What is Chicken Wire and How is it Used?

Section of vegetable garden enclosed in protective chicken wire
Garden chicken wire   Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Chicken wire is a mesh fencing traditionally used to confine poultry. You do not, however, have to be a farmer to find uses for this product on your property. Composed of galvanized wire, it holds up well to the elements. You will often unearth pieces used decades ago on old homestead sites when digging around.

Fun Facts

Besides enclosing gardens with chicken wire, people also encircle individual shrubs with it, as winter protection against pests. Just drive three or four stakes into the ground around the shrub to build a framework, then unroll the chicken wire across the outside of this framework.

Besides durability, chicken wire boasts flexibility and is easy to cut. It can be more difficult to cut and install types of fencing with much heavier gauges, such as the similar-looking chain link.

Uses for Chicken Wire in Landscaping

Although it takes its name from its traditional use in poultry raising, we now use chicken wire in landscaping in many ways. For instance, chicken wire can be used to reinforce concrete.

A more widespread use for chicken wire in landscaping is in organic pest control measures. Most commonly, chicken wire is used as fencing to encircle a garden area to keep out pests that would eat your plants. To keep out pests that can dig, note that you have to bury a portion of the chicken wire, as detailed in this article on rabbit-proof fences. Likewise, bury the bottom part of chicken wire fencing that you install around the perimeter of a garden to keep out groundhogs a good 6 inches down.

Make Unrolling Easier

The unrolling will go easier if you stabilize one end of the chicken wire first by fastening it to one of the stakes using twist ties. To provide winter protection for shrubs in addition to pest protection, attach the burlap to the chicken wire.

The hexagonal gaps in chicken wire range from one-half inch to 2 inches. If you are trying to keep out rodents as small as meadow mice, it is best to select the one-half-inch type of chicken wire.

This product also comes in handy to build a makeshift container in the yard to hold bulk items. For example, if you use raked leaves to make compost or mulch, you may need a holding tank for your leaves before you get around to composting them. If so, just drive some tall stakes into the ground in a circular pattern and use Twist-Ties to attach the chicken wire to this framework.

Once you dump the leaves in, they will be reasonably well-secured against high winds until you get around to working with them.

Other Garden Uses for Chicken Wire

There are many creative ways you can use chicken wire in your yard or garden. If you're struggling with pests, there are many ways chicken wire can help—with a little effort from you.

Protect Individual Plants

Chicken wire dome over kale plant
pcturner71 / Getty Images

Pets, such as your neighborhood or outdoor cat, will stay away from your precious plants if you cover them with chicken wire. Cats don't like to touch the wire with their soft paw pads, so they won't bother your garden if they see its protected by some uncomfortable-looking hexagon wiring!

You can also install the wiring to protect your entire garden, especially if you have metal hoops supporting your plants, as seen here.

Chicken wire over support hoops to enclose entire garden

Catherine McQueen / Getty Images

As a Squirrel Repellant

Brown squirrel

Manuela Schewe-Behnisch / EyeEm / Getty Images

Squirrels will also want to get into your garden beds to dig up crocus corm bulbs. If you cover those flowers with chicken wire, you don't have to worry about those pesky yard inhabitants going after them.

The crocus plants pictured are small enough to pop up right through the holes in the chicken wire. If you do not like the look of chicken wire, you can remove the chicken wire temporarily in late winter or early spring, when the new crocus plants emerge.

Crocus bloom in chicken wire

Howard Pugh (Marais) / Getty Images

Just be sure to replace the chicken wire when the flowering display is over.

Animal Hutch or Run

Animal hutch with small yard enclosed in chicken wire

RachelKathrynGiles / Getty Images

If you have critters, such as chickens, that you would like to have the run of the yard without also getting the run of your garden, chicken wire is your friend. You can construct a run to keep them contained while letting them get some exercise.

Chicken wire is a useful thing to keep around, no matter what your landscaping or gardening plans might be. It's a material that is easy to use and adapted as your needs change. You don't have to be a master landscaper to learn how to use chicken wire, and you never know where it might be useful inside your home, too.