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Choosing the Right Fencing for your Chicken Coop, Run or Garden

Chicken wire, welded wire and electric fencing all have different uses for different needs around a coop or garden. Learn the differences and which kind you should choose.

Keeping your flock safe from predators is something important to consider if you are new to chicken keeping, or building or buying a new coop, chicken tractor or run.

Conversely, keeping your garden veggies safe from marauding chickens, and also bunnies, deer and wild birds is always a struggle. 

The choices when it comes to fencing can be a bit confusing, and sadly making the wrong choice can mean the difference between a predator-proof chicken run versus one a raccoon can easily gain access to, or a chicken-proof garden versus a garden that's stripped clean by your flock! 

Hopefully this will help clear up any confusion and assist you in choosing the right fencing for not only your chicken coop, but also your chicken run and your garden. 

Choosing the Right Fencing for your Chicken Coop, Run or Garden

Not all chicken fences or fencing options are created equal - and using the wrong type of fencing can lead to heartbreaking losses.

Chicken Wire

My grandmother, a lifelong chicken keeper, always told me that chicken wire wasn't good for anything except keeping chickens in (or out, as the case may be). And she was right. A dog, fox or raccoon can rip through chicken wire in no time. 

Another danger is that often baby chicks can squeeze through the holes. Chicken wire is made of galvanized wire and usually comes with 1" or 2"-sized hexagonal holes.

Chicken wire should never be used on coop vents, openings or window. And it shouldn't be used for your run if you leave your chickens in the run all day when no one is home.

About the only thing I might use chicken wire for around the run area is to cover the top to keep aerial predators out during the day. It won't stop a raccoon or weasel that might climb the side of your run or keep it out forever, but it would at least slow one down a bit. 

So if you're home all day, the run is visible from the house, the chickens only use it during the day and are locked in their coop at night, and you're mainly worried about hawks, then chicken wire is an affordable option to cover the top of your run.

Chicken wire is also a good option to separate your run (if you're integrating new flock members for instance), or to separate a broody hen and her chicks inside the coop from the general population.

Chicken wire is also a great fencing option for your garden. It will keep out rabbits, deer and chickens, as well as cats. Although chickens can clear 4 or 5 feet fences, the instability of the chicken wire will often deter them from going over since they have nothing solid to perch on top to hop up, and then over.

Chicken wire also is a great way to protect small plants while they're getting established. Creating a 'cage' around them with the chicken wire is quick and easy and will keep the plants safe from being eaten by your chickens, deer or bunnies.

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, easy to cut and work with, bendable, great as garden fencing

Cons: Not predator-proof, rusts fairly quickly

Best Uses: To protect small plants, to fence in a garden, cover the top of a day run

Poultry Netting

Similar to chicken wire is poultry netting (sometimes also called bird or deer netting). Made of plastic, the holes in poultry netting vary in size.

It's also inexpensive and about the only safe uses around the coop or garden would be to keep your crops safe from wild birds, chickens, bunnies or deer. Being plastic, it's not even as predator-proof as chicken wire. But again, it's an easy, affordable way to cover the top of your day run.

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, very easy to cut and work with, lightweight, bendable, fairly durable

Cons: Not predator-proof

Best uses: To fence in a garden, protect bushes, or cover the top of your run

1/2" Welded Wire

Welded wire (or hardware cloth as it's sometimes called) is the safest option for your coop and run. It's impervious to even larger predators such as dogs, coyotes and foxes, but will keep out the smallest of predators including weasels, snakes and mice.

For the windows and vents in your chicken coop, you should go with 1/2" welded wire. If you want to be super cautious, you can choose the 1/4" size, but be aware that it takes FOR-EVER to cut. 

I use 1/2" welded wire on all the openings in my chicken coop (and I also have regular window screen on the windows to keep flies out) and also along the bottom three feet of my chicken run.

Having the smaller holes along the bottom of the run (and also sunk into the ground) is good practice since most predators will be looking to get in at ground-level. This prevents a raccoon from reaching in to try to grab my chickens or ducks, keeps snakes from slithering in and also keeps out field mice.

Pros: Keeps out all predators

Cons: Fairly expensive, takes time to cut, rigid, so it keeps its shape, but can be hard to bend

Best Uses: Coop vents and windows, lower part of the run, predator-proof nighttime pen

1" Welded Wire

Welded wire also comes with 1"-sized holes. I use the 1" welded wire along the top three feet of my chicken run. This still will keep out any climbing predators like raccoon or fisher cats, but is a bit more affordable and easier to cut then the 1/2" wire, so I'm still mitigating my risk while economizing a bit.

Pros: Keeps out all but the smallest of predators, a bit quicker to cut then 1/2" welded wire

Cons: Fairly expensive, takes time to cut, rigid, so it keeps its shape, but can be hard to bend

Best uses: day run 

1/2" x 1" Welded Wire

Another option for welded wire is the 1/2" x 1" size fencing. This is a great choice for your chicken run if you can find it. I think it's also called rabbit fencing sometimes. It combines the safety of the 1/2" holes with the ease of cutting of the 1" holes.

Pros: Keeps predators out, a bit quicker to cut then 1/2" welded wire, holds its shape

Cons: Fairly expensive, can be hard to find, still takes time to cut, rigid, can be hard to bend

Best Uses: Predator-proof day or night pen

Chain Link Fencing

Chain link is a great option for your chicken run. If you have an old dog run or can find some fencing on Craig's List, think about repurposing it into a chicken run.

To make your run more predator-proof if you aren't home during the day, the bottom two or three feet can be wrapped in a smaller gauge wire to keep snakes, mice and weasels out, and to prevent raccoon from reaching through the larger openings in the chain link. 

But especially if you're battling larger, stronger predators such as coyotes, bob cats, mountain lions or bears, chain link is a very good choice for your run.

Pros: Keeps larger predators out

Cons:  Won't keep smaller predators out, hard to reconfigure or change the size

Best Uses: Day run safety from large predators

Electric Fencing

If you're worried about larger predators like bears, cougars or mountain lions, then electric fencing might be the way to go.

Structuring a double layer of fencing works well - meaning your run electric fencing around your run fencing with a sort of 'no man's land' of a foot or so in between to keep your chickens even safer.

Electric fencing can also be effective if you want to let your chickens free range during the day and often change the location in which they roam.

While electric fencing can be an expensive initial investment, and needs to be checked periodically to be sure it's working, once you have bought the kit and get it set up, it can provide a relatively large area where your chickens can free range safely.

Pros: Keeps larger predators out, provides extra layer of security

Cons:  Change of malfunctioning, takes a bit to set it up, expensive, doesn't protect from aerial predators

Best Uses: Large free range area, layer of security around day run

More Ways to Enhance Protection

Another thing to consider for a bit of added night time protection is installing some NiteGuard Solar Predator Lights around your run and garden area.

They come on automatically at dusk and blink until daybreak, adding another layer of security to your coop and run area, as well as keeping the deer and raccoon out of your corn. 

Of course, using the proper fencing and locking your chickens in their coop at night is a must regardless. (Your corn, however, is on its own!)

Which ever type of fencing you choose for your run, it should be sunk at least 8 inches into the ground and angled out in an apron or "J" shape to prevent digging predators.  

Adding some stones, broken glass or stoneware, other solid debris into the trench you dig to bury the fencing is also a good idea.

Fencing is not an area to scrimp on, especially  when it comes to keeping your chickens safe. Buying the best you can afford is going to avoid lots of heartache and losses in the future.

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