What Is A Rain Chain – How Do Rain Chains Work In Gardens

rain chain
rain chain
(Image credit: stacey cramp)

They may be new to you, but rain chains are age-old adornments with purpose in Japan where they are known as kusari doi which means “chain gutter.” If that didn’t clear things up, keep reading to find out what a rain chain is, how rain chains work, and additional garden rain chain info.

What is a Rain Chain?

You’ve no doubt seen rain chains but maybe thought they were wind chimes or garden art. Simply put, rain chains are attached to the eaves or gutters of a home. How do rain chains work? They are, as the name suggests, a chain of rings or other shapes strung together to channel rain from the top of the house down into a rain barrel or decorative basin.

Garden Rain Chain Info

Long used in Japan and in use to this very day, rain chains are commonly found hanging from private homes and temples. They are simple structures, low maintenance, and serve an important function. Natural water flow has been interrupted by modern non-porous surfaces like driveways, patios, and roofs. Runoff from these surfaces can cause erosion and water pollution. The purpose of rain chains is to direct water runoff where you want it, in turn protecting the environment and allowing you to utilize the water where needed. While there is indeed a sensible purpose to rain chains, they also make a lovely sound and, unlike downspouts which can accomplish the same goal, look beautiful as well. They may be as simple as a strand of chains or loops or may be more intricate with chains of flowers or umbrellas. They may be made from copper, stainless steel, or even bamboo.

Creating a Rain Chain

Rain chains can be purchased and come in a variety of shapes and are simple to install but creating a rain chain as a DIY project is satisfying and no doubt cheaper. You can use most anything that can be strung together, such as key rings or shower rings. First link all the rings together into a long chain. Then, thread a length of metal wire through the chain to stabilize the chain and make sure the water flows downward. Remove the downspout from the drain where you will hang the chain and slide a gutter strap over the opening. Hang the rain chain from the gutter strap and anchor it with a garden stake at ground level. You can let the end of the chain dangle into a rain barrel or create a depression in the ground, lined with gravel or pretty stones that will allow the water to flow into. You can then embellish the area if you wish with plants suited to the area. That is, use drought-tolerant plants on the higher ground and those that love more moisture down in the depression where rainwater is collected (rain garden). Thereafter, there is little maintenance to your rain chain other than checking the gutter for debris. In areas of severe winter cold or high winds, take the rain chain down to avoid damaging anything. A rain chain that is coated with ice can get heavy enough to damage the gutter as can a rain chain tossed around in heavy winds.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.