One of the most important factors when setting up your chicken run or coop is safety, both to keep your chickens in, preventing them from digging up your veggie garden, and to keep would-be predators out. The wire that you choose to line your chicken coop and keep your flock safe depends on several factors, including durability and price, but safety should be first on the list.
Chicken wire comes in many forms, from galvanized mesh to simple wire netting, and each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we look at the available choices and find out which is best to suit your unique needs.
1. Chicken wire
Chicken wire, or mesh, is great for keeping chickens in, but no so much for keeping predators out! A dog can easily break their way through chicken mesh, especially wire that is a few years old. Made from galvanized wire with hexagonal holes of 1-2 inches, chicken mesh has long been the standard for backyard flocks (hence the name), and it works well — to a point.
If your flock is in no danger from predators, dogs, or otherwise, chicken mesh can work well for simply keeping your chickens in the desired area or keeping them out of your gardens. It is inexpensive, easy to work with, and readily available almost everywhere. It’s also ideal for the top of a run to keep hawks and eagles out and to separate your flock when integrating new hens or roosters.
Chicken wire is definitely not predator-proof, however, and no match for a determined weasel or raccoon. There is also the chance of young chicks getting stuck in the hexagonal holes.
2. Poultry netting
Because it is made from plastic, it’s easy for a predator to chew through in seconds and is certainly not predator-proof. It’s great for keeping chickens separated and for keeping them out of your garden. It’s also perfect to cover the top of your run as protection against aerial predators, but not for much else.
3. Welded wire
The go-to wire for chicken coops and runs, ½-inch welded wire is the best and safest option. It is highly durable and great for keeping chickens in and predators out and will last for years. For most applications, ½-inch wire is great, but if you really want to be safe, there are bigger sizes available. Bear in mind, though, that these are difficult to cut and shape. Welded wire is rigid and keeps its shape when you bend it, making it ideal for coops of all shapes and sizes.
The only downsides to welded wire are the cost and workability. It is fairly pricey, especially thicker varieties, and is difficult to bend into shape.
Standard chain-link fencing found on fences is a great option for chicken runs too. It lasts for years without rusting and can be found easily second-hand. It is easy to work with and bend into shape and will keep all large predators out. You may need to add smaller mesh to the bottom of your coop to keep out smaller predators, though, as snakes and weasels can easily fit through the gaps.
Chain-link fencing is ideal for larger predators like dogs and coyotes and is the ideal choice if you have problems with large predators and are setting up a permanent run or coop.
5. Electric net fencing
Electric fencing is ideal for free-range flocks that you want to keep confined to a certain area without needing to set up a fence. It is also great for predators and will keep your chickens in too. If you have a large space, electric fencing is an economical way of keeping your flock safe. While it is an expensive initial purchase, it will usually last for years, although it needs a portable power source that may need periodic replacing. For optimum safety, pair an electric fence with welded wire or chain-link fencing. Of course, it will do little for aerial predators.
Additional protection measures
Even with the right chicken wire, hungry predators will find a way into a coop, and you may need to take extra precautions against these wily invaders.
Almost all predators can burrow underneath your chicken wire and make their way inside your coop, including dogs, foxes, and snakes. It’s a good idea to lay mesh under the coop wall and roughly 1 foot on the floor of either side to prevent burrowing. Sinking your mesh at least 6 inches into the ground is also recommended, as well as adding stones or broken glass into the ground around the walls to further deter digging.
If you are really having an issue with predators, it may be worth the investment to install solar lights around your coop. These lights automatically come on during the night and will deter most predators from entering the illuminated area.
While getting woken up by a rooster is not for everyone, they are experts at keeping watch over their flock. Roosters will make a racket at the slightest hint of danger and may give you enough time to run out and protect your flock.
No matter the chicken wire that you decide to go with, this is arguably one of the most important parts of building your run or coop. It’s a good idea to carefully assess your unique situation to decide which wire to go with. If you don’t have any issues with predators, simple chicken mesh will do the trick, but if you have threats of predators around your coop, you may want to use several different types to keep your flock safe.
Ready to make your own chicken run? Take a look at these 15 DIY Chicken Run Plans You Can Make Today (with Pictures)!
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.