How to use chicken wire to make forest trees

Updated November 21, 2016

Prop trees can be hard to come by, especially at a low price. The price may be worth your while for long-term play props, but for Halloween or classroom decorations you can make very inexpensive chicken wire trees. Not only is chicken wire inexpensive, it often comes in bulk, meaning you can make as many trees as you need. Plus, chicken wire holds paper mache easily, making it endlessly versatile. You can create creepy Halloween trees or float decorations or use these trees as part of an indoor wilderness maze.

Snip a section of chicken wire about 1.8 metres (6 feet) tall and 1.5 m (5 feet) wide. Put on leather gloves to protect your hands. Bend your wire section into a cylinder and lay it on its side. Secure the cylinder by bending the loose wires from one edge of your section around the honeycombed wires of the other edge with your pliers.

Cut the wire into sections varying in width from about 15 cm (6 inches) wide to a foot wide. Each section should be no longer than 30 cm (1 foot) long, though they may be slightly shorter. Pull these sections out so they stick up from your cylinder like propellers.

Stand your cylinder up with the propeller sections splayed out on the floor. Bend, twist and curve them so they take on the shape of thick tree roots. They should taper from the trunk to the ends and twist in odd directions.

Cut more sections of chicken wire for branches. These may range in size from about 90 cm (3 feet) square to 60 cm wide by 90 cm tall (2 feet by 3 feet), 30 cm by 15 cm (1 foot by 6 inches) and so on, depending on what size you want your branches. Bend these sections into cylinders. Attach them to the top of your tree and each other. Push the larger branches inward to force the tree to taper near the top. Bend and twist all of the branches into realistic branch formations. Most of your branches should be reaching for the "sun."

Mix about 3 parts warm water with one part glue. Rip your newspaper into strips. Dip each strip in the glue mixture, squeegee excess moisture off with your fingers, and press it to the body of your tree. Cover the entire tree this way and let it dry overnight. You will need to apply about two more coats to mask the chicken wire pattern completely.

Spray paint your dried tree with dark brown spray paint and let it dry for about two hours. Sponge on a lighter colour brown, dabbing and dragging your sponge to make realistic bark texture. Add moss by sponging a little green over the roots and trunk.

Wrap the wires of clusters of fake leaves around the tips of the branches. You may also poke the stems of leaves through your paper mache to simulate twigs. Bend and splay out the leaves so they look full and thriving.

Things You'll Need

  • Chicken wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Leather gloves
  • Glue
  • Water
  • Old newspapers
  • Spray paint
  • Fake leaves on wires
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