What is Chicken Wire and How is it Used?

Garden chicken wire   Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Chicken wire is a mesh fencing used, traditionally, to confine poultry. Thus its name. But you do not 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.

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.

Fun Fact

Folks with a bent for crafts make chicken-wire Christmas kissing balls by rolling chicken wire into a ball and attaching Christmas lights to it. You can even use it when building a Grim Reaper Halloween display to create a backdrop.

But 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, thereby keeping out pests that would eat your plants. However, 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.

The hexagonal gaps in chicken wire range from 1/2 inch to 2 inches. If you are trying to keep out rodents as small as meadow mice, it is best to select the 1/2-inch type of chicken wire.

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. 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.

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.

Using Chicken Wire Horizontally

But chicken wire is not always installed vertically. Two common uses for chicken wire that involve a horizontal installation include:

  1. As a cat repellent (cats do not like to tread on the wire with their sensitive paws).
  2. To keep squirrels from digging up crocus corms.

Regarding use #2, look at the picture, which shows chicken wire laid over a patch of crocus. The idea here is to prevent squirrels from digging up the underground corms from which crocus plants spring (a "corm" is a plant part similar to a bulb). 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 emerg. Just be sure to replace the chicken wire when the flowering display is over.