UPDATE- Well Tom at Red Fern Farm were I got the seed nuts told me -"The wire covering is very important to protect the nuts not only from rodents, but even raccoons and deer--however, the squares on the hardware cloth are too small for the seedlings to grow through. If they do grow through they may be girdled by late summer, or, at the very least, severely damaged when you remove the wire. It's OK to leave the hardware cloth on for now, but you should switch to chicken wire before the seedlings start to emerge in the spring (probably April). The chicken wire isn't absolutely 100% protection, but it works pretty well for deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and even mice. You can leave the chicken wire on until the following spring when it's time to dig up the seedlings and put them in their final locations."
Now last year I grew some chestnut seedlings from some nuts I collected from a random tree I found growing at my parents land in central KY. Most of those seedlings did not get more then 1.5 ' high. I then remembered that I had purchased seedlings from Tom and planted them the same time I planted the random seeds. The trees from Tom averaged 3' high at the end of there first year!
I decided to follow Toms recommendation. So the beginning of April I removed the mulch. To my disappointment the chestnuts had sprouted and tried coming up thru the mulch! I would say all together I broke about 1/3 of the tops off removing the mulch and even more changing the wire out.
I have tried growing chestnuts from seed 4 different ways this year direct seed, 5 gal bucked, bed method, 9x4" pots. My favorite method so far for plant vigor and ease of planting would be the pot method.