I drive a rural road every day to work. I pass by a small farm with free-ranging chickens, and quite often at least one of the birds is right on the edge of the road. I would feel really bad if I hit one, or caused an accident by swerving to avoid it.
Why do chickens cross the road?
David Frame is an Extension poultry specialist at Utah State University. He says it’s actually the gravel on and along the roadside that the chickens are drawn to. They like to pick at pebbles in the gravel that help with digestion, and also dust themselves in it.
“Make sure you have a place for them to dust and pick around in gravel. Make sure you provide them with calcite and everything in a designated place away from the road so they’ll have less of a tendency to want to go out there,” says Frame.
How far your chickens wander also depends on the breed and how docile they are. Some are more likely to stick around the coop than others. But Frame says that hands down, fencing is the best way to keep chickens away from the road.
“And this could be just as easy as chain link,” he says. “That will usually keep most chickens in. A 4-foot height is the minimum I would recommend on busy roadways or where your chickens are close to roadways, or you can go up to 6-foot chain link fence.”
Frame says electric fencing can be used as a temporary option, and it also works well in deterring raccoons and other predators. Around the chicken coop, he recommends penning them in with 0.5-inch galvanized hardware cloth.
Locate the coop as far away from the road as you can, and condition the birds to stay close to it. If they know this is where the shelter, food, and water is, they may not be as tempted to wander.