which has already been suggested. It's a complex enough idea that there aren't that many well-known alternative phrases that you could just drop in.

However, the flip side of the talking birds of your setting avoiding certain common English expressions is that they probably have some expressions of their own. You could consider coining one for the purpose. Perhaps it would suit the style of the story to choose one that is similar in form, so that readers could be expected to understand by analogy. For example, don't keep all your worms in one can. We don't say that, but your birds might.

On the other hand, don't focus so tightly on "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" that you neglect the possibility of a broader rewrite that just conveys the idea differently.

  • 1
    "...worms in one can" - Exactly what I thought when I read the question.
    – user112358
    Aug 7 at 17:17
  • 6
    or to zoom out from the individual to the collective, don't put all your nests in the one tree Aug 7 at 23:24

One African expression I read went like this: "Don't test the depth of the river by jumping in with both feet".

  • Don't hop in the bird bath beak-first!
    – mcmuffin6o
    Aug 18 at 8:17

I personally would think that the image with the eggs is even stronger when used about a bird. A bird would then risk what it has most precious. But if you are looking for something more abstract, you could use instead Don't put everything on the line.

To put something on the line means:

to do something which causes you to risk losing something such as your reputation or your job He had put his career on the line and I wasn't prepared to allow what he had done to be diminished in significance. (Collins)

Another way to put it is don't risk everything/all you've got.

  • 2
    You can put everything on the line if you try two or three different things, without putting all your eggs in one basket.
    – user7868
    Aug 7 at 5:26
  • 2
    Yes to "works better for birds", no to "put everything on the line" being an equivalent.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 7 at 12:43
  • While a bird would be careful about their eggs, they wouldn't put them in a basket, they'd be in a nest. The basket metaphor refers to taking eggs for eating.
    – Barmar
    Aug 7 at 13:47
  • The phrases in this answer are not synonyms to the one in the question. Your phrases say "don't go all in", while the one in the question doesn't say how much you can bet at all. It only says that you shouldn't bet everything on the same option. E.g. spread all the eggs you are carrying into multiple baskets, instead of putting them all in the same basket. It does not specify how many eggs you should carry at the same time.
    – Opifex
    Aug 7 at 16:02

There is a phrase to hedge your bets. It means to diversify your approach, especially in investment, but it can be used figuratively in many situations where to rely exclusively on one thing could prove ruinous.

  • 2
    To hedge your bets conveys the same idea, but it does so in plain English, while the OP is, I presume, trying to preserve some of the tone of put all your eggs in one basket.
    – jsw29
    Aug 7 at 19:32
  • I would disagree, somewhat. There's no betting going on, so the phrase is used figuratively. You're simply finding eggs in a basket more colorful or rustically wise and pithier than a gambling metaphor. But I'd agree, hedge your bets isn't as much of a recognizable "saying" since it lacks the barnyard wisdom.
    – TimR
    Aug 8 at 11:06

"Don't put all your worms in one nestling."

Or as Mark suggests: "Don't feed all your worms to one nestling", which is less of a reference to the original saying, but reads more naturally.

  • 1
    Don't keep all your whoop ass in one can. I say this all the time.
    – Dor1000
    Aug 7 at 23:58
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    I think this would be better as don't feed all your worms to one nestling. Aug 8 at 10:51

Don't put all your twigs in one nest.


Keep your options open. Diversify you investments so that if one opportunity fails, there are others open to you.


The term shots on goal can be used to refer to multiple best effort attempts with the knowledge that several of them will likely fail. It can describe a similar scenario where it would be unwise to rely on only one approach. In this expression, you're likely to have multiple backups since failure is expected, whereas "not putting all your eggs in one basket" connotes a lower likelihood of failure with a high consequence.

"We can't put all our eggs in one basket if we're going to find a method that works by the end of the year."

"We need several shots on goal to find a method that works by the end of the year."


You can use this unique proverb as is and it makes sense whether it is used by a human or a bird. In your story, the birds are personified anyway by giving them human speech.

Depending on your context, an option would be using a literal phrase:

Don't put all your resources in one place/thing.

Some online sources mention an earlier English proverb which expresses the same sentiment but it is not really used today:

Venture not all in one bottom.

Note: Bottom here means "a ship, boat, or other vessel" which is a historical sense of the word. You can still find some usages of this phrase online; thus, you can consider readopting it by possibly replacing "bottom" with "boat" or "ship" to make it more clear.

Additional thought: The analogy to pregnancy is not really relevant for birds as eggs are like an external asset. Thus, it wouldn't be strange for a personified bird to use this proverb. And perhaps, the human version could be "Don't put all your babies in one crib." in an alternate world.


The phrase "don't put (all) your Xs in one Y" is a bit of a snowclone, so the possibilities are pretty limitless. Choose something that you think a bird would say. Just don't word it like straightforward advice (e.g., "Don't put all your money in one place").

Some examples from the web:

And if you are willing to include the word "eggs":


Don't put all your money in one mattress.

I just made that up but think it conveys the same point you're trying to achieve.


I think the idiom "Bet on multiple horses" is exactly the synonym you are looking for.

It comes from horse racing and means you shouldn't bet all your money on the same horse, but instead spread out and bet on multiple ones. Higher chance of winning something, but if you win your gains will be lower.


Your best alternative may depend on context.

Increasing your opportunities

  • You don't preen your feathers and then hide in a bush.
  • Don't sing to an empty tree.

Hedging against possible loss

  • Lay more than one egg.
  • I'm assuming that it's okay to refer to eggs, provided it adheres to a bird's perspective and avoids the awkwardness of treating eggs as a food source for humans. Aug 8 at 2:47
  • That last one's a bit heavy, but you could pull it of conspiratorially as, "... but I always lay more than one egg, you know?" Aug 12 at 16:36

Since the characters are birds rather than humans, you could perpetrate a reversal and refer to (bird-assisted) human pregnancies, like "don't dangle all your babies from a single stork's beak".


The phrase "cover all your bases", derived from the sport of baseball, is defined by Wikipedia as "To ensure safety; to take all relevant details, problems, or exigencies into account, even unlikely ones."

This might be more or less appropriate as a substitute for the "eggs in one basket" idiom depending on the exact circumstances. In this case, since the speaker is a bird, and since birds don't play baseball, well...

But then again, birds don't speak English either.


"Hanging it all on (a single point of failure)" is one from aviation.

Normally if an airplane engine quits, the wings keep functioning normally and it can be flown like a glider. This expression's canonical use is maneuvering a sport airplane so gliding wouldn't work, and the plane is totally depending on engine power to stay flying. This is "hanging it all on the prop".

Or the guy who puts an EV charge rig on the house air conditioning circuit, promising to turn off the A/C when charging, "if I forget, the circuit breaker will just trip." "Don't do that, you're hanging it all on the breaker". (The caution is that if the breaker fails to do its job, you're setting stuff on fire).

  • The OP is not looking for any substitute for put all your eggs in one basket, but specifically for one that would be suitable for fictional English-speaking birds to use.
    – jsw29
    Aug 7 at 19:37
  • @jsw29 my interpretation of the question was different. Aug 9 at 21:07

"Diversify your portfolio"

However, this turns your "don't" into a "do".

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