The Great Chicken Wire Debate

Jaxdrisc

Songster
5 Years
Apr 14, 2014
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Hi All!
I'm fairly new to the site, and forgive me if this question has been answered, but I am looking for direct input about chicken wire vs. hardware cloth around and under the run. Answers seem to dance around the issue, but I haven't found a direct thread. So, here goes:
I am on the proverbial "fence" (
..pun intended!) as I build my coop and run. I live in a suburban town on about 1/3 acre and will have a max of 6 chickens, by law. I usually don't have much wild life because of my in town location (i.e.coyotes, fox). That being said, a month ago a fischer cat ran through my backyard. Shocker! We do have coons, skunks, and possum though...never get away from those. Would love to know which type of wire others use/or swear by, chicken wire or hardware cloth. Hardware cloth is very expensive....$68 for 3ft x 50ft roll in my area. Chicken wire..half that. Do I go with chicken wire and hope for the best? Is there that much of a difference between the two?? I have been mulling this issue over for days and need to be put out of my misery! On the one hand, I cringe at the cost of the hardwire. On the other, I tell myself I should do it right the first time and avoid a more costly repair, and loss of chicken(s) later. Would LOVE input!! Thanks in advance for your help!!
 

Judy

Crowing
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10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
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You have no doubt read assertions that chicken wire is enough, but I would be very surprised if you found an account of standard, lightweight chicken wire actually stopping a raccoon or fisher cat who wanted to get in.

They do make the chicken wire style of weave in heavier gauges, though. We have some that happened to be on sale that is a heavier gauge. Perhaps some of the confusion stems from this. A raccoon can still reach though about a 1" or smaller hole and grab a chicken's head or leg and pull it through, of course.
 

Sonya9

Songster
5 Years
Feb 7, 2014
1,259
171
211
Jones County, Georgia
Chicken wire is to keep chickens in and NOT keep predators out!

If you have a secure coop and plan to always keep them in the coop at night (secure as in floor, hardware cloth over windows, locks/secure catches on the doors, etc...) then IMO you can use chicken wire for the daytime run.

If the coop will NOT be very secure or if you aren't sure you will be able to lock them in at night use the hardware cloth as yes, it is MUCH stronger. Racoons can reach through chicken wire and rip a chicken's head off which is why 1/2 inch hardware cloth is preferred.
 
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Sjisty

Scribe of Brahmalot
10 Years
May 18, 2009
4,252
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Brooksville
Snakes can also get through chicken wire and eat eggs and chicks. They may not get back out, but the damage is already done.
 

dheltzel

Crowing
6 Years
Nov 30, 2013
4,594
1,482
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Pottstown, PA
I always use 1/2" HW cloth where I have any concerns about a coon reaching through. By that I mean that it goes 2' up around all chicken areas, but not at all on the peafowl, turkey area (they are in an aviary with high roosts, they will never sit next to the wire at night, like a chicken might). I stopped using chicken wire and switched to 2x4 Welded Wire. It's about the same price as poultry netting in my area and SOOOO much stronger. Only a bear or human with wore cutters will ever get through that. Now, certain predators can reach through it, but for the upper part of the run, or the top, it's perfect.

I buy 4 ft wide, 100 ft rolls from TSC for $70 ($60 on sale). For HW cloth, I use either Amazon or Walmart, and the price fluctuates rather wildly at times, so keep an eye out for a bargain. I got 2 ft by 100 ft roll for under $60 with free shipping, but can't find that same deal now. I figure the welded wire is half the price of the cheapest HW cloth deal, so I prefer to use that when I can to save money, but cutting costs is no bargain if a predator kills even one bird.
 

iwiw60

Crowing
5 Years
Jan 27, 2014
5,291
650
336
Central Oregon
I'm in the process of building my coop and run as we speak (oh, my aching back!)...with that said, I wouldn't use anything other than 1/2 hardware cloth. Why? Because like you, I have a plethera of predators where I live also. Here in my neck of the woods we have possum, badger, fox, coyotes, and worst of all, hawks. My "girls" will be living in Fort Knox when I'm finished with mine as it is heartbreaking to find you've lost a hen to chicken wire usage...just my opinion!
 

Mtn Laurel

Songster
7 Years
May 18, 2012
1,534
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Northern Virginia
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There are alternatives to both chicken wire and hardware cloth. We're working on a new run and have decided to use horse fencing over the majority of the run. It's stronger than chicken wire but - with a 2 x 4 inch mesh - not as closely meshed as hardware cloth. The bottom of the run, from ground level to about 3 feet up, will have hardware cloth as we want the closer meshing and strength in that bottom area. The rest of the run, including over the top, will have horse fencing.

Horse fencing is more expensive than chicken wire and less expensive than hardware cloth. It's a happy medium, IMO.
 

Realtree4

Chirping
5 Years
Mar 18, 2014
236
23
83
Ohio
Chicken wire is to keep chickens in and NOT keep predators out!

If you have a secure coop and plan to always keep them in the coop at night (secure as in floor, hardware cloth over windows, locks/secure catches on the doors, etc...) then IMO you can use chicken wire for the daytime run.

If the coop will NOT be very secure or if you aren't sure you will be able to lock them in at night use the hardware cloth as yes, it is MUCH stronger. Racoons can reach through chicken wire and rip a chicken's head off which is why 1/2 inch hardware cloth is preferred.

This is the advice we followed when building our duck pen. We did use chicken wire as the fence and deer netting for the top to slow down any hawks/owls. It keeps the ducks in and will slow down predators. However, at night, they are locked up in a house with with the ventilation windows covered in hardware cloth.

Our dog was barking last night and kept wanting to go outside and would stand by their house, so I have a strong suspicion that something was trying to get them. But their house is secure and they were good this morning.

It's always a risk unless you build Fort Knox. And even then...... :idunno
 
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Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
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6 Years
Feb 25, 2014
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Actually we used a combination of both. We used cattle panels formed into a hoop for our run. They are anchored to metal fence posts driven into the ground. The open ends were closed off with welded wire fence. We covered the entire run with chicken wire against the multitude of overhead predators we have here, like putting canvas on a covered wagon. Then we used hardware cloth around the entire perimeter. It runs almost 2 feet up the sides and ends of the run, and bends outward at the bottom over the ground to form a little over 1 foot wide apron. We "sewed" the hardware cloth to the bottom of the cattle panels using steel wire and did the same at the top of the hardware cloth. Because chicken wire is rather flimsy, we didn't sew the top portion of the hardware cloth section to just the chicken wire - we sewed it to the metal crosspieces of the cattle panels through the chicken wire.

We would have much preferred to cover the entire run in hardware cloth. But we also found the cost prohibitive. We think we got the best of both worlds this way. We also went around the coop, which sits directly on the ground, with hardware cloth. There we went 8 inches up and screwed it into the coop through big washers, and it folds at the bottom of the coop and extends outward 22 inches. We realized that the coop was the weakest point in our setup because it backs up into a thicket of trees. The apron around both the run and coop will be covered with large flat red rocks, both for aesthetics and as an additional layer of protection. Any critter who wants to get at my chickens will have to move huge rocks to even get to the hardware cloth layer.

All totaled I think we used a little over 70 feet of hardware cloth, plus what what was leftover on the last roll to cover the windows and the door into the run. That was more than we wanted to spend, but we look at it as a one time expense, and when you think about all of the time and money already spent on the chicks before they even go out to live in the coop, it's also a way "protecting our investment". Plus I'd be heartbroken to get up one morning and walk into carnage. I'm not naive enough to think that we've eliminated all possible ways for a determined predator to get to the chickens. We also live in town, so our biggest threat is probably going to be from stray dogs and the plague of stray and wild cats in our area, but raccoon, skunks, and coyotes are also around. We built it as securely as possible given our skill level and our budget.
 
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bugflipper

Songster
9 Years
Apr 9, 2010
228
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I've had 2 1" wire pens ( a quail pen and chicken tractor) and 2 1" wire flight pens for 20 years or so. They were the heavier gauge if that matters at all. Here are the few problems I have had. A copperhead went into one which I was using for a brooder with paneling loosely tacked in it to keep the chicks from escaping. It killed a gosling and swallowed 2 ducklings. Was trapped inside as the ducklings inside it prevented it's escape.
I've seen medium (4-5") norwegian rats and field mice run full steam straight through the wire without missing a stride. I'm sure the feed bill took a hit over the years because it takes a little while for the population to get up enough to actually see rodent activity and take preventative measures.


So actually not a bad track record 2 ducks and a goose which were preventable early on because I didn't build a proper brooder. I still say bite the bullet and pay the extra. I actually put hardware cloth over the quail pen a few days ago since the 1" wire was getting brittle from rust. The chicken tractor was as well but I just salvaged the pressure treated wood from it for plans of a much longer one, waiting on the hardware cloth for it now. The flight pens, well it's just not economically feasible to use hardware cloth on them.
Here's a better price than you have locally, another 50 sq foot for less money.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hardware-Cl...431?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ad0b1e94f

BTW I have hardware cloth pens that belonged to my grandfather at least 30 years old that haven't rusted up yet and have been outdoors all that time.
Good luck.
 
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