Answers to your gardening questions
effective Deer Fence!
Fence That Really Works!
All those nibbling, browsing, tromping-around deer! All those big, really stupid, club-footed, urine-spattering—and sometimes snarling—dogs. We don't want either deer or someone else's uncontrolled and untrained dogs...in our gardens!
So...what's to be done? Shall we throw our hands up in defeat and frustration? Or shall we fight back? (!) Not being quitters, we decided to do something to keep both types of critters out of our gardens and propagating beds. Here's our solution: a short, not-terribly-expensive and, so far, completely effective electric fence——one that really works!
First, understand that any deer worth his or her salt can stand on one side of an electrified wire fence six feet tall and, with little effort literally pop straight up into the air, clear the top wire...and land on the other side—with no more consequence than the expenditure of a few calories. But... and this is a big but—they simply cannot (from a standing start) leap up a little over three feet, go across another three feet...and land safely on the other side.
Mine is a double fence....spaced three feet apart and only three feet tall. Remarkably, those seemingly stupid deer are smart enough to instinctively know they can't jump the horizontal distance...and also know that they don't want to get caught between the two sets of wires. And, thankfully, they're just stupid enough to not be able to reason out that if they backed off and got a running start they could actually make the leap successfully. Fact is, they'll often slowly approach the outer wires, get to within a couple of feet, stop, sniff the air and curl their upper lip, then turn and walk away...because the charger on our fence is really hot (a thirty mile fence charger on about a quarter mile of wire). They sense the electrical field even before they touch it. Deterrent enough, most of the time.
Take a look at the photo on the right and I think you'll get the idea. Click on the picture for a little larger image. The stakes are metal for durability so insulators are necessary to keep the wires away from shorting out. Stay away from flimsy plastic or fiberglass rods. They just don't hold up.
Four-foot stakes are driven in about a foot in a double row approximately three feet apart, every fifteen or twenty feet—all around the area to be protected. An insulator is installed about 18" from the ground, with a second at the top of each stake (or at 36" high if the stakes are taller than needed). That makes gaps of about a foot and a half between the two wires. Most farm supply stores sell devices that can be used to create insulated gates. They'll tell how to install them. The picture below, on the right, shows fence insulators. Click the picture for a little closer view.
The picture at the left shows a close-up of an insulator on a metal stake. Click on the picture and you'll see that I've taken several turns of wire around each insulator. That may be the only "flaw" in my system. In that condition, any really large animal (like a moose or wayward cow, for example, blunders into—and through—the fence, it'll get tangled in wires and probably pull several sets of posts right out of the ground. Not making several turns of wire around the insulator...but rather letting it just pass through will allow the wire to stretch, eventually break...without jerking stakes out of the ground. Moose, by the way, seem to know little about the dangers of electrical jolts; it just seems to make them mad...and they keep going in a straight line. So, when a moose rips it down or all apart...that's when to throw your hands up in defeat!
What about dogs? To make the fence work for (or against) medium to large size dogs, use three wires a foot apart, the lowest one a foot off the ground. Most dogs are intelligent enough to quickly learn that getting too close to a piece of colored wire is not the comfortable thing to do.
Words of caution:
When the fence is finally ready to turn on, it'd be a good idea to hang small pieces of aluminum foil or non-rusted tin from the middle and top wires—smeared with a dollop of cheap peanut butter. Deer cannot resist it...and can detect the tempting odor from quite a distance. The result: they concentrate on the odor of something good to eat instead of the electric field, walk right up to the irresistible delicacy, stick out their tongues, get zapped in a really sensitive spot...then leap back and run off into the woods or neighbor's yard. It may not work for some dogs...but I've never seen one who'll turn its nose up at peanut butter.
You'll have to watch for fallen limbs, built-up snow that grounds out the bottom wire during winter, and anything that can electrically bridge the gap between a "hot" wire and the metal stakes. Like a big, wet slug or caterpillar.
One final note: It'd be best to install the fence before the deer establish their feeding habits or preferred trails. And if a deer somehow gets inside...you're in trouble. Open the gate, don't frighten the animal, walk slowly around to the outside until you're opposite the now-open gate, cross through and try (try) to steer it out the gate.
Does it work every time all the time? Well....a qualified yes. Occasionally a deer—terrified by oncoming, horn-blowing traffic on the road out front—will come charging off the road in the dark, now blinded by car headlights, and literally run through the fence. Can't do much about that. And once—only once, mind you—a particularly nimble-footed and clever deer actually stepped between the wires. We had to show it the way out.
Oh... and good luck!
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