Semiconductor nanowires such as zinc oxide nanowires are projected to be the next generation materials for nanoscale sensors and actuators. They also serve as ideal systems for studying material behavior at the small scale. In this paper, we report experimental results on the mechanical properties of zinc oxide nanowires. We have designed a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) test-bed for mechanical characterization of nanowires and use a microscale version of pick-and-place as a generic specimen preparation and manipulation technique. We performed experiments on zinc oxide nanowires inside a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and estimated the Young's modulus to be approximately 21 GPa and the fracture strain to vary from 5 % to 15 %. We attribute the difference in mechanical properties of the nanowires from bulk properties to several factors such as lower number of defects, charge redistribution at the atomic scale and surface effects.