What’s the best kind of chicken wire and fencing?

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Fencing of some kind is essential around your coop and/or chicken yard to keep your chickens in and to keep pests and predators out. Pests (mice, rats, snakes, etc.) want your chickens’ dinner. Predators (dogs, raccoons, foxes, hawks, etc.) want your chickens for dinner. There are a several kinds of wire and fencing, and I’ll talk about a handful of them here:

Galvanized hardware cloth. This is the best material for enclosing a chicken coop or enclosed run. In particular, you want 1/2″ galvanized hardware cloth (usually 19 gauge). Smaller openings could be too brittle, and larger openings will not deter against rats or snakes. Hardware cloth comes in 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-foot rolls—with 3′ and 4′ being the most common—and in roll lengths anywhere from 5, 25, 50 to 100 feet. The mesh is made by weaving or welding steel wires together, then hot-dipping it in zinc (galvanizing it) to protect it from rust. It’s a stiff product, but you can bend it by hand, cut it fairly easily with a pair of wire snips, and attach it to your frame or posts with 3/4″ galvanized poultry fencing staples (Avoid using staples from a staple gun. They can rust easily, and if/when they slip out, they will get pecked at.) Once bent into shape, hardware cloth holds its shape well.

Chicken wire. Maybe because of its name, this is what most people think to use first on their coops. It’s made of thin wire woven together to create hexagonal openings. It’s relatively cheap but rusts quickly. And while it will keep your chickens in, it won’t keep the raccoons out. . . . Chicken wire could work fine as a fence for a daytime yard, where you can keep a watchful eye on your chickens. Some people use this on the upper parts of their coops/enclosed runs to save money. Just keep in mind that if a rodent climbs up there, it too can get through the openings.

Chain link. This type of fencing is strong and easy to come by. It will keep chickens in and a dog out, but the hands and arms of a raccoon can reach through and cause a terrible scene. So make sure your chickens have a place to retreat too should they be threatened.

Rabbit wire fencing. This is a heavy-gauge welded wire fencing with 3- or 4-inch square or rectangular openings. It works well to provide added security when attached to the floor of a chicken ark or tractor, like The Garden Ark. Because of the larger openings, it keeps predators from entering from below, but lets the chickens graze and scratch at the ground more naturally. Like chain link, rabbit fencing could also work to border a daytime yard—there are variations just for this purpose that have narrower openings at the bottom of the fence and wider openings at the top.

Electric net fencing. Some farmers let their chickens free range by creating a wide perimeter of electric net fencing around their henhouse. You hook the fencing up to a portable power source, and it provides a shock to any creature that touches it, effectively keeping them on their side. If you have the space, this is an economical option for defining a large run and protecting from ground predators.

Basically, I’d suggest attaching 1/2″ hardware cloth to all open-air sides of your coop and enclosed run. Secure it so that there are no gaps larger than 1/2″, and bury it at least a foot — or flare it out in a 2-foot skirt around the base of your coop, staked above the ground and buried under a layer of sod or mulch. The other materials could come into play for the chickens’ daytime run.

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45 Responses to “What’s the best kind of chicken wire and fencing?”

  1. Paul VOSEN says:

    Will 2 x 4 heavy gauge welded horse fencing keep predators out?

    • Paul, that should keep your chickens in, and predators won’t be able to tear through it. It won’t keep pests out, of course. And raccoons could reach in through that size opening, so make sure your chickens have a place to retreat to. Also, take precautions for predator access over and under the fencing.

      • jen says:

        I found that chain link kept our biggest problem out, the neighbor’s dogs, except the time that the dog just pounded the door in until the lock twirled around and opened. Racoons always scare chickens out of their places of retreat, so we’ve had to border the entire bottom with boards or another layer of wire/hardware cloth. This worked well for years, only letting in animals who were after the eggs and food. Now, the coons have discovered yanking out the chicken wire roof. Too bad, because we didn’t have to lock them up every evening, but, now we have to be there twice a day, dawn and dusk. Our chickens confine themselves to a fairly small area, most of the time, esp. if they have a roo. I had a hammock in the yard that they never got on, and only get on our deck if there is birdfood there.

  2. Jil says:

    We’re thinking of using a combination of 1/4″ hardware cloth and 1/2″ hardware cloth on our coop–the 1/4″ going the first couple of feet up the sides, to keep mice and snakes out. The 1/2″ is 19 gauge, but the 1/4″ is only 23 gauge–would you think this could be a problem?

    • Jil, that should be fine. I’ve avoided using 23 gauge wire as it’s quite a bit lighter than the 19 gauge. So while it may be overkill, you might consider using the 1/2″ hardware cloth all around, then overlapping with the 1/4″ mesh at the bottom. As for effectiveness, I don’t know about snakes, but I would think a determined mouse would climb those couple extra feet to find an opening it could eventually fit through.

  3. aart says:

    How’d ya get the holes in all those pennies? Any concern with galvanic corrosion from dissimilar metals?

    • Aart, it’s been a while, but I think I either punched a starter hole with a nail, then drilled, or just used a drill. The metal is fairly soft. (For anyone wondering, aart is referring to a photo on this page.) Today’s US pennies are mainly zinc with a thin copper plating. So I guess you might get some galvanic corrosion between the copper plating on the penny and the galvanized coating on the hardware cloth. I haven’t done a real test of it to say for sure. Some paint on the back of the penny would inhibit that. Or just use galvanized washers. . . ;)

  4. Cam says:

    I need to know where to get thin gauge chicken wire.

  5. SE says:

    Hi what sort of wire and predator proofing should i do for a chicken tunnel? Does it need an apron too?

    • SE, some tunnels I’ve seen have wire at the bottom — so they are basically a full tube. Others are just wire fencing bent to form an arch and staked down on the sides. As for what sort of wire to use, it depends on how much protection you need. If you mainly want to confine the chickens and deter predators — say, as you let the chickens through the tunnel to a day run — you could use wire fencing with 2″ x 3″ openings or maybe even chicken wire. If you’re trying to seriously predator proof it — say, you’ll leave them in there unattended or it’s permanently attached to (and open to) their primary coop/run — I would go with 1/2″ hardware cloth on the bottom, sides, and top. With a wire bottom, it would not also need a wire apron. Hope this helps.

  6. Joan says:

    Does anyone know what width a fence would need to be to keep chickens in. I have a wrought iron fence that is 4 inches wide.

    • Joan, I believe chickens can squeeze through a 4-inch gap. In fact, one of my hens had been escaping from their day run, and I recently found the spot — a hole about 4″ x 4″ near the bottom of the wire fence. So you might want to run some mesh or fencing with narrower openings at the bottom of your wrought-iron fence, not only to keep your chickens in, but to keep predators out. Hope this helps.

  7. Larry says:

    I was thinking on making a large chicken run about 6 ft. tall. What I was thinking on putting like hardware cloth 3 ft. and burry 1 ft. in the ground and then use a 1×2 fence for the rest of the coop and roof. Will a raccon climb above the 2 ft. high thats on the fence and climb thru the 1×2 fence area?

    • Larry, I’ve seen others do something similar with their runs, and it seems to work well for them. The tighter mesh at the bottom will keep a raccoon or other animal from reaching in and swiping at your chickens, while the larger mesh at the top will prevent them from entering. If you’re serious about keeping predators out completely, you should plan for some kind of mesh or covering for the top as well. By the way, the 1×2 mesh won’t keep rats out, but if you’re talking about a day run and take care not to keep food laying around in there, you should be fine.

      If there are any readers with a similar setup to what Larry’s describing, how well has it worked for you?

  8. Jaci says:

    I have a question. We live in Texas south of Houston and have a good-sized (3/4 acre) backyard. I want to get a few chickens for eggs and eventually meat when the time comes. Our yard is wood privacy fenced all the way around, and my husband recently cross fenced about a 1/4 of it with chain link for our dog. I’m trying to decide the best way to go about this…completly free range, but I don’t want to deal with poop on my boys swingset and such, or in a portable “chicken wagon” type cooper with a run, but that doesnt seem free range enough. Is there a happy medium? So I dont have to worry about my kids playing in poop, and I also get good eggs from happy healthy chickens? I plan on supplementing with a homemade organic feed and want the chickens to eat all the bugs from my yard! HELP!

    • Jaci, I would fence off an area of your yard just for the chickens, kind of like you’ve done for the dog. That would be their free-range day run, and you can either keep them in a small movable coop in there or in a permanent coop that you let them out of regularly. To maintain some vegetation in there for them, you could use grazing frames or plant vegetation that can hold up to the abuse of chickens. Jessi Bloom’s recent book is great for ideas on that. Then, when you feel like letting them out into your garden for pest control, or just for a change of pace, you can do so — and be able to keep track of them (and their poop).

  9. Tyler says:

    Great info. I have a couple questions… Can coons squeeze through 2×2 in. holes, and can they rip apart 14-guage welded wire?

    • Tyler, they can reach in and claw or grab chickens through 2×2. I recommend 1/2″ x 1/2″ for the best predator protection. 14-guage is pretty thick, but if the openings are large enough, a bloodthirsty, determined coon will work at it with its teeth. I’d love to hear thoughts/experiences from other readers on this too.

  10. joan says:

    Hello,
    We are building your garden coop this summer. We have seen several coops with 1/2 x 1 inch fencing. The guage is thicker than the 1/2 hardware cloth. Will this work to keep out rats?

    • Joan, to keep out rats, you want holes/openings no bigger than 1/2″ (13 mm). I think the added space of the 1″ dimension would allow rates easier access and make it easier for a dexterous predator (e.g, raccoon) to reach its paws in.

  11. AmyP says:

    Hi there, chicken expert!
    I have a 25 x 30 foot garden with a small chicken coop inside. I plan on locking my chickens inside it at night, and letting them raom the fenced area during the day. The garden has a 3 foot wooden picket fence around the outside perimeter with the slats very closely spaced (1/4 inch). I left the fence posts tall – 5 to 6 feet and attached hot wire tape to the posts (the tape looks like 1/4″ width plastic tape with wire woven through it that you hook to a solar fence charger) I put the tape in 2 strands, 1 foot apart at the top of the wood fence, (3 feet high) so one strand is at 3 feet, and 1 strand is at 4 feet. I have plastic bird netting on the inside of the fence from 3 to 5 feet to keep my chickens from flying out.
    I have a rooster that keeps getting out somehow- I think he is flying out the top? I have not seen him do it but he gets out and wanders and then cant get back in. I have no hens at the moment- they will be coming this week so Im trying to fix the problem before they get here. how high should the fence be – is 6 feet high enough?- apparently 5 feet is not! Or is it the fact that the rooster has no flock? One more question– I have hot wire – electric fence wire around the outside — is there a “best” way to do it that you know of? I have described how I have it set up but I really have no idea if it will keep predators from getting in anyway – can they tolerate a shock and go through the birdnetting? are two strands enough or should I have it spaced closer together? Im going to go to the hardware store today and get the wire mesh that you mention and put it around the bottom of the garden fence (bury it) to make sure nothing can get under it. And Ive decided to get chicken wire and replace the bird netting in case they can jump through the hot wire to avoid the shock? but Im still not sure how tall it needs to be to keep them from flying out during the day. thanks for any suggestion you may have :)

    Amy

    • Amy, a 6-foot fence would be good, and if you have a bird (or more) that is still flighty, you might consider clipping the feathers on one wing. The electric fencing I’ve seen work well with chickens is a poultry net fencing that’s around 4 feet high. Keeps predators out, though not necessarily your chickens in. You’d have to clip the wings for that.

  12. Katie says:

    What kind of fence posts do you recommend, how far apart do you space them, and how deep do you pound them?

    • Katie, I don’t really have a specific recommendation. Pretty much whatever works for your needs. My backyard is surrounded by a 6-ft. wooden privacy fence, and our chickens are in their day run only when we’re around to supervise. So the fence for that day run is lighter weight than if we relied on it to do more than keep them contained. It’s held up by 6-ft. steel U-channel posts, driven down just enough to bury the anchor part, about a foot, I think. They’re spaced about 6 ft. apart. You should be able to get something like this pretty cheap at a DIY or hardware store.

      You can see some images of my setup in this post about grazing frames. Note that at the time of those pics, the fence was only 4 ft. high, but we’ve since raised it to 6 ft. (flighty bird!). Hope this helps.

  13. Chad says:

    My little shitzu ripped through our chicken wire covered chicken tractor. Thankfully, he just wanted to lick the chickens!

    So, I’m off to Lowes today to get some 2×4″ wire fencing to replace the chicken wire fencing. We already have a wood fenced in yard and have no threats from any animals other than dogs (ours) and cats (neighbors). I’ve never seen a raccoon or snake in the area- so, I’ll be content with the “rabbit wire fencing”.

  14. Lynette says:

    Thank you so very much for presenting all of this helpful information in a way that is concise and easy-to-understand. You mentioned using wire that was “19 gauge or heavier.” What “gauges” are available? acceptable? optimal? …and… would “heavier” be 20, 21, 22? or 18, 17, 16? There are so many websites and opinions out there, but I trust yours and will feel more confident following your advice. My Hens, Roos and I thank you. —Lynette

    • Lynette, the smaller the gauge number, the thicker and heavier the wire. So 19 gauge wire is about 1 mm thick (diameter of the wire), whereas 14 gauge is about 2 mm thick. 1/2″ hardware cloth is typically 19 gauge or heavier and is great for protecting your chickens in their coop. Common chicken wire (made from galvanized wire, with hexagonal openings) can be pretty thin (22 gauge, about 0.7 mm). It will keep chickens in, but won’t keep determined predators out.

  15. Lisa says:

    Our city code requires we construct a 6-7 foot high privacy fence around the chicken area so our neighbors do not have to see them. Vinyl fencing is very expensive and the local lumbar yard said we should not use green treated lumber around livestock like chickens because of the chemicals. In our urban chicken class they told us not to use Cedar chips for their bedding because it will make them sick. Can we use Cedar boards for fencing their area in? if not, what kind of wood can we use? Pine will rot unless we treat it with stain or outdoor paint and that seems like we are back to the green treated issue. Please help if you can.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

    • Lisa, yes, you can safely use cedar fence boards around your chicken yard. The studies I’ve seen cautioning against cedar pertain only to the shavings/chips/bedding. (To summarize: ground-up cedar can release a concentration of the wood’s natural aromatic oils, which can be harmful to chickens’ respiratory tracts over time.) There are also non-toxic stain options should you choose another type of wood for your fence.

    • David Glass says:

      Lisa, I have used all these things you have been told not to use and never had a problem. If you had a problem, what would happen? A few dead chickens and believe me a predators will do that anyhow. I use pine chips for nest bedding. Cedar will keep the bugs away.

  16. xanthe says:

    Thank you, that’s a lot of great information for me to build my own chicken coop. Thanx a lot :)
    Keep up the good work!

  17. Richard Sloan says:

    In attaching hardware cloth to a pvc frame could nylon tie wraps be used or will predators chew through?

    • Richard, I don’t have experience attaching hardware cloth that way, but I do think a raccoon or rat could easily chew through zip ties. You could try galvanized wire instead. Or vinyl-coated garden wire.

  18. hannah says:

    sweet! totally rocks!

  19. billy valentine says:

    I used hardware cloth wire. A little pricey, but worth the money. Easy to install, very durable.

  20. Liza Jade says:

    Hello, thanks for the information. Sadly we already covered our entire coop in chicken wire, including ran it all underneath the coop and covered it with dirt. We have decided to add the hardware cloth so we can keep out rodents. What we are wondering is if we need to bury the hardware cloth down a foot as recommended above considering we have the chicken wire all the down and around. We are hoping you will tell us it will be okay to just put the hardware mesh above ground and fearing you will tell us to bury it!
    Thanks so much.

    • Rats can tunnel into your chicken coop, and the chicken wire you have now is little deterrent. You can either trench and bury the hardware cloth or bring it down from the walls and out in skirt around the chicken coop, about 2 feet wide on all sides, and stake it down above ground. Let grass grow up through it or add mulch on top. Tunneling predators or pests have to start so far back to be able to dig down, they just give up. Hope this helps.

    • David Glass says:

      I used 1″ chicken wire 5 feet high and an electric fence. 6 strands, first wire 4″ from the ground and next 3 wires 4″ apart. Then one at 8″ and last one 10″ more. First time in 6 years I did not lose 1 chicken. I check the voltage each night on the electric fence but it was not really necessary. I also check weekly any debris leaning on the electric wire. Coons, skunks & possums usually get me every year.

  21. Melody says:

    Do you have any advice about the PVC hardware cloth? It is much cheaper and lighter, and I was wondering if it is any good at keeping the chickens safe.

    • Melody, there are a couple things you might be referring to. The first possibility is simply a plastic mesh or netting. This may be good for keeping small birds away from your chickens’ feed or keeping your hens from flying out of an area, but it is worthless at keeping predators out. A raccoon can chew right through it.

      The second possibility is PVC- or vinyl-coated hardware cloth. This is galvanized welded-wire mesh that is then coated in vinyl. It is quite strong and, because of the added vinyl coating, should hold up even longer than uncoated galvanized hardware cloth. Though pricey, it is fine option for keeping your chickens safe inside a chicken coop or run. I recommend 1/2″ x 1/2″ openings (13 x 13 mm), 19 gauge or heavier.

      • Amanda says:

        I have run across this older article and have a question. My coop was made with 19 gauge PVC coated chicken wire in a 1″ hex. Will this be sufficient to keep out predators? I have been assured it is predator proof, but I didn’t know if the larger hex size would allow a raccoon more opportunity to reach in or to bend the wires.

        • Amanda, almost without exception when I hear of predator catastrophes, the hex-shaped chicken wire is involved. The problem has to do not only with the the size of the openings (which allow a raccoon to grab and pull), but also with the way in which the wires are joined to create the mesh. The wires are simply twisted together, and so they are more easily pulled apart. With hardware cloth, the wires are welded together at each point where they cross, which creates a much stronger shield against predators. Hope this helps.

  22. michele says:

    You are right about the chicken wire. Last year we had a coon actually rip a hole in the chicken wire and destroy several of our best layers.

  23. Ryan says:

    Thanks for posting this. I am in the process of building a backyard coop and run, and I’m trying to weigh the pros/cons of all the types of wire, cost vs. durability, mostly.

  24. Maddie says:

    Thank you for the info. My dad was seriously losing sleep over this!!! I found it oh yeah he’s gonna be soooo jealous!!! Thanks a bunch!!!

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