Dogs and Electric Fences

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,516
3,002
276
Missouri
As per BYC's worst predator survey, dogs are one of the most serious predators of chickens. We see posts on this topic almost daily. Most responses run towards the SSS (shoot, shovel and shut up) solution, with sentiments leaning towards killing the dogs. I can appreciate the sentiment, but my problem with that is it generally happens after the fact. My preference is to get ahead of the issue and do things to avoid the need to whack my neighbors dog in the first place. BTW, this is not a new issue. The phrase "a dog is a man's best friend" was coined during a civil case revolving around the shooting of a neighbor's dog. The case of "Old Drum". Circa 1869.

https://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/education/olddrum/StoryofBurdenvHornsby

I might be BYC's biggest advocate of using electric fences. My experience with them goes back decades, but only recently have I adapted them to use for protecting my birds. In my experience, they work and work well. My neighbor's dog made a play for the birds early on, hit the fence, let out a yelp and has never been back. That is my solution to dealing with the neighbor's dogs. No shooting, no shoveling and no shouting. Quite, peaceful enjoyment......and all my birds are still alive.

So here is how I did it. A four wire fence, bottom wire 5 inches or so off the deck. Remaining wires staggered about 5 inches or so off the deck. Top wire no more than 20 inches or so high. Most adults can simply step over it.

fence 1.JPG

Dogs (and other predators like foxes and coyotes) encounter this and try to crawl under or through it and get themselves zapped in the process. As in serious, high voltage pain. 7,000 volts plus. That will deter almost any of them.

Reaction is like this:


There are many variations on this theme, from using wire or the white poly tape fence or rope.....or electric poultry netting. I have found my wire to be easiest to maintain, but all will work.

Again, my experience is this is a safe and effective way to open up yard space to allow the birds freedom to roam about, yet lift the burden and worry of the predator threat. I've lost track of the number of dogs I've seen running loose in the yard, yet to date, I've never lost any birds to them. I chalk up nearly 100% of that success to the fence shown above.

What I would like to see with this thread is testimonials from other growers. Those using also using fences to protect your birds. How you have them setup (pictures please!), and success or failures using them.
 

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
27,610
26,710
907
CENTRAL MAINE zone 4B
Good thread! I successfully used Premier1 poultry electronet for 2 years. Until my birds started making daily excursions over the fence. No amount of clipping would keep them in. I had the higher fencing. When the birds ranged outside the electronet, they were vulnerable to hawk attack. I lost 3 full sized birds in a very short time. Always outside the electronet. This forced me to change up my management style. I built a 500 s.f. run, which was covered with bird netting in the non snow season. Birds were still vulnerable during snow season, as I had a hawk swoop down into the run to get a chicken. Now, I have the summer run, with deer netting over it. The winter run is a single bay of that run that has welded wire fencing and green house tarp over it. I still have the electronetting, and envision putting it up in a configuration that would allow me to stretch bird netting over the top of it.
 

song of joy

Crowing
7 Years
Apr 22, 2012
1,191
653
251
Central Pennsylvania
Good thread! I successfully used Premier1 poultry electronet for 2 years. Until my birds started making daily excursions over the fence. No amount of clipping would keep them in. I had the higher fencing.
Thanks for posting your experience. I was considering electric poultry fencing, but was concerned my chickens would just fly over the fence. There are a few rebels who would probably teach the whole flock to fly over the fence!
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,773
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
Electric fencing is a very important proactive component of predator management. In concert with other approaches, it makes protecting chickens, whether free-range or not, much more sustainable. We need to quit thinking about predator management tools operating in isolation from each other.

Electric fencing is more often that not depicted as being appropriate for situations involving more acreage than available to a back yard, yet hotwire can do all sorts of repelling right up to the actual structure of coops and pens. The hotwire approach is often rejected out of hand owing to potential risk to children. A lower powered charger can be used and can be quite effective when used in concert with boundaries that structurally impede predator movement in a manner that makes it difficult avoid shocks.

I grew up successfully around hotwire several decades ago, and by measures of those that know me, everything turned out OK with no mental scars directly attributable to getting shocked. My young kids (6 an 4) are well adjusted to fencing and it have helped expand their vocabulary and technical thinking.
 

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,516
3,002
276
Missouri
Thanks for posting your experience. I was considering electric poultry fencing, but was concerned my chickens would just fly over the fence. There are a few rebels who would probably teach the whole flock to fly over the fence!
I have found the fence to be equally effective at keeping the birds in as keeping predators out. I trained mine on a single strand fence like this:

20170914_112200.jpg

My birds would approach that fence and invariably step on it to get over it. That got them zapped on the bottom of their foot. They got zapped and would launch 5 feet in the air. Once they know what it is, they may get near it, but will not cross it. Later on, once the birds are trained, I add the extra strands for the predators. I've not had a bird outside the wire in over a year. In the event one does get out, they want back in to join the flock pretty bad and can and will simply lift up and fly over it to get back in. Or if being chased, could simply punch through it in a panic. They can't do that with the netting.

To keep the birds in, it also helps to have a fairly large area for them to roam around in. A buffer zone so to speak. Plenty of things of interest to keep them occupied without feeling the need to escape. That was the case before, when the garden area they were given was about 50 feet x 50 feet for 10 birds, as it now is with 1/4 acre for 7 birds. And places of interest are located well away from the fence, which keeps them away from the fence, as well as beyond arm's length for any predator who might be lurking about.

But again, these fences are every bit as effective at keeping birds in as they are keeping dogs and other predators out.

BTW, they obviously do not work for hawks and other birds of prey. That is another issue.
 

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,516
3,002
276
Missouri
Interesting component of chicken math to consider here. Take an area that is 50' x 50' (200 linear feet of fence) and you have 2,500 square feet of area enclosed. Double that to 100' x 100' (400 linear feet of fence) and you have 10,000 square feet of enclosed area. Twice the length of fence, but four times the area enclosed. So make your fenced in areas as large as you can.
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,773
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
I am unable to keep birds confined by zapping if they still pass over it as being zapped. They show obvious signs of discomfort but cross anyway. They can also learn to how to step over it. Two more more closely placed strands needed so upper strand(s) retard crossing as birds get zapped. My chickens are much more tolerant of zapping that are dogs, even when chicken gets hit on skin patched of head or scales of legs.

Some of the games also learn to fly over the whole thing.

Multiple closely placed strands with cover patches and other resources help by pulling birds birds back and away from fence greatly improves containment.
 

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,516
3,002
276
Missouri
Good points. Now and then we have some folks report their fence had stopped working (was not deterring anybody), only to find out it was grounded out or in some other way delivering a weak shock, or almost none at all. Some animals are more sensitive and easy to train than others, and some are better armored (insulated) with fur or feathers. This sort of works like tolerance to hot sauce. Some are sensitive to the mildest of them and won't eat something spiced with it, and others may require something really hot before they turn back. We have all felt mild and painful shocks. Some are almost a tickle......still not enjoyable, but tolerable. We want intolerable.

I have found the best deterrence gained is with a healthy (read very painful) shock. Fences need to be tested to assure the dose of pain is enough to make it hurt. The folks who sell these things (I am a user, not a seller) suggest a minimum of 7,000 volts. Mine are cranked up way higher than that.......mostly because I bought a 3 joule......30 mile fencer and run it on less than a mile of actual fence. Mine runs HOT!

20170914_113657.jpg

That is 13,500 volts. Enough to light em up and I've not seen anyone ask for seconds.
 
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