Chicken Fences: Chicken Wire Vs. Hardware Cloth

Fencing Tips for Chicken Pens and Runs


If it’s called chicken wire, it must be for chickens, right? Chicken wire is widely recognized as the hexagon shaped welded wire, commonly used on farms for various fencing needs, including for chicken fences.

In the blog, Bytes Daily, Otto wrote a little explanation of chicken wire.

“Chicken wire was invented in 1844 by British ironmonger Charles Barnard. He developed it for his father, a farmer, the manufacturing process being based on cloth-weaving machines. Apparently, the town of Norwich, where Barnard Junior had his business, had a plentiful supply of cloth weaving machines.”

There are some instances where chicken wire is the perfect choice of wire, but when talking about securing your feathered friends in their chicken runs and coops, I do not recommend chicken wire. While it may keep a small flock of chickens in a set area, it is not very strong. Predators can easily move it out of their way, rip it or tear it open to gain access to your chickens or other small vulnerable livestock. It is similar to cloth in that it is woven together.

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In short, chicken wire is helpful in keeping chickens in, but not very good at keeping chicken predators out.

Where Chicken Wire Can Be Used Successfully

Chicken wire can be used to keep pullets separated from the older chickens inside the chicken pen and run.

Chicken wire might be a good barrier to keep the chickens out of your garden.

Chicken wire is also useful when temporarily plugging holes at the fence baseline to keep chickens in the run. Fold or crumple up a piece of chicken wire and stuff it into the hole. Cover with dirt and pack down. Make a more permanent fence repair as soon as possible.

Chicken coop wire is good for burying underground around the perimeter of the chicken coop and run to deter predators from digging into the coop. Most predators will only try to dig in for a short time. When they reach a wire barrier they will often quit digging and move to another spot.

Chicken wire is great for craft projects, building armatures for sculptures.

And Chicken wire makes a pretty interesting texture in a photograph.


What To Use Instead Of Chicken Wire for Chicken Fences

The preferred wire fencing for a secure chicken fence is called hardware cloth.  I am not sure how it got the name because it is much stronger than cloth!  It does not bend as easily and is welded making it a stronger product.

In our chicken coop, we have six windows. All of the windows are covered with hardware cloth with 1-inch square openings. Hardware cloth comes in various size mesh. The 1/4 inch size has a very tiny mesh and the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 mesh would be too large of a mesh, allowing small predators to slip through. I personally recommend either the 1/2 inch or 1-inch mesh. Hardware cloth is most often a galvanized, welded metal product that is extremely durable.


Make sure you attach it to the window or vent openings using screws, and a sturdy board to hold it in place.

Chicken Fences

Safety Issues Of Chickens and Chicken Wire

When you find yourself asking what does a chicken coop need, you can generally cross chicken wire off that list. One reason to shy away from chicken wire is the possibility of it causing injury to your birds.

Since chicken wire is flimsy, it can break and fall apart leaving hazards for your chicken’s feet. Chicken wire should never be used as a flooring for a coop as it can contribute to foot injuries, including bumblefoot. Chicken toes can get caught in the wire and lead to broken toes. Small chicks can get caught in the mesh. Broken, worn wire sticking out can cause scratches, eye injuries and cuts.

Paying extra attention to overall coop safety and your chicken fences will pay off over and over, and keep your chickens healthy and happy.

Just getting started with backyard chickens? Here’s a free chicken coop plan for an easy 3×7 coop design that recommends 1/2” hardware wire.

Janet writes about simple homesteading and raising livestock on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website and on the Countryside Network.


Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

  • When building our chicken run, I was more than grateful that my husband, who is more handyman-inclined than I am, was up to the challenge. However, when it came to attaching the hardware cloth, we didn’t really have any guidelines on specifically how to attach it, resulting in many loose places where predators could easily penetrate the run and gain inside access. Have you by chance written previously on this topic? Good tips on where to attach the Harward cloth, and which side of a 2×4 (or whatever) it should be wrapped around before adhering, what to use to adhere, and how to avoid gaps and best ways or measurements to choose in order to work best with the measurements of the hardware cloth, etc. This sort of info would be gravely appreciated, wether it’s your own link or somewhere else anyone could direct me to would be fabulous!

    • Pauline F.

      For how to secure your steel mesh / hardware cloth securely, sandwich it between two pieces of timber – ie, if it’s on a window space, have a timber frame that goes all the way around the outside of the window, under which, between the frame and the timber of the wall, is your mesh. Good luck. 🙂

  • I use standard chain link fence, and it works great for mature chickens. If I had bitties, I would wrap chicken wire around my existing fence…easy.

  • Agree, I only use it over a chicken run area. I had baby chicks get their head stuck in there and died. Mice and Chipmunks can easily go through it and eat the chicken food. Hardware cloth is far superior.

  • Have any of you used the soft-sided electric fencing? I did a tour of Joel Salatin’s farm in VA and it seemed to work amazingly well (with the added employment of a guard goose). Of course he moves his around a pasture. just wondering if anyone is using it.

  • I no longer use chicken wire to enclose the run because as mentioned before, I had chicks get their heads stuck. I use hardware cloth to cover the windows & doors of the coop but found a problem that I had to correct.
    I used a brad nailer to staple the hardware cloth to the door opening which allowed for air flow but I did not cover the staples. We had a raccoon pick out the staples in the corner, fold up the hardware cloth and then kill our 4 guineas. I still staple the hardware cloth but then cover the staples with a lathing strip that I attach with screws. I’ve had no more raccoon problems.

  • Howard H.

    Hardware cloth is also available in 1/8th inch mesh. Perfect for hive bases for beekeeping; mites fall out, bees remain inside.

  • I feel I should mention that it is perfectly acceptable to use chicken wire for your pens and runs when you are using another method of securing them from predators anyway.

    Hardware cloth gives you a false sense of security, predators can still dig out under it and even if they don’t you need to check it periodically to make sure that it is still secure. Like anything else it can become loose for one reason or another and a lot of predators don’t need much more than something the size of your fist to get to your birds. We use movable electric net fences for protection for our flock since they free range and keep pens only for different ornamental breeds that are kept inside this fence line and our losses due to predators are negligible and would not have been prevented by having hardware cloth over chicken wire.

  • Catherene C.

    I keep over 60 chickens and for now, 3 ducks. I have found it depends on the chicken wire brand, some are better quality. About 7 years ago we used some from Lowe’s for a garden and it’s still rust free, even the bottom that was under ground. It also seem to be a thicker wire too. Last year I bought some from TSC and its rusted, has holes in it already plus its thinner – never buy again. I had used it around my 3 chicken pens (5 coops). Thank goodness I put deer netting over it for extra precaution. I’m in process of building a new single coop where my garden was and I’m going to reuse the chicken wire since it’s in great shape and I’ll buy more from Lowe’s if needed. The pen will have 7 foot high fencing so on cost, its cheaper to use chicken wire. The pens are 18’x11′, 18’x24′ and 18’x28′ plus the have a fenced common area that’s 54’x45′ to roam and peck. We have lots of predators from opossum to coyotes and a bear or two but thus far none has gotten in. We also use baby monitors and motion sensor lights for added security. We’re putting up deer cameras too to see if anything approaches but doesn’t set anything off.
    Now as for hardware cloth, I used it around the bottom of my coops prior to putting up the pens. I also have it over windows, doors and vent areas of their current coops and will on new one too along with nylon screen to keep bugs out better.

  • I decided to use the Chicken Wire versus the Hardware Cloth because I like the Hexagon pattern which I think looks stylish. As for security, our coop is built inside our barn so it’s not outside for predators to break-in. I suppose if it was outside I would have gone with the galvanized hardware cloth too! Very good article!


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