An Electric Fence Primer for the Total Beginner Part II

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by OldGuy43, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. OldGuy43

    OldGuy43 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Now that we have something to energize our fence we're ready to select the wire and associated hardware we'll use.

    First we need to remember our goal. We want to keep predators out of our flock. This is an entirely different matter from keeping domestic livestock, horses, cattle, dogs etc. in a defined area. In the latter case you have a fixed population. They learn where the fence is. It has nothing to do with seeing the fence. They just learn that there is an area that they don't want to go near. After a couple of weeks you can turn the fence off. They still won't go near it. I have seen ranchers who have divided a pasture in half completely remove the posts and wire and still, even though the half of the pasture they are on has very little grass left and the other side is nice, lush and green have to go out and literately drag the stock across the area where the fence was. They've learned. We have a dog that used to jump the board fence into the horse pasture and chase them. We put up an electric fence and left it energized until we quit hearing her yelp when she came in contact with it. The fence has been de-energized for over 3 years and she still does not try to jump it. She'll run along side of it and bark at the horses, but she doesn't try to get over it. She's learned.

    Predators are a different thing. It is highly unlikely that you are dealing with a fixed population that you can teach. New ones can come along at anytime, therefore, unlike that rancher's temporary fence I mentioned previously your fence will need to operate reliably 24-7.

    Always use smooth wire specifically designed for electric fencing. Do not use barbed wire, copper wire or anything else. Just trust me on this.

    There are several options for wire. The first we'll discuss is aluminum. While aluminum is a good conductor, light weight and easy to bend it has several drawbacks. First, it's expensive and while it doesn't rust it is subject to oxidation when exposed to the air and aluminum oxide is not a conductor of electricity. Another is galvanic corrosion. This occurs when dissimilar metals, such as the copper terminals on your charger and aluminum wire are brought into contact. This is particularly true when an electric current is present. For these reasons I don't like aluminum wire.

    In Part I Harveyhorses asked about fence tape ( https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=7599947#p7599947 ). While I've never used fence tape or rope I have some very definite opinions on the subject. While it's probably easy to work with it's outrageously expensive. Okay, so I'm cheap. My second objection stems from the fact that the conductor that is woven into the tape or rope is aluminum (see above). Next consider that the aluminum conductor that is used is more the size of a foil than wire, hence it's more prone to breakage. Another problem that I can see is that while the conductor may break the rope or tape may be intact leaving everything after the break unprotected with, unlike a smooth wire fence no visible indication that a break has occurred. Harveyhorses also commented on liking the visibility of tape. Now, if he means he likes to be able to easily see where it is that's okay, but as I've pointed out the fact that the tape is there doesn't guarantee that the fence is working. If he means that visibility is going to protect his flock remember the rancher. He had to drag his animals past where the fence was. Remember our goal. Not to train, but to exclude.

    Harveyhorses, I hope I haven't offended you. [​IMG]

    Smooth steel wire is my choice for an electric fence. It's inexpensive, readily available and durable. The only downside is that it's a bit harder to work with. Once you have chosen steel you only have one other choice to make. Wire size or gauge. First determine what you are trying to exclude. You will obviously need a much thicker wire for a bear than a skunk. Another factor is the length of your fence. There is no such thing as a perfect conductor. There will be some loss in the wire. The longer the fence the bigger the wire diameter needs to be. Personally, I always use 17 gauge wire, but that's just for durability. Okay so I'm not only cheap, but lazy. I don't want to have to go out and fix my fence every week, er month, all right, year. I want to plug it in and forget it. [​IMG] Buy plenty. If you're like me you'll find plenty of uses for the leftovers.

    Insulators. Yes you do need them. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect conductor there is no such thing as a perfect insulator. Some materials are just better than others. While dry wood is okay, wet wood conducts really well. The best are ceramic, but they are sooo expensive that we aren't going to do more than mention them. The only other choice is the plastic ones. No matter what kind of fence you are attaching them to there is one designed for you. T posts, round posts, Cyclone fence, they're all available. One more caveat, be sure that the ones you get are protected with UV inhibitors. Otherwise a year or two from now you'll be replacing them. How many? Well that also depends on the area your trying to fence. Corners will, in some cases require two. Do you have a gate you need to get past? I've seen so-called experts claim that you can have 100' between supports, but I've always considered 30' to be the maximum with 10-20' preferred. Planning is the key here. Get a few extras just in case.

    Ground stakes. You may need one or more of these, but read the next installment on installing before you decide. You may not need any.

    Electric fence tester. Of course you don't really need one. You can just touch the fence with your hand, but I recommend one. [​IMG] You should be able to purchase one for about $10 or less. I did read somewhere someone recommending buying a cheap voltmeter and using that, but I have never seen a cheap voltmeter that would read, accurately or otherwise 1,250 volts with a pulse duration of 1/4000th of a second. [​IMG]

    Next: Installing the fence.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=584999

    Part one for those who came to class late:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=7599947
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
  2. harveyhorses

    harveyhorses Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 16, 2010
    Not offended in the least, my reason for liking visibility is when rotating the fields for the horses and the bleeping deer would go through it and we would have to put it back up, after finding it. No with the bush hog. We also prefered plain wire, we wound up compromising, top would be tape, the other strands wire, we had about 15 acreas fenced. so we could tell at a glance if it was down.
    BTW I am a she. [​IMG]
     

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