Squirrels are a common pest bothering gardens and flower beds in the backyards of many stressed homeowners. They dig up flower bulbs and eat your tomatoes just when you were about to pick them. How do you keep your plants safe from the grubby hands of squirrels?
One of the easiest solutions is to make a physical barrier around your plants with chicken wire. It’s not that expensive and you can find it at your local home improvement store. Read on to learn about chicken wire and other techniques to keep squirrels from eating your plants.
Can Squirrels Climb Chicken Wire?
Squirrels are agile, acrobatic creatures with grabby hands. They most certainly are capable of climbing any structure that gives them enough grip to climb and is stable enough to hold their weight. To make your chicken wire squirrel-proof, make a full cage with a roof to keep the rodents out.
If the chicken wire is plastic it will be too flimsy for them to climb it. This is a cheap option some gardeners have found to keep squirrels out.
Can Squirrels Get Through 1 Inch Chicken Wire?
One inch chicken wire is a good solution to keep squirrels away from your vegetable garden, as long as you install it properly. The one inch wire (25 mm) has holes small enough that squirrels and other small rodents should not be able to fit themselves through.
Many gardeners recommend using no bigger than 1 inch chicken wire to keep out squirrels. Anything larger and the pests will find their way into your crops.
Can Squirrels Get Through 2 Inch Chicken Wire?
When it comes to rodents, you need to make sure they can’t fit their heads through the opening in your wire mesh. Rats are known to be able to squeeze through if their heads fit inside a fence opening.
Two inch chicken wire means that the mesh size has two holes per one inch of the wire mesh. This size is too big for most squirrels, meaning they can get through it with little trouble. Stick with a smaller size, even though it will probably be more expensive.
Can Squirrels Chew Through Chicken Wire?
Chicken wire can be made of a few different materials. Galvanized steel chicken wire is coated in zinc to protect it from the sun and PVC-coated chicken wire is also made for long-term outdoor use without rusting. Some chicken wire is even made from plastic, but is less durable.
The thickness of the wire gauge is what determines whether squirrels will be able to chew through it. Chicken wire has a gauge of 19 (1 mm) to 22 (0.7 mm). Squirrels should not be able to chew through your chicken wire, but choosing a lower (thicker) gauge can prevent that.
What To Consider When Choosing Chicken Wire
Chicken wire is a great choice to keep squirrels away. They can’t chew through it and with the right mesh size they won’t fit through it. All you need are the right techniques and fence-building skills. Here are some of the things you need to consider when buying chicken wire.
The chicken wire comes in rolls of various widths. The larger the mesh size, the wider the roll. You can find a 4 foot by 50 foot roll of the standard mesh sizes at your local home improvement store.
Plan for a width wide enough to dig 12 inches into the ground and leave enough coverage above ground to protect your plants. This will prevent access by digging squirrels and other rodents. You may need to layer the mesh to create a ceiling for your cage.
All wire is measured for thickness. The thickness of the wire, regardless of what material it is made out of, is called its gauge. The gauge of any wire can be between 0 and 48, with 0 being the thickest at 8.2 mm and 48 being the smallest at 0.04 mm.
Chicken wire is usually around 19 gauge or 22 gauge wire, meaning it has a thickness between 1 mm and 0.7 mm. This should be thick enough to keep squirrels from chewing through it but bendable so the average gardener can easily mold it to fit around their garden.
One of the most important measures when it comes to keeping squirrels out of your garden is the mesh size of your chicken wire. The mesh size determines how many holes will be in your mesh for every linear inch of wire.
You usually find chicken wire with a mesh size of two inches or smaller. You want to choose wire with a mesh size of one inch or smaller to keep squirrels from finding their way into your garden. You should be able to find chicken wire with a mesh size as low as ⅜ inches.
Most chicken wire is made of galvanized steel. That means the steel wire has been coated in zinc, which protects it from corroding in the outdoor weather conditions. You can also find PVC-coated wire, which also acts to protect it from rusting.
You will want to find a coated wire that will not rust or weaken over time outside. Weakened wire will be easier to chew through or damage by pests.
Squirrels and other pests can dig under fences to reach what they are after. You will need to place your chicken wire at least 12 inches into the ground to keep animals from digging around and into your garden. The fence should rise at least 30 inches above ground.
Keep this in mind when you buy your chicken wire to make sure you select the right width. Depending on how tall your crops are, you may need to layer a separate top section to cover your crops if your roll is not wide enough.
Covering Your Fence
You may start by building a fence, but tree squirrels or avid climbers may still find their way into your crops. Deter them by adding a top layer to cage in your plants, or either more chicken wire or a strong mesh or netting.
Bird netting is a strong contender for the top layer here. It is made of nylon and strong enough to keep pests out yet flexible and easy to manipulate for the average gardener. Row covers are another great option used by tomato gardeners.
Securing Your Fence
Secure your fencing by using UV resistant cable ties. Normal plastic cable ties can weaken with exposure to intense heat and direct sunlight. You want your fence to stand the test of time, or at least for the entire season. Don’t skimp out on the security with cheap solutions.
You can attach the top netting with removable plastic plant clips. Row covers can be attached easily as well. The tops of your wire fence may be able to bend and provide a base to attach the cover with securely.
So Will Chicken Wire Stop Squirrels?
Yes. If you have chicken wire with a mesh size of 1 inch or smaller, installed at least 12 inches deep around your crops, and with a mesh or other covering on top, you will be able to keep squirrels away from your crops.
Make sure to choose a chicken wire of galvanized steel or PVC-coated steel that will not be prone to rust or weaken due to the elements. Avoid diggers by installing your fence 12 inches deep and avoid tree squirrels and climbers by adding a top covering of wire or strong mesh netting.
How Else Can You Deter Squirrels?
If you are not confident in your fence-building skills or have tried chicken wire but have super-determined squirrels, you can try some of the following solutions to keep the squirrels away from your crops or flower beds.
Clean-Up All Food Sources
If you have fruit trees or trees that drop acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts, or other foods that attract squirrels, pick these foods up as they drop or clear them away. You want to make your yard less attractive to them, and access to these foods will keep them around.
Keep your trash can lids securely attached. In the fall, avoid setting out pumpkins. If you can, try to keep any bird seed contained and out of reach of squirrels.
Use A Scarecrow
Even if you don’t want to use a full-size scarecrow, you can purchase a fake replica of a predator to squirrels. Many gardeners use plastic owls. You will need to move these around periodically so the squirrels don’t get too comfortable around them.
Use Bird Spikes
Bird spikes stick up out of the ground and will keep squirrels from approaching unless they are incredibly desperate. You could even incorporate them into your fence structure to ward off climbers.
Deter Squirrels With Scents
Squirrels are known to dislike certain smells and foods. Try using black pepper, cayenne powder, or peppermint. Sprinkle some of this near your plants to keep them away.
Squirrels are also averse to the smell of certain plants. They don’t like marigolds, daffodils, alliums, fritillaries, galanthus, hyacinth, lily-of-the-valley, or geraniums. You can also plant mint near areas you don’t want squirrels approaching.
Give Squirrels Their Own Food
You can purchase a feeder for squirrels and birds and place it far apart from your crops. This should give them their own supply of food so they don’t go after your garden.
Get a Motion-Activated Sprinkler
You can set up a sprinkler system that sprays pests that go after your garden.
Use Motion-Activated Lights
Nocturnal pests will be scared away when they go to approach your garden at night and are blinded by light.
Keep Outdoor Cats
Outdoor cats will prowl around the yard and scare off any pests that might be after your fruits and vegetables.
Get a Feist or Other Dog
If you’re serious about keeping squirrels away from your property, consider getting a feist or other dog. Feists are squirrel hunters and are bred to notice and chase after squirrels. They should keep your garden safe and give the local squirrels a fright.
To keep your garden safe, you can build a fence around your crops with chicken wire. The wire will need to be 1 inch mesh or smaller and be placed 12 inches deep into the ground, with at least 30 inches above ground. Cover your crops with netting.
If you don’t want to build a fence with chicken wire, you can keep your yard free of food sources, place food elsewhere, scare them off with replica predators, or keep outdoor cats or dogs to scare squirrels away from your crops.