Hello all you big bird lovers :) One of the most asked questions we receive is about fencing for ostriches. So I thought I'd write a brief overview of my experience with various types of fence.
1) Barbed Wire: This is a HUGE "no no". Read the bit about field fence. Ostriches rub against things constantly, especially during feeding time. Their breast bones constantly come in contact with fence. When in a panic? They'll run against it like it's not even there. DO NOT use barbed wire fencing anywhere near ostriches. You are guaranteed to lose birds to it.
2) Field Fence & T Posts: I hate this combination for a number of reasons. If you hang the field fence at field level to keep coyote and other predators out of your fiends, then the standard 4 ft height isn't enough. You will literally have adult birds falling over the fence. I have seen an ostrich climb field fence like a ladder to get away from an over aggressive male. The other problem with T Posts is simple... When a 350 pound bird pushes hard against one, then it will bend, the clips break or bend off, and your fence repair time just when off the charts as it will be constant. Want to add 10x the labor for a little bit of savings and guaranteed dead birds? If not, avoid this fence combination at all costs.
3) Field Fence, T Post, & Top Wire: I do not like this combination for an even larger number of reasons. The top wire was 2 strand barbless by the way. Again, the posts bend, clips bend and stop holding fence. The difference here was we used much taller tposts that gave us the ability to run a double top wire at 6ft. Sounds great right? The same things happened. Birds would get into fights and the submissive of the two would try to climb the fence. However this time, with the double wire? Sure they couldn't come over, but they also couldn't get away. More panic. More injury. Avoid this combination as well.
4) Field Fence, 4x4 Fence Posts, Hot Wire: This combination works. We set 8 foot 4x4's 2.5 ft into the ground. We support each post by ~20 pounds of concrete to give it some anchor at the bottom and pack the rest with dirt. The posts are spaced at 8ft. The field fence starts at ground level and is stapled to the posts after the run is stretched tight. A single top wire of twisted strand barbless wire is hung at the top of each pole. If you have ever tried to work with ostriches near you, then you will immediately appreciate the value of a top wire keeping their beaks from lifting your hat, glasses, pecking your hammer/nail gun or just being a general social nuisance when you're trying to work! We use plastic insulators (cheap from Tractor Supply) to hold a 7k volt 1 sec increment hot wire approx 6 inches to the inside of the fence at 4 ft (same height as the top of the field fence). We run a second wire at 6 inches above the ground. If you look at the way an ostrich walks, they lift then step. If you put the wire too high, then it will not prevent contact with the field fence. If you put it too low then you don't catch the foot either. At 6 inches, they lift their feet INTO the hot wire if they are too close forcing them back. 4 ft is a bit higher than breast level. If they bump the fence, the get a jolt. If they peck the wire, they get a jolt. Ostriches may be limited, but they aren't stupid. Everyone always asks me what the effect of the hot wire is on the bird. Well... if they peck it, they generally get zapped, and stomp the ground, let go and run away. If they rub into the top hot wire, they get zapped and jump/step back. If they step into the bottom wire, they jerk their foot/feet back. It does not do more damage to them than it does to a human or horse.
5) Post and Rail, 4x4 Fence Posts, Hot Wire (You can see this in my profile pic btw): This is our favorite combination and the MOST expensive. We use a 5 rail system built just like the field fence in #4 but use 2x6x16 treated lumber instead of the field fence. The concrete is increased to 40lbs per post as well. The rails are staggered the exact width of the 2x6 and we go 5 rails high. On the first course of fencing, every other board is 8 feet. The rest are 16 feet. This "locks" the fence and gives both flexibility as well as strength. We screw our fences together with 3.25 galvanized hex head screws. This method is time consuming, expensive, but doesn't break. It weathers well. And ostriches can't get stuck in it, climb it, or break/bend it. All of our perimeter fencing is done this way. We use method 4 for interior/cross fencing because of cost. Just be sure to seal that wood every year. Even treated wood rots.
Edited by 29PalmsRanch - 11/30/15 at 4:12pm