Ask Tristan: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?


Ask Tristan is a bi-weekly column. Tristan knows the secrets of the universe and will share his most special wisdom with the LS community.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” Of course, it’s to get to the other side—or so we’ve been told. But out of the thousands of times this joke has been repeated, no one has thought to ask the more important question: Why does the chicken need to get to the other side? What kind of dark secrets are these birds covering up? Whatever their true motives are, we need to take action before we find ourselves the victims of a feathery conspiracy. Dear readers, this is how to stop a chicken from getting to the other side:

To prevent unwanted road traversal, we must first establish the ability of our adversary, the chicken. Establishing their speed and weight, chickens can reach a top running speed of about 9 miles per hour (14.5 km/h), and while weight can vary wildly with age and species, a friend has told me that their 15 chickens weigh 57 kilograms combined, meaning an average weight of 3.8 kilograms. From this, we can see a few possible strategies to halt our chicken: (1) Intercept its movement while it crosses, (2) prevent it from reaching the road in the first place, or (3) place a physical obstacle on either side of the road. While there are many immediately effective methods for preventing road traversal—some of which you could easily imagine yourself—a more discrete approach is preferable to avoid the notice of law enforcement.

Let’s start with the first strategy, which will stop the chicken while crossing the road mid-movement. Considering the worst-case scenario, in which the chicken is running at top speed through a single-lane road, we will only have just under a second to react accordingly. Hiring a guard to intercept the chicken will be infeasible, as the reaction time and speed required are simply not possible for a human. Of course, you can hire enough guards to cover the entire stretch of road, but that method quickly becomes expensive for obvious reasons and is still unreliable. In fact, if you hire enough clones of Usain Bolt to catch a chicken coming from any point on a straight, one-lane road, you’ll need a clone for every 27 feet of road, and that’s just assuming only one chicken is approaching a given Usain Bolt at a time. The task at hand may instead be more suited for automation: if, for example, you place thermal-targeting sentry turrets across the street, you may find more success at deterring trespassing chickens—as well as the local wildlife and any passing cars/pedestrians.

So intercepting our poultry as it crosses the street seems like a bad strategy; it’s either unreliable, expensive, or destructive (or if you’re really creative, all three at once!). Maybe we can take a more proactive approach by deterring any chickens from entering the road in the first place. For example, releasing numerous predators throughout the local area might hunt the chickens to extinction, with the minor, potential side effect of completely disrupting the ecosystem. You can instead place decoy predators along the side of the road, which might deter them for a little while before they quickly learn it’s harmless. The problem with this strategy is that balancing effectiveness with harmlessness is a very fine line. For those that don’t care about being harmful, that’s fine; however, some of us might want to try a different solution.

That brings us to our third approach, which involves obstructing the chicken’s access to either side of the road using some form of barrier. We should keep in mind that a more discrete solution is preferable here. Luckily, we don’t have to do anything drastic; simply spreading strong-smelling herbs and spices across the side of the road can act as a deterrent, with the difficulty of having to replenish them every time it rains or snows. This is an underwhelming method for those looking to exact their revenge on crossing chickens, but probably the most practical one. If you really have no moral compass, then the laser turrets might be a more appealing strategy. 

Altogether, these methods will hopefully help you in your journey to prevent the oncoming chicken uprising. We may never learn the true reasoning behind why these birds take it upon themselves to cross our roads; all we can do is be prepared.

Do YOU have a question for Tristan? Post it in the comments below.