Fencing Options for Your Chicken-Friendly Garden

By Bonnie Jo Manion, Robert T. Ludlow

Fencing is extremely important, especially with free-range chickens, because it provides a perimeter for your property and garden landscape. It sets a boundary that keeps things in — and things out. Fencing is a deterrent to predators, but it isn’t always foolproof. You should not only have a solid perimeter fence, but also be vigilant about maintaining it.

Fencing also functions as protection, especially in free-range chicken gardens. Make the protection of your chickens your number one priority, because chickens have little means of protecting themselves.

It is common sense to protect your free-ranging chickens with a perimeter fence as a first line of defense against predators. In some locales it may be difficult to have a fence or impractical to have perimeter fencing. Understand that your free-range or confine range chickens will always be more at risk of injury and death from predators, than chickens raised entirely within a chicken coop and adjoining secure outside pen.

You can choose from many different fencing materials. A fence is an important part of your visual landscape. A fence can match your landscape style just as much as the hardscape and softscape elements do. You can screen and soften fencing with landscaping, but it’s still an integral element of your landscape.

Chickens can fly! Chickens have been known to fly over fences as high as six feet. Although this isn’t a normal practice, you can clip one of their wings if it becomes a problem.

There are many factors that may influence chickens to fly over a six foot fence:

  • Young hens can by more flighty and physically capable of flying over a fence, especially when introduced into a new environment.

  • Chickens hear a nearby chicken flock, and are curious to explore.

  • A predator surprise attack can prompt a chicken to fly.

  • Poultry breeds that are known as aggressive foragers, can continue to expand their forage area flying over a fence.

  • A neighbor’s unprotected vegetable garden may be too tempting to ignore.

Fencing can be an expensive landscape material, especially if you have a large property. The most common types of fencing are wire and wood. The following sections highlight these and some other fencing materials to consider.

Common wire fencing

Wire fencing comes in different styles, sizes, and metal strengths for various uses. Most of these wire fencing materials are available at agricultural supply stores and home improvement stores.

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Wire fencing is a common fencing material for homeowners, homesteaders, ranchers, and people living in urban areas. Most wire fencing is durable, withstanding weather elements and the test of time. Following are explanations of some of the most common metal fencing options:

  • Chain link: Used commercially in landscapes. It’s commonly used as periphery property fencing. Usually 6′ high with sharp edges on top. Grounded with heavy metal poles. Coyotes and raccoons can potentially scale a standard chain link fence.

  • Agricultural fencing: Used on farms and ranches. It’s sturdy, and is usually in 4″ oblong openings. It isn’t always predator proof.

  • Wire hardware cloth: Available in different sizes. The 1/2″ size is perfect for creating a protected chicken outdoor pen, and burying it 1-1-1/2″ below soil level. Wire hardware cloth is the ideal fencing material for permanent chicken runs. It also is available in 1/4″ size as an option for covering and securing small areas like chicken coop windows, or vent areas.

    Wire hardware cloth is predator proof. Although mice are not predators, they are an unwelcome presence around your chicken coop because of disease, parasites, feed loss and more. Be aware that determined mice can sometimes squeeze through 1/2″ wire hardware cloth.

  • Rabbit fencing: Available in rolls and is 3′ high. It typically has smaller 1″ x 4″ openings on the bottom edge, increasing to larger 4″ x 4″ openings on top. This fencing is durable, and it requires poles or metal T-bars to stabilize it. This type of fencing is best for surrounding raised vegetable beds, temporary chicken runs, and temporary fencing. If you’re lucky, it will keep out rabbits.

  • Chicken wire: Available in rolls and is 3′ high. It’s typically octagonal-shaped wire, a lighter weight wire. It rusts easily, and could potentially be chewed through. It requires poles or stability of some kind. It could be used for temporary chicken runs to protect your plants from chickens. It isn’t effective against any predators.

  • Electrical wire: Creates an electrical circuit that uncomfortably shocks animals and humans when they touch it. It’s a high-tension single wire, usually used in conjunction with another type of fence. It’s popular for agricultural and ranch purposes. It requires a power source to operate.

    Sometimes power sources break, power sources can potentially start a fire, and wet vegetation can short out the fence. It’s very effective with dogs and large-sized predators. Electric fencing can now be solar powered, too.

Wire fencing is a handy tool material when raising chickens in your garden. Each type of fencing has attributes for different uses. Familiarize yourself with the various types of fencing. Don’t be afraid to mix and match wire fencing for the different purposes involved with raising chickens in your garden.

Alternative fencing materials

Wire fencing isn’t the only fencing material. Other common options for fencing materials are stucco, wood, and plastic. Here’s some more information on each kind:

  • Stucco: In some regions, stucco houses are prevalent, and building a stucco wall makes for an eye-pleasing fence. Stucco walls are solid, expensive to build, and permanent. Stucco walls are usually 6′ high, yet predators can easily scale and climb over them.

  • Wood: Wood fencing is popular and has a nice look. It can be built in different designs. It ages well, but over time termites and weather can weaken wood fences. Large predators can easily push through aging, leaning wood fences, or sometimes scale them.

  • Plastic: Plastic fencing comes in many variations. Even chicken wiring comes in a plastic material form. Your white picket fence can even be synthetic. Predators and rabbits can sometimes gnaw through plastic, and sometimes it cracks. Plastic fencing may be a good solution for a temporary run because it’s reasonably priced, or for protecting a raised vegetable bed, but it isn’t our choice of fencing for protection.