Deciding what chicken wire you’ll put on your coop is a pretty important part of backyard chicken ownership.
While we see our fluffy butts as cute feathered pets, the sad truth is the rest of the animal kingdom sees your chickens as dinner. So, we have to take steps to protect our hens, and that means choosing chicken wire that’ll keep predators OUT and your flock IN. There are lots of different types of chicken wire, and in this article, we’ll discuss:
- ½ inch & 1 inch chicken wire
- ½ inch hardware cloth for backyard chickens
- ¼ inch hardware cloth
And the advantages and disadvantages of each. We’ll also talk about poultry netting versus wire, and plastic versus metal and coated metal. The type of chicken wire you’ll use on your coop depends on a few factors, including:
- Your budget
- Predators in your area
- The age of your chickens
- Aesthetics (yes, this is important!)
So, get ready for an in depth look at each type of chicken wire out there!
What length and width chicken wire should you buy?
The answer to this question will vary from situation to situation. We discuss specific hole sizes below, but it’s also important to consider the length and width of the chicken wire you buy.
For example, we’re redoing the fencing on my coop right now. The posts are 4 feet away from each other. We’ve purchased 1-inch chicken wire that’s 48” wide and 150’ long to ensure we have enough to make panels for the entire run. If your fence posts are closer together, or wider apart, then you’ll have to consider that spacing before deciding on which chicken wire will work for your coop.
While we usually install fencing horizontally, in the case of chicken wire and chicken coops, it’s best to install the wire itself vertically. You want your chicken run to be tall enough to keep your flock in, and you don’t want any gaps between the wire that predators can get through. When installed horizontally, a 48” tall fence will require a second layer so the fence is tall enough. Avoid this scenario!
Chicken wire ½ inch – 1 inch
When you think of chicken wire, you probably think of the wire fencing with hexagonal openings. This is traditional chicken wire, and it has advantages and disadvantages.
While it comes in various sizes, for chickens, the ½ inch or 1 inch variety are best. Chickens, especially young ones or smaller bantam varieties, such as Cochins, silkies, ameraucana bantams, or brahma chicks, might be able to fit through larger holes, or predators might be able to get through. Also, pests such as rats might fit through larger holes. Half and one inch chicken wire is easy to cut (an important consideration) and install – you can use staples or screws with washers to attach it to fence posts.
However, you should remember that this type of chicken wire is thin and easily pulled apart by predators. In our area, we don’t have a lot of carnivores trying to kill our hens, so it works well for us. But for readers who live near bears, or have very aggressive neighborhood dogs, or who have wily raccoons, this type of wire can lead to some sad situations.
Another consideration, especially if you have chicks, is they can become tangled in chicken wire, and get a wing caught. I’ve dealt with this situation a few times – we’ve had to unwind the chick from the wire to set it free. Don’t ask me how they manage to get stuck – chickens be chickens!
But yes, this can happen – so it’s something to think about. That being said, this type of chicken wire is relatively inexpensive, and is easily found in longer rolls at big box stores.
Hardware cloth ½ & ¼ inch
Hardware cloth is usually what experienced backyard chicken owners use when building their coops. It’s very sturdy and, when installed correctly, is harder for predators and neighborhood dogs to rip through. It also doesn’t stretch out of shape like chicken wire, so predators can’t maneuver through it as easily.
You can buy hardware cloth with larger openings, but typically, the half and ¼ inch sizes are best. These sizes are impossible for backyard chickens to fit through – so they’ll remain in your coop – and most predators can’t fit their fingers/paws through the holes.
Raccoons in particular like reaching through chicken wire to grab a free meal. Hardware cloth makes it harder for them to grab a pullet’s leg and rip her apart. It’s also harder for predators to get a grip on the wire and rip it off.
Hardware cloth also looks better aesthetically than the other options on this list, although it can be pretty expensive, especially if you need wider pieces or you have a large run for your backyard chickens.
Metal – Coated vs. Uncoated
You might notice that chicken wire comes in 2 different varieties (other than size) – coated and uncoated. Coated chicken wire just contains an extra layer of plastic on the outside. It’s typically green, but I’ve seen it in other colors as well.
While coated chicken wire certainly isn’t necessary, it can look better and, if your chicks get stuck between holes, it can make it easier to free them and less painful for the chicken.
It’s also a little easier to install because you won’t have to grab thin wire for the entire installation. It tends to be a bit more expensive, so your budget will dictate whether coated or uncoated chicken wire is for you.
Another unconventional option are screens – yep, the same screens you probably have on the windows in your house. This is a great option if BUGS are a big issue in your area. Nothing is worse than a fly or gnat infestation – and they CAN harm your flock! Screens are typically made of wire, and they’re pretty easy to install, although fixing them (should they get torn) is a bit of a pain in the butt.
If your chickens are active and like to bicker, or if you have other pets such as cats, you might find screens don’t last very long and you’ll be replacing them pretty frequently. They also won’t stand up to most predators – so if your neighbors dogs like to make a meal out of your flock, then screens are best avoided. They also tend to be a bit expensive, so it’s important to compare the costs to the other chicken wire options in this article.
Another option available is poultry netting, which is plastic fencing that looks like hardware cloth, but is made of plastic. This type of chicken wire is good for keeping your hens out of your garden, but provides little protection against a predator, since its easily ripped off. It can also look pretty ugly – especially if you get orange poultry netting! It’s best to stick to traditional chicken wire or hardware cloth.
Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about which chicken wire is best for a coop. There’s plenty of options, and your choice will be specific to your own situation!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.