Chickens are naturally very quirky animals. They can have fun on their own, especially if free-ranged; pecking on grass, and constantly scratching the soil to find bugs for a bite.
However, this does not mean that chickens will require less of your attention. Due to their size, they are vulnerable to being gobbled up by predators such as dogs, foxes, raccoons, and hawks. Pests like rats and mice also infest chicken coops in pursuit of leftovers and eggs. It is therefore imperative that you choose the best fencing for your chickens.
You should consider several factors like the housing arrangement, the kind of coop, and the farm location when considering the best fencing for chickens. Chicken keepers must also identify the types of predators that are likely to attack the flock. Only then can chicken-keepers decide on the fencing option that will keep predators out and the chicken in.
Generally, most wire fences keep chicken predators out. These include hardware cloth mesh, electric net fencing, and chain link. However, wood fencing can function similarly and is aesthetically pleasing. Alternatively, the best wire fences for keeping the chicken contained include chicken wire, agricultural fencing, and rabbit fencing. Non-wire alternatives, conversely, are plastic netting, aviary netting, and garden fencing.
It is not enough to install a fence around a chicken farm. You must make sure that the fencing option is right for the farm. Cheaper fences might do the job but they are often of poor quality. Expensive fences on the other hand may not provide value for money. Not to worry though, because this article should help you identify the best fencing for chickens, quality-wise, and purpose-wise.
Best Predator-Proofing Fence
A perimeter fence is generally what is used as the first line of defense against predators. The rule for this is that it has to be solid and as securely installed as possible. Aesthetics is not a primary concern as compromising the quality for it may only result in loss. Moreover, installing predator fencing sometimes means spending a little more money and labor.
Wire fencing is common among homeowners in both rural and urban areas, homesteaders, and ranchers. Its popularity is due to its durability and its ability to withstand time and weather elements. Also, it comes in various styles, sizes, and durability.
Hardware Cloth Mesh
Hardware cloth is perhaps one of the most expensive materials used for chicken protection. However, its efficiency for keeping just about all predators, except bears, greatly makes up for its cost.
Wire hardware cloth is available in different sizes. However, the size that is perfect for an outdoor chicken run is the half-inch one. It should be buried around 1 to 1.5 inches below the soil level. But for more security from diggers, about 6 to 12 inches trench may be dug where the wire should be laid. The wire then should be bent outwards, forming a small 6 to 12 ‘shelf.’ Should one be unable to dig down, the wire may be laid on the floor of the run, securing it to the bottom frame. A layer of dirt may be put over the wire so that the chickens can still scratch.
Aside from the perimeter, coop windows could also use a half-inch or ideally, a quarter-inch size to line the pane. Gaps with a diameter bigger than an inch throughout the coop should similarly need the material.
Actually, hardware cloth mesh is not really fencing. However, due to its efficiency, a lot of chicken-keepers prefer using the material as the mesh on outdoor chicken runs. It is highly effective in creating a predator-proof outdoor space. Moreover, it makes secures a run, just like a locked coop. Hence, chickens will not require regular, nightly locking. Nonetheless, the following types of fencing below may be recommended when the chickens are free-ranged outside the run.
Pros: Long-lasting. Very good at keeping all pests and predators out, except for bears.
Cons: Not very flexible. It might be a bit difficult to work with.
Electric Net Fencing
Electric netting comes in different types. However, they all do the same thing for chicken runs. They are made up of metal wire that is woven in with plastic fibers. They function similarly by shocking animals that touch them.
The mechanism for this type of fencing apparently requires power from a main electric, battery, and/or solar power source. Solar units are quite manageable and easy to set up, but they might not be of use during the winter.
There are two options for electric netting to choose from – temporary and semi-permanent.
Temporary Electric Netting
This option is ideal if the flock is to be moved frequently from area to area. The material is rather lightweight and easier to manage even by a single person. It is little cheaper than the semi-permanent electric netting. Despite that, it still works fine as an efficient predator-proof barrier.
Semi-permanent Electric Netting
Obviously, this option will be sturdier than the previous option. Its posts are stronger and are not likely to bend. However, its plastic meshing may stretch out a little, but can simply be handled by adjusting the posts. Semi-permanent netting can better withstand weather elements and just about anything. However, like any other, it may not be able to withstand standing water and ice.
Pros: Great at protecting the run.
Cons: Expensive. It cannot be used in winter, during heavy frosts or standing water.
Chain link is not primarily made for poultry. However, a properly installed one can be a good barrier between the flock and the predators.
To prevent diggers, some wire will have to be buried underground. It can be done simply by fastening a separate bit of hardware cloth to the base of the chain link. This will serve the purpose of preventing weasels from crawling through and raccoons from grabbing through the fence.
Ideally, chain link fencing should stand at least six feet from the ground. However, should it not be manageable, one may consider adding electric tapes to the bottom and top of the fence line.
The bottom wire should be around the nose height for a coyote or a fox. This will buzz such predators and, thus, will deter them from coming back. The top tape, on the other hand, must be added at around six inches above the chain link.
Pros: Long-lasting. Highly effective.
Cons: Can be difficult to install in some terrain. Not aesthetically pleasing.
Alternative Non-Wire Fencing
Wood fencing is quite popular and is aesthetically pleasing for a garden. Also, it ages well over time but can be weakened by termites and abuse of weather. Aged wood fencing may easily be pushed through by huge predators or even sometimes be scaled.
Moreover, wood fencing can be built in various designs that will determine its use.
Tall privacy fencing option is great at protecting the flock from dogs, foxes, raccoons, etc. Significantly, there should be no gaps or holes that are large enough for predators to squeeze through.
On the other hand, low wood fencing, such as picket fences, may be insufficient for protection. Even chickens might fly over it, especially if it has flat tops where the chickens can perch on.
Aside from the insufficiency of low wood fencing, another general downside for wood fencing is its installation. Often, it requires professional installation, which may cost a significant amount of money. Also, aesthetic-wise, it should need maintenance, staining, and pressure washing through time. Lastly, wood fencing is also not movable once it is installed.
Pros: Good protection from big predators. Aesthetically pleasing.
Cons: Requires professional installation and maintenance. Not movable.
Best Fencing for Chickens to Stay In
Containing chickens is a lot simpler and less expensive than keeping predators out. However, as their Cost, the longevity of the fencing materials under this category might be quite less. Hence, installing them is likely done after a securely built coop. The materials create a rather small barrier between the chickens and the outside of the fence. However, they should be able to keep the chickens in unless they are startled or chased.
Talking about the best fencing for chickens, chicken wire is one of the best options in containing the chickens. Its perks include a rather cheap Cost, easy to find, and to install. Also, it functions both as hoops over garden beds to keep out critters and as a barrier for chick brooders.
Chicken wire comes in various sizes, from 2 to 4 feet in height. 2-foot high chicken wire may do the job keeping most large non-flighty fowls, such as Cochins, in the run. Alternatively, at least a 6-foot high fence should be necessary for flighty hens.
However, it is important to keep in mind that chicken wire cannot function as a barrier or a deterrent to predators.
Pros: Inexpensive. Easy to obtain and install. Great at containing chickens.
Cons: Prone to rust. Does not keep predators out.
Agricultural Wire Fencing
Agricultural fencing, apparently, is used on ranches and farms. It is quite sturdy but is not totally predator-proof for its 4 inches oblong openings.
Hog fencing is also another alternative. With its similarly 4-inches square openings, it is not always predator-proof. Small predators like rats, mice, weasels, and snakes may easily go through it. Young chicks may as well walk through it freely. However, it works just well in keeping adult chickens in an area, particularly during the daytime while pasturing.
Furthermore, hog-fencing panels are rather more expensive than both plastic and chicken wire. Also, they are not easily movable. However, they make quite a great garden fencing for semi-permanent areas.
It is easy to use metal posts for securing hog fencing. However, it looks great to use natural wood posts.
Pros: Inexpensive. Great at containing adult chickens.
Cons: Not totally predator-proof. Young chicks can walk through it.
Rabbit Wire Fencing
Rabbit fencing can be obtained in rolls. It is typically 3 inches high and has smaller 1-by-4 inches opening at the bottom. The opening gradually increases from the bottom to the top – the top measuring 4 square inches.
Moreover, rabbit fencing is highly durable. It can be installed with poles or metal T-bars, which are necessary for stabilizing it.
This option is great for protecting garden beds, for creating temporary chicken runs and temporary fencing. However, it might not be totally predator-proof. It might keep out rabbits, though, if one is lucky.
Pros: Inexpensive. Durable. Great at keeping chickens out of garden beds.
Cons: Not totally predator-proof. Not high enough.
Alternative Non-Wire Fencing
Plastic poultry netting comes in a huge variety. In fact, chicken wiring and picket fences come in plastic material or synthetic form. Its uses include keeping the chickens out of vegetable beds, segregating flock members, and creating a ‘day pen’ for chicks.
However, the plastic material may be susceptible to cracks. Predators and rabbits can also gnaw at it. Therefore, it should be remembered that this option is never for keeping predators out but for keeping the chickens in.
Pros: Inexpensive. Easy to work with. Comes in various colors for aesthetic.
Cons: Does not keep predators out. Prone to cracks and gnawing predators.
Obviously, as suggested by its name, aviary netting is used to keep the birds in their respective designated area. As predators could also come from the air, so is aviary netting used as an aerial predator deterrent.
Generally, aviary netting is made of fine polypropylene mesh, not designed to withstand physical attacks, for instance, by a cat.
However, as an alternative, fine mesh deer netting is cheaper than aviary netting. It works as nicely over a chicken run.
Pros: Inexpensive. Blends in with space. Keeps aerial predators out like hawks, owls, and others.
Cons: Can easily be torn by wind storms. Not totally predator-proof.
Garden fencing can be obtained from the store in a huge variety of styles, sizes, and colors. Often, it is made of either new or recycled plastic material or metal. Sometimes, it can be made of plywood or composite.
Garden fencing is typically inexpensive. However, it might not be the best fencing for chicken especially in keeping predators out. Sometimes, the design may be too low, which the chickens can simply hop over. Other designs may be tall but have rather wide openings, which the animals can easily squeeze and walk through.
However, decorative garden fencing works well in deterring new chickens for a period. But is should best be used in conjunction with another fencing type.
Pros: Enhances aesthetics. Inexpensive. Good in keeping new chickens in.
Cons: Designs vary in form with low effectiveness.
Does a six-foot-high fence always guarantee that chickens are safely kept in?
Usually, a six-foot-high fence is enough to keep chickens confined in an area. However, they do have a tendency to be flighty at times, especially when startled or chased. And although they are commonly seen on the ground, the fact is that they can fly even higher than six feet. It does not always happen, and it is not usually practiced, but chicken wings may be clipped. There should be no need to execute such measures, though unless flighty chickens become a problem.
What usually triggers chickens to flying over the fence?
Generally, chickens are triggered by flying over the fence when they are startled or chased. Predators, especially as they appear for surprise attacks, can cause the chickens to fly. Other than that, getting them introduced to a new environment can also be another trigger. Additionally, hearing a nearby flock and seeing more food on the other side of the fence can be quite tempting. With all that being said, there are indeed quite a number of reasons why chickens fly over fences. Hence, securely built fencing both for the purpose of keeping the predators out and the chickens in should be maintained. It is practical for you then to choose the best fencing for chicken to avoid losing them.
What is needed to be done in case no one is available to lock the chickens in at night?
It doesn’t always follow that when fencing is already installed that it means the chickens are already safe. Remember, it is only the best fencing for chicken if it serves the right purpose. Fencing for keeping pests and predators out is different from fencing for keeping the chickens in. Some fencing designs may need minimal labor for getting the chickens inside the coop, such as hardware cloth mesh. However, as the best fencing for chickens is the first line of defense, so is coop the second line and similarly necessary.
In case no one is available to get the chickens in the coop at night, chicken-keepers may consider an alternative. Specifically, this alternative for a human coop closer is an automatic door closer. This functions, obviously, by automatically closing the pop hole once it gets dark. Hence, even without human chicken-keepers, the chickens are guaranteed to be safely locked in.