7 Steps To Build A Chicken-Proof Garden Fence

Rooster and chicken walking in the yard on the green grass

Having access to fresh vegetables straight from your backyard is an amazing feeling. If you have chickens in your backyard, they may think the same thing and will want a taste of the fresh produce. Did you know you can build a chicken-proof fence around your garden to keep them out?

To build a high chicken-proof fence, you need to know your chicken’s breed, measure your garden, choose a fence material and style, set your posts, attach the fence, and finally, put your fence to the test and adjust. A high, chicken-proof fence will be 6 feet tall to prevent them from flying overtop.

Below, we’ll go over exactly how to build a high chicken-proof fence so you can keep your fruits and veggies away from your birds!

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Should I Keep Chickens Out Of My Garden?

Chickens can have both a positive and a negative impact on your garden. Whether you let them stay in your garden is a matter of whether the pros outweigh the cons.

Let’s check out the positive aspect of having chickens in the garden:

  • Pest control: Chickens are great at keeping the population of ants, aphids, beetles, and pretty much anything that moves under control. This will help your plants, which would otherwise be affected by these pests, flourish.
  • Nutrients: Chickens provide nutrients to the soil. An experiment was performed at Utah State University, which looked at the soil of vegetable gardens before and after chickens were exposed. For every nutrient (Phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and carbon), the soil after the chickens were exposed had a higher nutrient value.

Now, the negatives:

  • Chickens eat garden plants: This is the primary reason people want to keep chickens out of their garden.
  • Scratching damages plants: Although scratching can help turn the soil over and provide fresh nutrients, scratching can also destroy plants and leave the soil barren of any vegetables.
  • Droppings can get on plants: Chickens in the garden can mean their droppings getting onto your plants and vegetables or into the soil. Some may say this is a benifit as it’s technically fertilizer!

If you would like to keep your chickens out of your garden, you can do it by building a fence around your garden. This has the added benefit of deterring other critters from invading your vegetable patch as well.

Below, you’ll find the 7 steps to building a high chicken-proof garden fence.

If you want to keep chickens out using other methods, take a look at our guide on repelling chickens without garden fencing here!

Step 1: Know Your Chicken’s Breed

Rooster and chicken walking in the yard on the green grass

Not all chickens are the same! Today’s domesticated chickens came from wild jungle fowl that were tamed thousands of years ago. Today’s chickens have been bred into three major categories:

  • Egg-laying
  • Meat 
  • Dual-purpose

The white leghorn breed, for example, is the most common egg-laying chicken in the United States. Barred Plymouth Rock chickens are great for dual-purpose (both meat and eggs). Cornish Cross chickens are commonly used for meat production.

Most folks raising chickens in their backyard are raising hens for laying eggs. Rhode Island Reds are common for backyard pets. Knowing your chicken’s breed, nature, docility, and abilities will help you understand how tall your garden fence needs to be.

In general, heavy-bodied chickens can almost always be kept out of your garden with a 5-foot fence. We typically use these breeds for meat production. 

Light-bodied chickens such as those bred to lay eggs can fly up to 9 feet but usually will not. Clipping your chicken’s wings can help reduce the necessary height for your garden fence as well.

That being said, a 6-foot fence around your garden will ensure all but the most athletic chickens are kept out of your garden.

When purchasing chicks or rescuing old hens for your backyard, be sure to check out what breed the chicken is. The facility you are purchasing from can help you understand what to expect when the chicken is full-grown.

Step 2: Measure Your Garden And Surrounding Area

Most gardens are built on level ground, but sometimes if your yard is small or the space confining, the surrounding ground is not always flat.

If the ground around your garden is higher, you’ll need to add extra height to your garden fence to accommodate. If the ground around your garden is lower, you can get away with a shorter fence.

This may seem obvious, but having this in mind while you’re purchasing your fence material can help save cost and time when constructing your fence.

But before you think about buying fencing material, you’ll want to know how much you need and the rough shape of your fence.

To do this, you’ll need some tools:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Something to mark the ground (spray paint, flags, a twig, whatever you want to use)
  • Notebook or phone for measurement and notes

First, scope out the shape of your garden. If it’s square/rectangular, use your flag or spray paint to mark the corners of your garden. If your garden is circular, make a mark anywhere to ‘start’ the fenced area.

Measure the distance from one corner to the next. Evenly distribute markers between each corner so they are no more than 10 feet apart. If your garden is less than 20 feet on any side, place a marker centrally between the two corners.

These markers will be where your posts will go. Circular gardens are a bit more difficult because you will have to place more markers to keep the circular shape.

Some helpful equations to determine how much fencing material:

  • Perimeter (P) of a square or rectangle: P=2(L+W) where L is length and W is the width
  • Circumference (C) of a circle: C=2𝚷r where r is the radius (distance from the center of a circle to the outside perimeter).

This will give you an idea of how many posts and how much fencing material you will need. Write down these numbers but be sure to order extra material in case of mistakes.

Step 3: Choose A Fence Material

When it comes to keeping chickens in or out of places, they’re more akin to a dog than a cat. If you block something off, they will not put their whole heart into getting around it.

A simple fence will do the trick just fine.

Two of the easiest fencing materials are metal mesh and plastic mesh. Hardware cloth and chicken wire are two popular choices for metal mesh material. These are going to be sturdier and more attractive than dark plastic netting, but will be more expensive as well.

Hardware cloth and chicken wire commonly come in sizes ranging from 3 to 4 feet tall by 50 to 100 feet long. Some, like Nueve Deer Hardware Cloth, are 6’ X 50’. This would be an ideal size for a high chicken-proof fence. 

You can also purchase the smaller size (3’ X 50’) and zip tie them together to create a 6’ fence. It all depends on your ideal cost and the labor time you want to invest.

Another great option is to use bird netting like Ohuhu’s Heavy Duty Bird Netting. This type of netting is a little more difficult to deal with in terms of keeping the fence tight and upright, but it has the benefit of being far cheaper. 

This specific product is made of tough plastic called polypropylene. It is 6.8’ X 100’ and comes with 50 zip ties to help secure the fence to its posts.

Using a fence with open holes like metal or plastic mesh is your best bet for a garden. You don’t want to use wood fencing or something solid because it can block the sun at certain angles and is less breathable. It can also deter pollinators from visiting your garden.

Step 4: Choose A Fence Style

Small vegetable garden with risen beds in the fenced backyard near house.

We’re not talking about adding decor to your fence or making it more attractive by adding fancy woodwork. We’re talking about whether you want the fence to be straight up and down or overhanging.

Most garden fences will be straight up and down. This is the easiest fence style for keeping chickens (and many other critters) out of your garden. There’s no need to do extra work. You just put the fence up and you’re done.

The other option is to do an overhang on your fence. This means you will bend the top portion of your fence out at about a 45-degree angle. 

Choosing to do an overhang on your garden fence will allow you to build a shorter fence, but will require more work. You’ll have to build supports for the overhang, which means adding supports to each post instead of just pounding them into the ground and attaching the fencing material.

In the end, an overhang is better if you are against building a high fence, but will require knowledge and a little ingenuity for it to work. When a chicken goes to jump or fly over the fence, it’ll hit the overhang first, which will deter them from jumping over.

If you’re worried about your chickens running away, don’t be. It’s super unlikely. You can read more about why chickens won’t fly or run away here!

Step 5: Set Your Posts

To build a high chicken-proof fence, you’ll need posts to connect the netting or wire to. There are many kinds of posts, from metal to wood to plastic.

The main job of your fence posts will be to hold up your fence. Make sure you pair the height of your fence with the height of your posts. 

To recap, most chickens cannot fly over a 5-foot fence. However, if you are concerned about keeping your chickens out, aim for a 6-foot fence or try an overhanging fence. 

To truly keep out even the most acrobatic of chickens, you’d have to build a fence at least 9 feet high, which isn’t realistic. Stick with 5 or 6 feet and you can keep out all but the most athletic chickens.

Ladech’s Sturdy Duty Metal Fence Post is a good option for garden fence posts. They are U Posts you can step on to push into the ground. These come with the option of 5-, 6-, or 7-foot posts so you can pick which size fits your needs.

Step 6: Attach Fencing To Posts

How you attach your fence to your fence posts is a matter of preference. It will also depend on if you choose metal or wood as your fence post material.

It’s best to have at least two people working together to make sure your garden fence is attached to the posts properly and the fencing material is pulled tight.

Staples and zip ties are two common ways to attach garden fencing to the posts. Staples work well for wood fence posts, while zip ties are a good choice for metal posts.

Start by attaching one end of the fencing to a corner. Use zip ties or staples to secure the fence to the post. Next, pull the fencing to the next post. Have a partner hold the fencing tight while you fix it to the post using staples or zip ties.

Continue this process all the way around your garden until your garden is completely enclosed. Make sure the fencing is close to the ground at the bottom so that chickens cannot duck underneath.

If you want to better secure the bottom of your garden fence in areas between posts, consider using yard staples to keep the fence in place.

Step 7: Test And Adjust Your Fence

Square frame Backyard with raised bed garden and wooden fence and gate. There is a metal fence inside separating the yard from the house and a pebble landscape.

Now that you’ve put all that hard work into measuring, buying, and building your garden fence, it’s time to put it to the test.

Let your chickens out and see what happens! 

Watch closely if your chickens attempt to jump or fly over the garden fence. There may be an area where the fence is not pulled tight and hangs down. If your chickens target this area, sure up the fence by applying more zip ties or staples.

If it turns out your fence is too short, it’s not the end of the world, but it can certainly feel like it. Before you tear down your fence to build a higher one, try some deterrents around the fence to keep chickens away from it:

  • Predator decoys (owl or hawk)
  • Scarecrows (learn more about what natures scares chickens.)
  • Aluminum pans hung on the garden fence
  • Motion-activated sprinkler system
  • Scent deterrents
  • Plant chicken favorites away from your garden
    • Thyme, fennel, amaranth, sunflowers, nasturtium
  • Plant things chickens dislike near your garden
    • Lavender, catnip, marigold

The fence, in addition to some of the above tactics, can be enough to keep chickens out of your garden even when you have a particularly flighty chicken.

Most of the time, chickens will not attempt to fly over a 6-foot garden fence. Even if they do, there’s a high probability they will miss. 

An article in the Journal of British Poultry Science found that once flights reach over about 3 feet, chickens get clumsy and often miss their intended landing area.

That’s All For Now!

Chickens are entertaining, if not clumsy, animals to have in the backyard. If you also have a garden, you may want to build a fence around it to keep your chickens from eating all your vegetables.

Here are the 7 steps to building a high chicken-proof garden fence:

  1. Know your chicken’s breed
  2. Measure your garden
  3. Choose a fencing material
  4. Choose a fencing style
  5. Set posts
  6. Attach fence at least 6ft high
  7. Test/Adjust the fence

Most chickens cannot jump over a 5-foot fence, but it is better to err on the side of caution and go with a 6-foot fence if you truly want to keep your chickens out of your garden.

References

Bloom, J. (2012). Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard. Timber Press.

Lordelo, M., Cid, J., Cordovil, C. M., Alves, S. P., Bessa, R. J.B., & Carolino, I. (2020, March). A comparison between the quality of eggs from indigenous chicken breeds and that from commercial layers. Poultry Science, 99(3), 1768-1776.

Moinard, C., Statham, P., & Green, P. R. (2010, October 19). Control of landing flight by laying hens: implications for the design of extensive housing systems. British Poultry Science, 45(5).

Moiseyeva, I. G., Romanov, M. N., Nikiforov, A. A., Sevastyanova, A. A., & Semyenova, S. K. (2003). Evolutionary relationships of Red Jungle Fowl and chicken breeds. Genetics Selection Evolution, 35(4), 403-423.

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