Can Gophers Chew Through Chicken Wire?

Can gophers chew through chicken wire

Chicken wire is often touted as being a great defence against backyard gophers. It is used in multiple applications including guards for plants, beneath the soil in raised beds, and even underneath lawns or artificial grass.

As a short-term solution, chicken wire can stop gophers, but it’s not the best solution and does have limitations, including them being able to finally chew through it.

Let me explain.

Gophers cannot chew through chicken wire, providing it is newly applied, galvanized and has square mesh areas no bigger than a ¼ of an inch. However, gophers can chew chicken wire once it has degraded and started to rust. Given the applications it’s used for, it is inevitable that the wire will become weak. 

Think of it this way.

Many people will recommend that chicken wire is used as a barrier to stop gophers. Despite what you might have read online, it’s not to stop gophers getting at chickens. They are herbivores and have no interest in eating chickens and instead eat a plant-based diet

Instead, chicken wire can be laid at the bottom of raised beds and soil then placed on top. This is done so gophers cannot come under and up into the raised bed to snack on plants, or eat the roots and bulbs from below.

Similarly, chicken wire can be laid beneath real grass lawns when turf is being re-laid, and under artificial lawns. The aim here is the same, to stop gophers coming up and damaging the lawn with holes and mounds, or destroying artificial turf

Chicken wire vs gopher wire
Gophers can chew through rusted chicken wire under the soil, then appear in a hole (credit)

Chicken wire can also be used to create circular guards around valuable plants in your yard.

People create a circle / tube with it that surrounds the plant and go down into the earth about 18 inches. The idea is to prevent plants being eaten. In rare cases, gopher tunnels can be up to six feet deep but are likely to be no more than 1.5 feet under the ground. 

The idea behind all these applications is that chicken wire will stop gophers, because they cannot chew through galvanized metal like this.

But the whole idea is doomed to fail, by the very nature of how the chicken wire is being used: under the ground, in damp soil.

Damp soil will cause oxidization, which then makes the chicken wire rust so it becomes very weak. This can happen inside just three years, at which point the gopher can chew through the chicken wire to get to the end goal. 

Imagine if you’d invested in laying chicken wire beneath the lawn in your backyard, only for three years later to see gopher holes appearing.

One solution is to use vinyl coated galvanized (preferable double-galvanized) chicken wire, again with ¼ inch squares. The vinyl will slow the wire from rusting, rather than make it more difficult to chew through. 

But it’s still got the potential to degrade and get weak enough for gophers to chew through. 

There’s something a lot better.

Chicken wire vs gopher wire

Let me introduce to you the battle of the products: gopher wire vs chicken wire. It’s not an even match if I am honest, as gopher wire mesh wins every time… and here’s why:

What is the difference between gopher wire and chicken wire?

Unlike chicken wire, gopher wire is manufactured with 20-guage hot-dipped galvanized stainless steel (sometimes even double-galvanized). Stainless steel has corrosion resistance and is far more rust-resistant than conventional metals.

It comes in rolls, just as chicken wire does. It can be laid out in long, overlapping stripes underneath a grass lawn, or in planting beds. When applied in the right way and with care, it can prevent an effective barrier that gophers cannot chew or tunnel through. 

It also comes as baskets that can be dug into the ground – like this one on Amazon.

Chicken wire is not rust-resistant and is instead manufactured with thin and very flexible wire. If you’ve ever bent or cut chicken wire, you will know how you can break it with not a huge amount of effort – so don’t for one minute think chicken wire stops gophers.

Most chicken wire brands will deteriorate within a couple of years of being buried. 

However, there is a cost implication. Chicken wire is cheaper. But as my grandmother used to say, “buy cheap, buy twice”.

Gopher wire will not hurt or kill gophers, but it could be the difference between huge damage being done to your backyard or garden. 

Do not use chicken wire as a cheap alternative. It’s simply not up to the job and gophers will eventually chew through it if they are determined enough. 

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