need ideas on cheap wooden fencing : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I just bought 16 acres of mostly wooded land in the Missouri ozarks. I'm having about 5 acres of it clear cut to start a pasture. The perephery fencing needs a lot of work and I will have to buy T posts for that part of it but I need a way to separate pastures and build interior fences and pens. I have access to all the wood I could ever want so I thought it would be a good idea to try and build fence out of it. I'm running a bit low on cash (aren't we all?) so free stuff is great. I'm considering the old split rail fencing but must admit I'm not looking forward to splitting the darn things. Most of the work will be done by me and my 12 yr old son. Oh and digging post holes is going to be a big problem as we seem to have more rocks than soil around here (hit one in the garden that I finally gave up on unearthing and now I am telling everyone it is a landscape I'm looking forward to hearing all the creative alternative ya'll will come up with. Thanks Amanda

-- Amanda in Mo (, December 03, 2000


Amanda, I have a reprint of a 1900 book titled Fences, Gates and Bridges and How to make them. It may be helpful. has it for $6.47 + shipping. Has quite a bit on rail fence.

Is it possible to have a portable sawmill cut some of the timber up for you? Even if you don't use it for board fence, I'd sure like to have some laying around my place. Save the small trees for poles (3- 4" approx). Save the Black Locust and the Cedar for posts, Also catalpa. If you have any of these. Osage orange or Hedge apple make decent posts too.

Money is always a problem. See if you can get used wire somewhere. The state sometimes changes the fence along the big highways. They use good stuff (our money of course) Used to be able to get it free or cheap. Look around when ever you go somewhere. I find a lot of stuff by eyeballin' and then just asking about it. Ask farmers around if anyones got extra or old stuff laying around. Might get some cheap.

I don't much about electric fence, but I would think if you can get The posts from your woods, it might not be to expensive. I'm sure someone who knows more about this will point you in the right direction. John

-- John in S IN (, December 03, 2000.

I have recently returned from Haiti and thought they had a rather neat way to fence. If I were clever I could draw you a picture and send it but I will try and describe it. Almost like a picket fence but just with the sticks and posts. They are almost all rock so freqently it is just kind of made in panels and wired together with wire that looks like electric fence wire. It was actually quite nice to look at but cheaply done. I have a picture I could scan and send you if you can receive. Let me know. They use it to fence livestock OUT, since all livestock runs free there. diane

-- diane (, December 03, 2000.

Since you cannot dig postholes, you might want to make a fence by (I'm trying to think how to discribe what this will look like)zig zagging split poles. You alternate where they meet so there is a space inbetween. /\/\/\/\/\/ I'm not discribing this well, sorry. Willamsburg had fencing like this everywhere. I did a small area for decoration and it looked great. You could run an eletric fence inside to keep goats in. If you make it high enough, it should keep in horses, cows and sheep. Maybe someone else can discribe it better.

-- Dee (, December 04, 2000.

What she is describing is a Virginia rail. Uses a lot of lumber, but was effective in stock control. The goats would see it as a plaything without the electric fence, though. The man I bought my goats from uses nothing BUT electric fence for his goats. Two strands. 70 head. Amazing.... Good luck!

-- Gailann (, December 04, 2000.

Dee, Are the rails just attached to each other and nothing else? Would the bottom row rest on the ground and the other rows stacked on top of each other? I have seen pictures of this kind of fence but never thought much about how it was constructed. I like the idea of not having to dig postholes.

-- Amy (, December 04, 2000.

Hi All;

"Building Fences of Wood, Stone, Metal & Plants" by John Vivian.

This is available at your library. Will answer all of your questions.

-- JR (, December 04, 2000.

We're going to be dividing up the pasture for rotational grazing.It seemed the least troublesome way for you might be the temporary electric.You'd have to get one good solar fence charger,but you would move it from pasture to pasture as needed.This is the "temporary" part of it.The fencing itself is posts with, wire and insulators.I'd recommend the aluminum wire,with the solar fencer, to better ensure sufficient charge in the lines, in the winter months.

If you have rot resistant trees like mentioned in a previous post, then,you've got yourself the post material.I'm trying to remember what the goat cooperative told us on fencing.I thought they were recommending 5 strand for goats, but I could very well be wrong on that.We are just working out these details ourself, and got help from the District conservationist.We probably will end up going with barbless wire and a strand or two of temp. electric for back up.Don't know if this helps you any.

-- sharon wt (, December 04, 2000.

The number of strands of electric fence you need for goats depends on how well trained they are to it. We had goats going out of electric net fencing, which has lots of strands, but with good training they might be able to be kept in with three strands -- I believe the recommendation for internal paddock fencing for sheep is three strands, once they are trained to it. But the charger needs to be a good hot one. Splitting the rails for a zig-zag fence is more leverage than sheer strength, but it would be time-consuming to fence a large area that way, and, yes, I'm sure goats would figure out how to get over it! It does have the advantage, though, of needing no fence-posts, and if combined with a strand of good hot electric on the long stand-off insulators, should work well. Eventually the botom rails would rot, as they are sitting right on the ground, but when that happens, all you would have to do is add a rail or two to the top, instead of ripping the whole fence out and replacing it!

As far as the rocks are concerned, we have several "landscape features" in our garden!! My husband bent his big prybar trying to get some of them out, and finally decided to just pile some more rocks on top of them so he could see them when he rototilled!

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, December 04, 2000.

Lets start with three rails. Lay one on the ground. The third you lay on the ground the distance away that is slightly smaller then the second rail. -_ This makes it possible to place the second rail top. Nail the second rail onto the first and third rail. Then continue with more, making it longer and higher as you go along. I was trying to think of something to use instead of the bottom rail, like a rock but couldn't think how to secure it. I used short pieces to make the ends on one side and let it angle on the other.

-- Dee (, December 04, 2000.

I guess I should have told ya'll what I was wanting to keep in the pastures. I'm not a goat person....probably will never have them. I do plan to keep a milk cow, couple of calves, sheep, and a couple of horses(I have a daughter at that 'age' or I wouldn't have the horses). Electric fencing really isn't an option because of the high price I pay for electric here and it really isn't a good area for I really don't care for it :o). I want fencing that is made of wood and rocks. There are no portable saw mills in this area....believe me I wish there was!! Also the land is not real level in some places. Thanks for the ideas so far. I'm hoping someone will come up with something other than split rail for me.

-- Amanda in Mo (, December 04, 2000.

I'll try to explain what's used around here when digging holes is not an option. Two poles are nailed or wired together near the top and then braced in the middle like an "A". The "A's" are used to nail cross posts to and support the whole thing, so the A's would stand north/south and the cross posts would run east/west. The cross posts are always nailed on the side where the livestock are kept.You can go up as high as you want, depending of course on the height of the A's. I hope this makes sense. Julie

-- Julie (, December 04, 2000.

When my sister and I started raising sheep in the '70s we got a lot of our wood supplies from a local glass company. They would ship large glass doors and windows in crates made from 1'x6' and 2'x6', usually 6 or 8 feet long. We used them for fences, feeders, salt boxes, anything we could think of. I don't know if they still ship in wood anymore, but it's worth a few phone calls.


-- Jenifer Schwabauer (, December 04, 2000.

I'ver beeen eyeing pallets, stacked up by the dumpsters at so many of the stores around here.

-- Leann Banta (, December 04, 2000.

Here's something I saw intennessee and out west-RR ties alternately stacked to make a fence,abt 3 in each section.Maybe you could come up with a way to use good sized tree poles the same way,flattening them at each end for a flat stack.Also stone pillars with poles inbtween should be a possibility ,but takes some time.Sounds like you have the stones.We have drystack rock fences in central KY that have been there centuries now, so a dry stack pillar should hold up as long as you start it broad at the base and work up narrower as you go from there.It sure would look pretty, I'd say.

-- sharon wt (, December 04, 2000.

Built 2 miles of4 strands of barbwire fence for price of wire. Used several hundred split white oak post from the timber I made and sharpened myself. Don't need to dig any holes except for the corners. Just punch a hole with a crowbar and drive the post with a post hammer. Will last 10 to 15 years. Don

-- Don (, December 04, 2000.

I agree with Don on the barbed wire fence, I know, a lot of folks refuse to use it, but it is the absolute cheapest way to go, and if you run a strand of hot wire just inside of the fence ( there are 6-8 standoff plastic holders you can get at the farm supply stores), the horses and other critters will not get near it. You said you don't like using hot wire due to the cost of electric, why not use the solar chargers, they cost just a bit more than the plug in ones, and you can run miles and miles of fence from just one charger, and not need to be near an electric outlet.

You can cut and split your own posts, it's not hard, if you can operate a sledge hammer, you can split fence posts, it's all in using the right kind of DRY wood, locust, catalpa, and osage split the easiest, and last forever. After sharpening the end with the chain saw, you hire someone with a post driver (mounts on a tractor, runs hydraulically) to set your posts. Then you string your wire, 4 or 5 strands are best, and your done. If you don't want to split posts, you can buy them, usually 2.00 a piece around here, or just use t- posts, they are 2.00 a piece also, and you can drive them by hand, not with a sledge hammer, but with a fence driver, 15.00 where they sell the t-posts. I am not superwoman, but I can set at least 30 posts over a day or two, and not be too sore from it, just don't try to do too many all at once, spread it out, so your body gets used to it, and can heal itself in between.

You can put up several miles of fence using t-posts, and barbed wire ( you can use smooth wire if you insist, but the vet has stitched up bad smooth wire cuts, as well as barbed wire cuts around here) for less than 300 dollars if you are creative about it, ask for some hints at your local feed store, they are good help in these mattters too. Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (, December 04, 2000.

Annie I am very familiar with barbed wire fences. I used to run my Granny's 1200 acre ranch in texas....I have strung miles and miles of it. The problem with T posts is they have to be driven in the ground. Now I am pretty stout but I can't drive them through rock. I saw a fence being built around here about a week ago and they were using a backhoe in order to drive the posts! The reason solar powered fencing is out of the question is we have a lot of cloud cover just isn't a good area for solar. I'd cut fence posts but I can't dig post holes through rock either. I want ideas for use with a nice wood lot. Our forefathers dealt with this problem....anyone have any idea how other than the traditional split rail fences? By the way my woods are mostly oak and a few pines..maybe a few small scrubby cedars. I agree with a lot of the suggestions for most areas of the country. I'm sure I'm not the only one on here that has more rock than dirt to work with.

-- Amanda in Mo (, December 04, 2000.

Lots of rocks? Then as you clear a garden area, stack the rocks for a rock fence!

-- Evelyn Owen (, December 04, 2000.

Another idea besides the "A's" that I should have said, seeing as how we have the following fence at our house, due to the same inability to drive posts, is to use rock cribs to anchor the cross posts. The cribs can be made of wood but field fence is cheaper. Wire cribs are made about 2-3 feet across and filled with rocks. Posts are placed in the crib about every foot or so as they are filled. Holds great, looks good and are indestructable.

-- Julie (, December 04, 2000.

Amanda, Since you are having 5 acres clear cut, that would be allot of logs and branches. How about taking all the big leftover branches and just laying them down in the line you want your fence. Just go higher and higher all the way across. Like a hedgerow, for rabbits and birds to live in. The small trees will grow back in the line, and get some brambles, wild black raspberries. Plant little shoots in there. On our other farm we had brambles along the fence lines and nothing will go thru that. And all the birds just love them. I quess you could do that with your outside line too, it sure would be neat. And you're not going to have goats to climb all over it or eat it. I have always wanted to do that, completely natural fences. I hate barbed wire.

I don't know about gates and pens without digging holes. If you knew where you wanted them first, have them leave trees there, and wire up some field fence (bought with sold logs) If I were you I'd put my house smack dab in the middle of that 16 acres. Lucky you, I don't have any woods at all, I wish I did. I have 12 acres of grass.

-- Cindy in Ky (, December 05, 2000.

Our forefathers used living fences made out of something thorny, like osage orange,also waddle fences,branches weaved in and out of cross poles.Also dry stack stone, and stone pillar with cross pole fences as described in my previous post.Others too I expect, but they were also not quite as concerned with escapees,as they had more acreage and fewer neighbors and no cars to potentially run over their straying stock.Keeping predators at bay and keeping livestock out of the crops were the main concerns.

As Cindy said we also utilize living trees as our posts.We've also thought abt getting black locust seedlings and planting them where we want posts and waiting til they grow.They do grow quickly,and we can get them from division of forestry really cheap.Anyone tried this?

Annie-what's you opinion on barbless wire? I tried it for the horse to aviod the barbs, but it didn't deter the calfs. Had to also put two strand of electric with a solar charger on their side of the pasture ,for the little buggers.Grass greener on the other side deal.

BTY folks,I'm in KY with I believe a similar climate to Missouri, except wetter, and I get enough sun with a good solar fencer and aluminum wire to maintain a charge sufficient for a horse or cow. Don't know about goat though.You don't need to be out west in the semi arid desert to use solar anymore. Now if you don't like getting shocked or the aesthetics, then that's another thing.Understand that.

-- sharon wt (, December 05, 2000.

Sharon, I have seen some really nasty cuts from smooth wire, it was the high tensile variety, and it cuts like a knife, right to the bone, very ugly! Now, smooth wire, if its aluminum, and hot, is the perfect solution, especially if you run 4 or 5 strands of it, so the critters aren't tempted to get their heads through it. It's soft enough ( you can work it by hand) to break, not cut, if an animal gets caught up in it. The downside is it's more expensive than smooth ( steel) wire, but it is reusable, and lasts forever (doen't rust). You can get it from farm supply stores, or Jeffers, or KV Vet Supply, in different guages, and lengths. I found that Jeffers is the cheapest, even with the added shipping cost. Their number is 1-800- 533-3377.

My four beloved Arabians are in 5 strands of barb wire, with hot wire on top to keep them away from the fence, and they do respect that! They can tell when it's on without even touching it. I would love to be able to use all aluminum wire for them, but we have over 15 acres of pasture, and the cost of that much aluminum wire (5 strands) would be just too much, so we had to compromise a bit. Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (, December 05, 2000.

Hi annie-The barbless wire isn't the smooth wire that you mention I don't think anyway.You're talking high tensile, right? The barbless wire I got over in horse country outside of Lexington at TSC,and it was supposed to be for horses.It looks twisted just like barbed wire, just no barbs.A little more that barbed costwise, but not much.I've tried it but am wondering what others have thought.

-- sharon wt (, December 05, 2000.

I've got it, I've got it! Run the wire or woven fence tree to tree. It isn't the straightest line but it works. I ran woven wire. Ranch/farm fence - 330 feet on a roll, $90 each. (an acre is 200 x 200) If you are clearing the trees, you could leave the boarder trees for the fence. My horse and goat have been clearing the trees in their pen by ringing them. I put this fence on my own property. I guess I was thinking of you doing something with the trees, not on them. Sorry.

PS My horse took a chunk out of her leg on barbwire. Don't like the stuff. Still think one zap of eletric works best.

-- Dee (, December 05, 2000.

You're staring at your own free materials right now. Since you are clearing land and yanking out the stumps for pasture, build a stump fence. The uprooted stumps are placed on their sides with the cut trunk facing inward, next to each other, forming an impenetrable barrier. If your trees aren't big, you may have to stack them. Stump fences were quite common where land was cleared and more useful than burning them. Any crew clearing land or cleaning up storm damage around you may give them away as well.

As Dee pointed out, you CAN attatch insulators to trees and string hot wire. We won't use barbed or smooth wire around horses -- too dangerous. We've stitched up way too many. Running smooth round- braid hot fence (looks like a strung nylon rope) has worked out well for our horses, the tape stuff kept breaking, esp. in winter.

Other Julie was describing (I think) a running buck fence. I've also seen it done with free-standing tripods of poles that hte cross-rails were attatched to. Dee was describing a running zig-zag, aka Abe Lincoln fence. I am willing to bet that neither one will keep a horse in, much less a cow. If our horses know the electric isn't on, they're leaning on the fences and pushing them over almost immediately. On looks alone, I'd say that the zig-zag is the winner (along with a good drystack stone), but if you want to keep them in and safely, electric wire is the way to go.

-- Julie Froelich (, December 06, 2000.

As for using solar in Missouri, I can't believe it wouldn't work. We run 5 Parmak 6 Volt fencer here in central IA from April until January and never have a problem. I can't believe that there would be anymore cloud cover down in Missouri than up here, in fact, I think Iowa gets more clouds. Also, a fencer that plugs into an outlet will only use about a dollar of electricity/month, now that's cheap fence. We just got done putting in 1/2 mile of six strand high tensile fence and the total cost is going to be around $950. That's with 3 8'x5" corner and brace posts on each end, and 7'x4" posts for the line, and we put the line posts every two rods, so that cheapened it up a little. Now, I know you said you can't drive posts or dig post holes in your rocky ground, so here's my recommendation: there's a fellow in northern Missouri who sells fiberglass sucker rod posts to be used for line posts in high tensile fence, and you can drive them by hand just like a T-post. Now I would think that as long as you don't hit a big boulder, that these posts would kind of bend around through the rocks as your pounding them in. I know a guy in southern Iowa who uses these and he says they put these posts 3 rods apart in the line and they only use 4 wires, now that's CHEAP fence! I guess I would urge to at least try a few of these before starting your split rails or piled rocks, it would be so much faster. And once you get on to putting in high tensile, it goes so much faster and easier than barb or woven. That half-mile fence that we built, it took us 4 hours to drive the posts with a tractor mounted driver, and 4 hours to string the 6 wires, and about 2 hours to put in the braces and brace wires, that's only 2 man-days!! It took us twice that long to tear out the old rotten woven and barb that was there. High tensile is good stuff.

-- dave (IA) (, December 10, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ