Questions about the Liability and Roaming Distance of Free-range Chickens.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LovelyBantam, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. LovelyBantam

    LovelyBantam Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2012
    We've had seven chickens (6 RIR and 1 OEGB) that have lived in a coop and run for many months now. However, we have seriously contemplated letting them free-range. Yet we do have a few questions, such as the roaming distance and liability. Are chickens likely to run into the road and cause accidents? Are we liable if they do cause an accident? What if they go to the neighbors and flog children? Do they roam that far to be a problem, or do they stay near the coop?

    We have land that is 350 square feet wide, and seven acres long, so it is a slim rectangular shape. We are relatively close to neighbors, and the coop is about five acres from a busy road.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    Chickens will wander further then 350 feet. My run is around three hundred feet from my garden. I only let them out to range in the evening. I've caught them on the other side of the garden in the tree line that is the property line. If they were to roam all day they would easily cross that line regularly. So yes they can and will go further then 350 feet. A rooster flogging a child is a liability. If you can put up fencing to limit thier range.
  3. LovelyBantam

    LovelyBantam Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2012
    Thanks for replying!

    Our neighbors are approx. 500-550 feet away, if that makes an ounce of difference.
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    This is another one of those things there's really no set answer to. I free ranged my birds on a very long, narrow lot--one acre, 80 feet wide, 500 feet long or something like that. I'd have loved it if they'd ranged down in the pasture. Nope, they liked to hang out on the kitchen porch. They went around the house, and up front a little, but as a rule stayed within 100 feet of the run. And keep in mind these birds had never been confined to the coop, so it's not like it was a huge security blanket for them.

    I have no idea about liability. My thought is if someone gets in a wreck over a chicken, they deserve what they get. Now, if your bird goes somewhere and flogs a child or small dog, you're going to feel responsible and pay for the damages, cause you're a good ethical person and it's the right thing to do. And you'd then confine the animal (or kill it), cause you're a responsible animal owner.
  5. DianeS

    DianeS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 28, 2010
    Speaking just from the liability issue, of course you would be liable if your chicken caused damage to a person or property. Why wouldn't you be? If your chickens eat someone's garden or flowers, you'd have to pay for the damages. If your chicken injures a child or pet, you'd have to pay for the medical costs. If your chicken causes a car wreck, you'd have to pay for the costs. Just the same as if it were your dog, your horse, or yourself who caused the problem. It's the legally correct, as well as morally right, thing to do.
  6. LovelyBantam

    LovelyBantam Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2012
    I didn't mean to have my morals be judged or make it seem I was lacking in that area. More if there was special insurance I needed to cover this or general insurance had coverage.
  7. heybarb

    heybarb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2012
    North Carolina
    Our chickens also tend to stay close to the house and stay out of the fields and I think it's because of hawks. Around the house, there is better cover. So although they have the option to free range over 5 acres, ours tend to hang around. The only place they might wander that I would be unsafe is the road, but I just call them back - "Here chickie, chickie!" and they come running - especially if they know I have a snack for them. And after a few weeks, I don't see them down by the road very often. I wouldn't say they "learned" but were just encouraged (with food) to stay away from the road...
  8. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2008
    Mine go everywhere. They certainly go into the neighbors' yards, if I let them. I don't have aggressive roosters, and my neighbors are retired and used to keep chickens, so they don't mind in the late fall-winter-early spring. But once things are planted, I know they'd be mad if I let the hens onto their property. Hens are very hard on gardens, and even worse to flower beds or any place that there's mulch. They cause actual property damage.

    I remember one thread from a poor woman who'd joined BYC to ask what to do about her neighbor's chickens. She didn't have any hens herself, but she was being forced to fence in all her gardens at some expense to keep the neighbor's chickens from destroying things. I felt terrible for her. I think most of us encouraged her to call animal control.

    You have a definite responsibility to keep your hens on your property. This seems wrong to me:
    If a motorist swerves to avoid your chickens and hits the ditch, they most certainly don't deserve what they get. They will sue you, and they will win, and you will deserve it. That's going to be on top of the guilt you'll feel because you caused someone to be hurt or killed.

    Free range hens are great---but keep them on YOUR property. Good fences make good neighbors.
  9. Kildare49

    Kildare49 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2012
    Central Wisconsin
    Questions suitable for your insurance agent. You would be liable if your chickens are in the road & cause an accident.
    I know my neighbor was liable when I hit their horse that ran out in front of my truck.

    If they tend to go in the neighbors property, your neighbors might only remember the "free" part ;-).
  10. haemony

    haemony Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2011
    Free range sounds so fab in theory. I prefer pastured birds to free range which is basically the same thing but without the liability. I just put a fence around the area I want them in and save the worry about crossing property lines. Cheap easy movable fence to cover a large area is tomato stakes and deer fencing with clips or cable ties. Hammer the posts in wrap the deer fencing around, clip or tie. Easy. For extra ground level security use garden staples. They just stick the fence to the ground. This kind of fence can go up or be taken down or moved in just a few hours while covering a large area. Had only one chicken who ever went over it and then she spent the next hour in a panic trying to get back.

    Five wooded acres to roam and they spend most of their time under my deck digging in the gravel and roosting on lumber.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2013
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