Let me start by saying that I am no authority on chickens (or anything else for that matter). When writing these posts I am simply sharing what I have learned through experience.
All joking aside – Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? I find the answer to this dilemma to be nearly as simple as the lame joke that’s been told over and over throughout the decades. The answer is the chicken crossed the road because it could. Chickens have absolutely no natural boundaries, left on their own they just wander aimlessly and tirelessly scratching and pecking. The world, as much as they can access, is their playground and their dinner table. Chickens are not trainable, they are not obedient, and they have seemingly short attention spans so giving them something to entice them to stay where you want them will only work for a short time.
If there is somewhere you don’t want the chickens to go you must set up a boundary.
In our case crossing the road is not the worst case scenario. Our neighbors haven’t complained about the chickens foraging in their yard, and drivers who encounter the chickens crossing tend to yield the right of way to our girls. There are, however, some things the chickens find especially enticing, such as freshly worked soil, wood mulch, and straw, and these things can become a problem. Chickens are quick to wander into the freshly planted garden and scratch up all of our hard work. They will dine on the grass seed we just planted, and rearranging the flower bed while digging through a fresh layer of mulch is something a chicken can not resist. It doesn’t take long at all for chickens to destroy all of that hard work.
In 2012 when we began planning to raise chickens on our farm we first built the chicken yard. Our chicken yard is what I consider prime real-estate as it is built in a grove of beautiful mature Shagbark Hickory trees. The dimensions are 90 ft. by 45 ft. so the chickens have plenty of room to roam. The four foot high welded wire fence is generally sufficient to keep the chickens in, although we do have an occasional escapee. In addition to the shade provided by the Hickory trees the chicken yard also had a wide swath of shrubs that not only offers shade from the sun and protection from the wind, it helps to protect them from overhead predators. Even with all these amenities our chicken yard is not perfect. It does not have the assortment of grasses, clover, plantain and other plants that are found elsewhere on our farm. Thus as much as possible we allow our chickens to roam the farm and forage for their food. We have fence around all of our garden areas that keeps the chickens out but to be fair the fence serves to keep deer out as well.
We have accepted the fact that the mulch in the prayer garden may not always stay pretty and neat, and that we will inevitably find ourselves herding chickens back to our side of the road, but the lower feed costs, the delicious and nutritious eggs, and the insect control provided by our free range chickens https://www.healthambition.com/caged-versus-free-range-eggs-nutritionally/ are certainly worth it.
Thanks for reading and follow along so you don’t miss future posts is this series – “Don’t Put All Of You Eggs In One Basket” and “Chickens Come Home To Roost”.