electric fencing

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I'm researching keeping goats one of these days, and I'm thinking about fences. My husband says that electric fences are cruel, that they'll kill birds who land on them. Is this true?

-- snoozy (allen@oz.net), July 09, 2000


Hasn't your husband ever seen a bird sitting on an overhead electric line, or a squirrel run across it, which carries probably many thousand times the voltage? The trick is not to be grounded. Besides, modern fence charges pulsate so if you touch them in less than a second no current, then more current. Yes, it would hurt the goats if they put their nose on them. That's called a lesson learned. Some people teach new critters about electric fence wire by putting peanut butter on them. Teaches them two things: Don't try to go through electric fencing and not to like peanut butter.

Two recommendations: Buy the maximum charger available (I get my from Jeffers) and use 1/2" fiberglass posts. Don't run electric wiring along metal fences. I have this theory the electric fence has a positive charge, the metal fence has a negative charge, and they just want to reach out and touch each other, creating a short.

I started out using a lot of electric fencing and have gradually replaced it with barb wire. A call from a neighbor my cows are in his corn field can ruin an entire evening.

Use standard metal fencing for parameters. Electric fencing can be used to subdivide.

-- Ken Scharabok (scharabo@aol.com), July 09, 2000.

Hey Snoozy, we have Gallagher New Zealand Electric fencing for our perimeter fencing and love it. The wires are strung tightly (we have ours 4 feet high...7 strands). It's flexible enough to survive tree limbs falling onto it, and tough enough to keep out coyotes trying to go through it, even if the power is off (which we don't like, but does happen). Our neighbor observed a coyote trying to go through it one time, and the animal was persistent enough to try a second time but got shocked and then took off running. Our neighbor's (idiot) dog tried going through it when I was watching and took off howling when he got it. I have gotten myself zapped a few times and it's quite a buzz! It pulses intermittantly, so you get enough to react and move off it, thank goodness. No, it wouldn't kill me!

I have seen birds sitting on the top wires frequently, and it doesn't phase them. Also, we have a couple of hens that hop up onto the first wire, and then pop through between it and wire #2! As long as they don't touch 2 wires at the same time or 1 wire and the ground at the same time, it doesn't bother them (I had to get creative with the fencing when my chickens started getting into my garden.)

We cross fence with portable wire and posts but it's only 3 feet tall. This works fine with sheep (they learn as lambs the first time they put their nose on it) and it doesn't work with the goats! (They jump over it). I guess I could get taller fence posts, but they're kind of spendy. We have wire field fence containg the goats and rams. I don't trust them!

I wouldn't say that it was cruel to use this! Animals that get out of fencing are at a lot more risk, and to me that's really cruel. If they get out, they get shot, sick, hit by vehicles, and who knows what else. I wouldn't keep animals if I thought containing them was being cruel. The lesson they get is quick and stays with them...kind of like a spanking, I guess.

My $.02 FWIW.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), July 09, 2000.

The birds will only be electrocuted if they step on the electric wire with one foot and your metal fence with the other foot. To avoid this, place the electric wire on plastic extenders, made for this purpose. This will separate the wires by several inches. If you're using only electric fencing wire, there's no problem.

-- ~Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), July 09, 2000.

Snoozy, before you start get Premier's Fencing catalog! www.premier1supplies.com if I had all of the money I spent in barbed wire, then electric wire, I would have been able to put my third and final fence, field fence/cattle panels up right to begin with and still have saved money. Everytime we had lightening storms I was running out to the barn to unplug the stupid thing. The lightening would hit the fence and jump the arrester and blow the charger across the barn. My bucks would stand at the fence, and burn lines across their noses to ground it out and break through to breed whoever they wanted. Babies always were on the other side then decided not to go back through to mom! New stock was the worst, they weren't used to it, hit it and took out half of the wires trying to escape the shock. If you use it with the extenders about 5 inches away from other fencing, to keep the animals from rubbing, birds will light on the wire, touch the fence and die. The best is at night when you watch these little fires that the weed choppers start with the dry grasses that touch it during the summer, scarry! What a headache! Now if they had had this netting that premeier has, I would go with that, in fact I am thinking of getting some of the temporary fence to use as cross fencing in my biggest pasture/woods pen. Vicki McGaugh

-- Vicki McGaugh (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), July 10, 2000.

I've had my solar fencer (too much land for electric) in a scrub brush area (many acres) for many years. It works thru weeds. It has never started a fire. This is in an area that is lucky to get a couple of inches of rain a year.

-- Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), July 10, 2000.

I've had my solar fencer (too much land for an electric fencer) in a scrub brush area (many acres) for many years. It works thru weeds. It has never started a fire. This is in an area that is lucky to get a couple of inches of rain a year.

-- Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), July 10, 2000.

If you use electric fence wire holders on round metal posts, don't use bright colored ones such as red and yellow, or spray paint them black. We lost a hummingbird that landed on the wire and stuck his beak into the red wire holder - I guess it looked like the feeders that we put out for them.

-- Polly (tigger@moultrie.com), July 10, 2000.

we use a solar fence it works well with the goats once i realized i needed 5 strands starting at about 3 in from the ground. would i do it again no trying to open the "gate" and holding an animal and keeping who ever is in in is no easy task, our goats do not jump it yet but they will one day. i think it is time to save for a real fence. both my older kids have touched it once and the dogs try to get through it once note i said once!

-- renee oneill (oneillsr@home.com), July 10, 2000.

I put up a small electric fence around the garden beans one year to keep the rabbits out and soon afterwards I started finding dead birds around the fence. Apparently electrocuted.

-- R. (thor610@yahoo.com), July 10, 2000.

snoozy, we have two does and two potbellied pigs and a bunch of chickens all contained in our electric fence. i really cant believe that it is likely that many birds would be killed by it. i suppose it could happen, but not likely. i did happen upon a newt that had reached up to the first wire and was dead. it doesnt keep the chickens in very consistantly, especially the ones that can fly. we have found, however that the animals that have learned the lesson,will not go near the fence, even when off. we have accidentally left it turned off for a week and nobody noticed. of course the critters trying to get in would not be deterred, unless they have come across the fence when it's live. i don't think it is particularly cruel. it is very inexpensive, but can take some time to keep the weeds cleared under the fence... we have about a half an acre fenced now, and plan to add another acre next year...

good luck, john

-- john houser (farmrjon@juno.com), July 10, 2000.

i don't know about electric fences but have thought about one to fence in my pond to keep pot bellied pigs to hopefully make it at least a little water tight. this type of fence (if it works) appeals to me as i have a herniated disc in my back and i think i could put it up and maintain it and also i think would be cost effective. gail

-- gail (gef123@hotmail.com), July 10, 2000.

Thanks for the input, everybody! I'm still confused. I want to see what my husband's reaction to these comments are. Solar is not an option practically speaking in cloudy NW WA, but then electric storms are not very common here, so lightning strikes won't be that big a problem. I'm not planning on keeping bucks, so searing their persistence wouldn't be an issue. Electric would work better against coyotes, do you think? They are probably the only major predator around here.

-- snoozy (allen@oz.net), July 10, 2000.

The solar fencer packs the same bite as the electric. (Comes in 6 and 12 volt) ~ take it from one who's been bitten! The brand I have works for 21 days in no sun, but I live in the sunbelt, so I haven't tested that!! Unless the wolves, fox and coyote jump your fence, they won't be visiting!!

-- Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), July 11, 2000.

21 days with no sun?! The fall of '98, it rained from Nov 1 (the very day we got our strawbales stuccoed) until April or so. Mind you, it was the wettest winter in a hundred years, but 40 days & 40 nights is pretty common. Algae does grow on cars here, if you don't wash 'em. (But only on the north side, of course.)

-- snoozy (allen@oz.net), July 11, 2000.

I personally like electric fencing for animal and trespasser control. We have solar and a plug in electric charger in different areas. The solar costs more, but has a battery backup that does a fine job. It is easy to install especially with the fiberglass rods (for temporary pens). I can also look at the charger and know if the fence is "down" - you can't do that with barbed wire. I don't care much for barbed wire because of the damage it can do to an animal, through we use it as a lower strand on our cattle pens. My horses respect the electric fencing and we just put orange tape in intervals on the top stand to help them see it. If electric is not for you, may I sugguest you contact fencing companies and see if they may have some recovered fencing from job sites. We picked up 1000 ft of 6ft fence with posts for $300 just by going through the phone book and asking. It would take a pretty determined goat to get over a tall chain linked fence. By the way, I have uncounted free range chickens, and I never found one electrocuted.

-- Anne Tower (bbill@wtvl.net), July 11, 2000.

I also get almost all of my electric fencing supplies from Jeffers. Even with shipping they beat the local Co-op. On gate handles, they have a red plastic one they call good, a yeller (and yes, I said yeller. Have you every heard about the book called "Old Yellow") one they call better and a black one they say is the best. The black one is overkill in most applications. Of the red and yeller one, I've found the red ones resist rusting of the metal parts far, far longer, plus they are about one-third cheaper.

-- Ken Scharabok (scharabo@aol.com), July 11, 2000.

I have ranch fencing around my horse and her pet pygmy goat. Inside that is extenders for the eletric fence, top and bottom line only. (The pigs only needed a bottom line) The goat would get zapped by the eletric while trying to get threw the ranch fence. The horse only needed the top line and ground.

I lost my charger last lighting storm and the goat has gotten out three times since. I have alot of trees so bird don't alight on the fence. It shocks through weeds without burning them. But then, I'm in NJ with enough rainfall. I also got the charger from Jeffers.

One other thought. A friend almost lost a horse to barbless wire. It was too thick for it to break when her horse got tangled in it. Light gage wire was useless because it broke too easily. Get a mid- weight wire or tape to do it right. I found the combination of two fences worked the best for me. It also keeps out coyote and bear.

-- Dee (gdgtur@goes.com), July 11, 2000.

Polly's right about hummingbirds getting electrocuted by red or yellow insulators. The first year we had the fencing up we lost six hummingbirds. As soon as we discovered the problem we sprayed the insulators brown and no more birds were killed. I now avoid all colored plastic that could come into contact with the live wire. The hummingbirds were sticking their tongues into the drops of water that collected on the insulators. The water touched the metal posts and completed the circuit. Other than that problem electric fencing is great, properly installed for the situation, of course. Good luck!

-- Peg (NW WI) (wildwoodfarms@hushmail.com), July 12, 2000.

From my experience, and from everything I've read, the single most reason for chargers to not work properly is there are not properly grounded. Mine calls for three grounding rods (available at hardware outlets) to be spaced 10' apart, driven to below ground level and then connected to the charger with a copper grounding wire. Fortunately, I don't live in a large sub-soil rock area. I drove mine using a t-post driver from a step ladder, then a sledge hammer when the rod got deep enough. I've lost a couple of chargers to electric overload. Lightening doesn't need to strike the wire, just to get close. I go through a surge choke and then an arrester mounted so as to be easily replaced. Have only lost one charger since, and then lightening hit the electric fence within about 100' of the charger. Blew through all of my safeguards. Five years ago I was a strong advocate of electric fencing. I have mellowed a lot with experience since. They have their place, but cannot ever be fully trusted.

-- Ken Scharabok (scharabo@aol.com), July 12, 2000.

What a lot of information!

My experience with a solar charger was bad...the thing just wasn't reliable no matter how many grounding rods I had. I have a Bronco Zapper I bought from my sister and it works great with all of my goats except for my horned wether. He just orks up the courage and jumps through it!

As for the birds being killed, I have chickens and guineas and they go right through the fence. Every now and then one gets zapped and there is much squawking and complaining, but I have never found one dead from it yet.(Knock on wood.)

I have found many grasshoppers and walking sticks that get between the insulators and the hot wire and it does them in, but I haven't considered that any great loss. I haven't got any hummingbird feeders so I don't see too many of them around at all.

One thing to be certain of when using electric fencing is that you train the animals on it. It seems very cruel, but you have to do it or they could become entangled and it would kill them if it wasn't stopped quickly. For my wether that won't be trained on the electric fence I ran cattle panel attached to T posts. This is expensive but it is also portable and has been the only way to keep this particular goat where I want him.

I agree with a much earlier post here that said to field fence the perimeter and cross fence with electric. I wouldn't even consider using wood fencing in the wet climate you have described, especially for goats the fence checkers of the universe. Good luck to you!

-- Doreen (livinginskin@yahoo.com), July 14, 2000.

I have used or been around electric fences 60 yrs and have never seen a bird killed by them. I now use single strand e-fence(cross fence) for my herford beef cows and Belgian draft horses. I have had goats in the past and I would not try to use e-fence on them, because of the way they crawl under or jump over fences. I ended up with small mesh wire fencing, sometimes 2 layers high to keep them in. I also live in NW-WA and have never lost a fencer to lightning. Lots of luck on your project.

-- Don Atkinson (jatkinson@whidbey.net), July 15, 2000.



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