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Fence Talk

 
                              
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So, I don't know a lot about fencing, but I'm about yo put up a ton of it.  We have 5.5 acres that we'll be fencing into 5 paddocks of just a tiny bit more than an acre each.  The front 1/3 of each will be pasture, and the back 2/3 will be wooded (heavily at first, but we're probably going to get a couple of small goats like Kinder or Pygora to help clear it, and also do some selective cutting clearing of trees).  So, we need fencing for these that will hold in a couple of horses, a few sheep and/or small goats, and a small flock of chickens and turkeys.  I think they turkeys will have to have their wings clipped, and we're shopping for lazy chickens that won't hop the fence.  But anyway...

I need a fencing option that I can put up with posts in the front, and nail to trees in the back.  It has to be tall enough for horses, and have small enough mesh to keep in chickens.  I've been shopping around, and am in sticker shock.  We're talking 4000 feet of fence, 200ish plus posts.  That's at least $6000, if I go for the cheapest woven wire deer fence.

Is there a cheaper option, that will be effective and safe?  I'm planning to plant blackberry bushes around pretty much the whole pasture section of fenceline, for berries, feed supplementation, and predator control.  Will that reinforce the fence enough to use a plastic mesh instead of galvanized steel?  I know the answer to that is probably a resounding "NO!", but I'm hopeful.

I can probably make most of my posts out of trees from the property, but I'm hoping someone has a good tip for saving money on the fence itself.
 
                              
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Spam spam eggs and spam!
 
Jami McBride
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Got the spam, saving the eggs 


As for the fencing questions - I see a few problems....

1. No plastic deer fencing will do - the coons, dogs, etc. will just bit their way in. Now if your taking about electric plastic fencing, and your going to be diligent on it's up keep then it's a possibility, however the goats and horses may still break out because it's just not strong enough to hold against accidental encounters - goats like to horse around you know.

2. To help deter chickens from going over the fence - make sure trees and branches are no where near the fence line (oops you've got a problem there as you were going to use trees as living fence posts - yes?)  This will be perfect for coons as trees are their favorite fence ladder.  For this situation I would go with electric wire outside the trees to prevent climbers.

3. Chickens and turkeys will want to roost in those trees, and sometimes fly down outside your fencing.  Clipping wings will help, only raising heavy birds will help, trimming branches will help and herding your birds into man-made roots at dusk will help; but nothing will guarantee no escapees.

So have you priced T-posts and a electrical system, solar with battery back up maybe?

BTW - chickens don't fly out, they always fly up onto the fencing/fence posts and then down to the ground outside.  They do the same with tree branches.  They don't like to fly high when heavy with weight, but those young light ones will give you grief every time.  A hot wire should stop 'em.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I have not been able to solve the fencing problem in an inexpensive way.  I can only say, I feel for you.  And warn you:  Don't try to cheap out by using electric fencing with sheep (they go right through it because they're beautifully insulated), or try to fake a fence out of brush piles (sheep climb over them). Good fences are an important investment.  Be sure you have a good perimeter fence, then the inner paddocks might be faked up with cheaper materials at least temporarily, though from my own experience I advise against cheaping out unless you absolutely can't afford the proper thing.

<<< learned the hard way. 

Our fences are still horrible - we never finished them - but fortunately the sheep just hang around the barn area hoping for a treat, not realizing they can just stroll right out through big holes in the 50+ year-old barbed wire fence that came with the place.... 
 
                              
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Nope, no electric fence.  Just woven wire and wooden posts.

I never thought of that about chickens in the trees.  I had planned on clipping one wing on each bird to try to keep them in.
 
John Polk
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"The grass is always greener..."

That is important to remember.  If you keep critters too long in one paddock, they will quickly see that there is better forage on the other side, and even the best fencing will be challenged.  As long as there is an abundance of tasty food in their pen, they will have less reason to try a jail-break.

Since it is not a garden/orchard area, you shouldn't worry about keeping deer out.  That alone should save you some $$$ on materials.

Your brambles will make a good hedgerow in several years, but in the mean time, you will need to keep your livestock contained and safe.  If your homegrown fence posts rot out afterwards, no big deal.

T-Posts are around $8 each (OUCH!), but I have often seen good deals on them on Craig's List.  They are often rusty/bent, but that shouldn't worry you for cross fencing.  Your perimiter fence is where you should put the bulk of your money.  It isn't that important if they escape from paddock #1 into paddock #2.
 
Jami McBride
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Yup, electric fencing doesn't work for everything, but I see a lot of Google hits on using it for sheep/goats, and of course it absolutely has to be done right.  Training the animals by baiting them to the fencing is a good idea.  Once they touch it with their face they won't go back to test out their fluffy parts.

Also with sheep you can build English berms (proper name?) about 3' high dirt mound with brush growing in the top, or stone walls.  They used to use many other things besides metal mess in the day.  This type of fencing would not keep out small foxes, coons and skunks - so I still think your back to several strands of electric wire, or some kind of metal wire.  I don't know about brambles for these small critters that love chicken and eggs, but you could give it a test and see.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Brambles probably won't stop varmints. 

Many of these alternatives take years or even decades to grow or construct.  We can see the glorious stone fences of Ireland and elsewhere (there are some impressive examples in my area) and not contemplate the years of hard physical labor and skill that went into building them. 
 
Brian Bales
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If you want a sturdy fence fast it will cost you. If you want a sturdy fence cheap it will take time. You can get a fence that will meet your needs but it will take 5 years or so to grow it. Osaga orange hedges are pretty cheap to plant and once established as a living fence they are effective but again it takes time. You could even mix other thorny plants like honey locust into the hedge and perhaps barry brambles too. Here is an artile from Mother Earth News about making an osaga orange hedge.
http://www.motherearthnews.com/modern-homesteading/living-fences-z10m0sto.aspx

If you want one right now well.... Posts and fencing are not cheap.
 
Leila Rich
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I've been trying to imagine a cheap(ish) fencing option combining your requirements and it's not happening Time/money and labour will not come together on this one!
For me, the real sticking-point is trying to incorporate chickens into your extensive system. Having to have a mesh fence  to keep them in seems like a massive outlay. Or am I misunderstanding and the mesh serves other functions?
Maybe not attempt to fence them in at all? If they're getting scratch feed to keep them 'at home' and there's plenty of free-range, they will generally stick around. My parents have chickens in a coop and (massive) run which is pretty much always open into the paddocks. There's so much food nearby that I've never seen a bird bother an escape attempt.
I think the US and NZ tend to have pretty different fencing systems. We are BIG on electric fencing here and there's a broad range of good solar battery systems.
If you run a hot wire along the top  of the permanent fence, there's lots of simple, easily moved strip grazing setups available.
It all takes a pretty serious outlay, setting up irrigation for stock not the least of it.
Joel Salatin has some good descriptions of setting up moveable water/shelter for rotational grazing.
Critter Caveat: I don't know your predators, but if they're a problem, a bit of fencing won't stop them!
I also don't know horses and I'm aware they have some specific vision/spooking/grazing/parasite issues.
I think barbed wire should be illegal. But with a bit of training, stock will quickly develop respect for an electric fence (Salatin has more on this. And yes, I think he could have many useful ideas for you).
 
                              
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What I'm learning here is pretty much what I expected - I'm just going to have to pay for a good fence.  Ans that's ok, the health and safety of my stock is the most important factor.  My pasture is going to be right beside a road - not a busy road, but when people come through in cars they're usually going pretty fast.  I'm not willing to risk letting anything free-range, not even the chickens.

After reading some of the comments on that Mother Earth News story about living fences, I know those are definitely not for us.  We'll go with good woven wire, and put it in as we can afford to.  It'll probably be a couple of years before we bring in any large stock, anyway.
 
                            
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A previous poster mentioned purchasing recycled T-posts.  You might also looking into buying recycled rolls of rolled wire fencing.

When I bought my farm twenty years, the previous owner had used untreated fir posts which rotted out in three years and the fencing around a 2 acre hay field was pretty worn out as well.  A few years ago, when I replaced the entire fence, was left with many roles of fencing.  Not perfect stuff but still quite serviceable when rendered into cross-fencing, chicken coop perimeters, bean cages etc.  And I gave loads of it away.

Someone might even give you fencing in return for the job of removing it for them.
 
                                
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I have also come to the conclusion that some type of woven wire perimeter fence is what I'll be doing as well. 90% of my perimeter fence line is also a tree line and past experience has shown me that for a number of reasons that is not a good combination for electric perimeter.  I'll be using wood posts in the corners and gate openings and metal t-posts along the lines with additional wood posts about every 50 feet. Eventually I will be implementing an intensively managed rotational grazing system.

My plan is to set the woven wire 3 inches or so off the ground with a sacrificial single strand of barbless barbed-wire wire below and another sacrificial strand or two of barbless above the woven wire. In my area, the bottom of the fences rust out first and I also want to protect the top of the woven from falling branches, etc. This should maximize the life of the woven wire and also allow me to use a shorter height which will be a little less expensive.

I will then run an electric line inside the perimeter fence along the keyline where my slopes transition to botton land. This will effectively divide the pasture in half for wet season grazing on the slopes and dry season grazing on the bottom. I will then run portable electric wire off the main keyline wire and adjust paddock sizes as needed.

My pastures have been recovering since 2003 and I too am shooting for livestock in 2012.
 
                              
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Any opinions on this fence? 

http://www.tractorsupply.com/fencing/welded-wire-fencing/welded-wire-48-in-x-50-ft--3626520

It's a bit less expensive than what I had previously been looking at.  The mesh seems close enough to keep chickens in, and to keep horses from catching a hoof.  I could put a board across the top too, at least on the outside perimeter, to raise the height by a few inches and reinforce it just a little.

Will chicks stay inside the fence with their mothers, or will they slip through and end up scattered all over?
 
Jami McBride
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2"x4" wire - chicks will go through, yes.  But they will also com back.
 
                              
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Kinda what I thought.  I can't imagine they'd go farm from mom.  Seems like that might be my best option, then.  A good blend of sturdy and inexpensive.
 
John Polk
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That 2" x 4"  is often called "no climb" because it is too skinny to get your foot into.  It will last much longer since people cannot climb on it.
 
Lolly Knowles
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WildIrishRose, I bought a similar fence last year to start a perimeter fence project.  The salesman at the farm store called it sheep and goat fence and pointed out features that made it a wonderful product for the price.  I plan to transplant wild roses taken from the woods to the fence row along the public road, both for beauty and to discourage poachers.
 
Erik Lee
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I have both sheep and goats that are well-contained in a paddock that's just made of electric poultry netting.  The key is to keep them moving through the paddocks.  I'm doing my rotation to shoot for about 40 days of rest between grazings, with a paddock shift every day or two.  My pasture was horribly overgrown with goldenrod and ragweed when I got here, but the sheep are really making a difference after just one season.  The paddock is about 80 feet on a side, and I have 13 animals in it (including a miniature donkey).

Anyway, back to fencing, my personal experience with sheep is that electric fencing works great for them.  Goats are a little more trouble, but they stay in too as long as you keep on top of the rotation.  Make sure that when you get them you put them in a place that will contain them while they learn about the electric fencing (I used a bay in my barn, with the netting set up next to the wall).  They'll touch it a couple of times and that's it.  One note, I do have hair sheep as opposed to wool sheep, so that might make a difference.  I don't think it will be a big deal though, because the shock is generally transmitted through their noses or mouths as they explore for forage.

If you want some personal assurance that electric will work for your particular sheep, I'd highly recommend getting a little poultry netting and doing what I'm doing.  It takes about 15 minutes to move the fence to a new place each day.  If you scrounge, you can probably get what you need for a couple hundred dollars.  I bought mine brand new, and my whole fencing system cost me about $500.  If you're interested I can post some more details about what I'm doing (a couple of tricks and stuff that might save you some time if you go this route).

I'm going to be converting my farm (20 acres) to high tensile electric fencing this winter and expanding my holistic planned grazing regime to include a few dry cows and some pigs in the spring.  The high tensile electric fence is the least expensive option that is still highly effective for all of that as far as I can tell.  The only downside is that you have to keep it charged.  However, it draws a very small amount of power and can be supplied by a tiny solar panel and battery/inverter system, so you don't need to have reliable grid power to keep it going.

I've been agonizing for a long time over the fencing issue myself -- my 20 acres is completely unfenced, and I was looking at a woven wire fence for just the perimeter (about 4000 feet) running $6k just like you said. My real ambition is to have a living fence of various thorny and edible species for a perimeter fence (and maybe even paddock divisions on contour).  I'm planning to use the high-tensile fence to keep the animals off of the hedge while it develops and keep my pasture in good condition at the same time.  That's the theory anyway...
 
                              
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Check out a brand called Stay Tuff. I dont know if it is avalable in your area, it is actually cheaper than the typical 2x4, designed better and since it is stronger, you need fewer posts. Now I am sure there are other better and maybe even cheaper but this is what I have been able to find.
P.S. 45 acres perimiter fence with cross fence to create 2 to 4 acre padocks is going to run about 16k  but like someone else said, do the perimitor first, then you can deal with the cross fenceing later
 
Brice Moss
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May I suggest step in fiberglass posts and tape style electric for your cross fences because it can be moved around it gives a lot of flexibility then you will know for sure where you want cross fencing by time you spend money on it
 
Tyler Ludens
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My sheep blasted right through electric fencing, but it was multi-strand, not netting.   

 
Brice Moss
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thing is you have to train them to the fence thats why I only use it for cross fencing I did spend a couple days putting the goats back where I wanted them after starting with the electric, but after a while they got the notion that touching the white tape hurts  and started avoiding them.
 
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