1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

Chickens and Electric Fencing?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Keriamon, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. Keriamon

    Keriamon Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 30, 2009
    My husband and I are preparing to get our first chickens ever and we're trying to learn as much as possible before buying some. We just want 4 layers to supply us with eggs.

    We have an acre + of yard fenced in for horse pasture, with not a lot of yard outside of it (we're surrounded by woods on three sides, and road up front). The fencing is three strand electric rope on a small charger box that cycles the current (so it gives you a pop, not a continuous shock). While we plan on building a coop and a safe little yard next to our barn for the chickens, I would like to let them free range when we're at home to look after them. Needless to say, this is a chicken paradise, with plenty of grass, and even more bugs (horse poop attracts a lot, you know), plus cedar trees to roost in and pine cones to play with. We're also planning on putting in a garden, so if I don't kill everything, they should also enjoy a summer of vegetable scraps.

    However, I read on one website that an electric fence can kill a chicken. Does anyone know if this is true? Mind you, ours isn't exactly strong; it's not like we're keeping in a bull. Our last cat shocked himself on it a couple of times to no permanent ill effect. I was hoping that the bottom strand, which is close to the ground along the road frontage, would keep them from getting out in the road. The fence around the house is up a bit higher, so they could go under it and get into the driveway (which is mostly grass, actually) and around the barn to fool around and mow where we can't let the horse do it for us.

    Which brings up a second question: do I need to try and keep them out of the garden, or are they actually good for it?
     
  2. jacca5

    jacca5 Chillin' With My Peeps

    141
    0
    129
    Mar 19, 2008
    Hodgenville, KY
    I let my chickens free range some all of the time and some just every now and then. We have electric fence for every animal we have which is goats, pigs, cattle, horses and sheep. I have not had any problems with my chickens being around it. They go under it and through as they please. However I have never seen one get shocked by it so I am not sure if it kills them or not but mine have been fine for over a year now.
     
  3. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator Staff Member

    16,153
    62
    361
    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan
    [​IMG]

    Those are some good questions!

    You'll find that a lot of members here recommend installing electric fencing around their runs to discourage predators. I don't *think* it would be a problem for your birds. I'm sure some of our resident "electric fencing experts" will come along and give you some better advice about that than I can. [​IMG]

    I did keep chickens that were allowed to free range from time to time in the yard without any fence. They stayed out of the road, and didn't necessarily go up to it at all. They spent most of their time digging/dustbathing around the house foundation, and under the bushes and trees in the backyard. My experience is that chickens stay pretty close to places where they can quickly rush for cover. The biggest danger when free-ranging is usually hawks and other raptors, depending on what daytime predators you have in your area.

    As far as the garden, chickens LOVE vegetable gardens -- and they will destroy yours the first chance they get. [​IMG] They love taking selective pecks out of juicy tomatoes and strawberries and munching on crisp young greens. However, once your garden is "done" for the season, let them in and they will stratch it up, eat the "leftovers" and fertilize the area nicely.

    There is actually a great coop plan floating around here somewhere where there is a chicken coop with two runs -- one on each side of the coop. Each year, the chickens use only one run and the other side is the garden. The next year, the arrangement is switched. It sounds very natural and organic to me.
     
  4. happyhensny

    happyhensny Brown Barns Farm

    A friend of mine has electric fencing around his chickens. He said it is a little more powerful so they get a little when they touch it through their feathers - once and they know! BUT, he has had a baby opossum crawl under it and hawks zoom right in and grab the birds. Keeps out the dogs and coyotes though....
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    78
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    It depends of course on what kind of charge you have on the fence. How many volts does it run? (Like, according to an accurate fence tester)

    In general, though, electric fence is not especially apt to kill chickens, and when it rarely does it's generally because the chicken got tangled in the fence (like electronet). Nothing is 100% safe but I don't see that normal electric fence is a particularly great hazard for chickens. (They make poor contact with the ground on account of light weight and feathers and 'dry' type feet, so would not usually get as much of a zap as you or a dog or a horse).

    I would not count on it keeping them where you want them however. They can fly and hop. If they don't especially want to go to the other side and don't happen to find themselves airborne, it may work ok, but I'm just saying, I would not RELY on it.

    Anyhow, when they are free-ranging, hawks and loose dogs will be a FAR FAR FAR greater risk to their health than your electric fence.

    As far as the garden -- unless they think they have something better to do elsewhere, they will mess it all up with their scratching, and eat all your seedlings and developing tomatoes etc. Most people do best with keeping the chickens OUT of the garden, like with a fence and supervision. After the last things are done in the fall you can let them pick over the fallowed plot and eat bugs and stuff, that's good for the garden. During the growing season, though, not so much.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  6. Keriamon

    Keriamon Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 30, 2009
    We've got nearly an acre between the house and the road, and the coop is going to be back near the house (with only four birds, hopefully it won't stink any worse than the horse poop). I figured they wouldn't roam too far up towards the road, but a neighbor had guinea fowl one year and they came into our yard a lot. Most annoying due to their exceedingly loud squaking (give me a rooster any day!), but I didn't get one tick on me the entire summer. They all died in the road eventually, though. My husband said he noticed they'd get in the road and just stand there; didn't have sense enough to run away from a car. I'm thinking, though, that chickens neither roam so far as guineas and aren't that stupid?

    We do have red-tailed hawks in our area, but we also have a lot of trees around the pasture and the house, along with a big wrap-around deck that's open in most places under it, plus cars and a horse trailer they can hide under if they get scared (and I plan on their yard being capped with wire mesh, so they will be safe in their yard when we're not here to watch after them).

    I think our biggest concern is going to be the raccoons, though. We have an entire family of them (plus a possum) that likes to go through our trash at night. As of yet, we've not been bold enough to shoot one (they're cute, even if they do make a huge, nasty mess that I have to clean up), although I guess we will have to if we catch them fooling with our chicken coop. They're pretty dang smart when it comes to getting the lid off a can, even when it's weighted down. The coop will be right under where the electric fence leads come out of the barn (where the charger lives), so we could pretty easily rig a strand of electric rope around the outside of the pen and coop.

    We also have coyotes, but we've never seen one in our yard; our fence is specifically low enough to keep dogs and coyotes out--as a neighbor's dog found out one day when she wandered over here. There's a spot in the back, in the woods, though, where it's not so close to the ground, and that's where the raccoons get in. And our horse will just stand there and look at them, so she's no help in defending the chickens.

    I guess a good question now would be where can we get four chickens? I noticed the online places seem to only sell them in packs of 25, minimum. There's a local flea market where there's usually someone with chicks and chickens for sale, so I suppose I could get just four there. There's no way we could eat the eggs of more than four mature chickens (although, do you think I should start with a spare chick or two, figuring one or two won't make it to adulthood?), and I don't want too big a project for first time, you know. Other than laying chickens, I'm not going to be particular. I have noticed that brown eggs taste better, but free-range chicken eggs are supposed to taste so much better than store-bought, I figure even white eggs will taste good.
     
  7. Keriamon

    Keriamon Out Of The Brooder

    16
    0
    22
    Mar 30, 2009
    I just thought of another question. Will chickens bathe in water like other birds? We keep a water trough for our horse that I would rather they didn't take a bath in! We'd have to figure out some way to keep them out of it when they're loose.
     
  8. Jstkiddn

    Jstkiddn Out Of The Brooder

    20
    0
    22
    Aug 30, 2008
    Quote:This time of year the local feed stores might have them. I know Tractor Supply has them in stock now.
     
  9. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator Staff Member

    16,153
    62
    361
    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan
    Chickens prefer to take a "bath" in the dirt (a "dustbath"). You can put a shallow plastic box of sand in their run for them to dig about it, or just make sure that they have access to dry soil in their run. They won't really bathe in the water (although you can give adult chickens a bath yourself if you really want to!).

    Do a search on the forum for "DE" (food grade diatomaceous earth). You can use this product for all sorts of things; one of the things it can help with is keeping the pests and smell down in your chickens' coop and run. The best thing, though, is just to clean their coop and run regularly.

    A site called MyPetChicken.com sells chicks in amounts lower than 25 under certain conditions. You may receive a few extra free "packing peanuts" with your order, though. A lot of hatcheries have a minimum of 25 because this amount seems to keep them pretty warm under normal weather and delivery conditions. Certainly you can call around to local feed stores, or post an ad here in the "Buy Sell Trade" area of the forum to see if anyone has any chickens or hatching eggs they are willing to sell to you.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by