We’ve all heard that “good fences make good neighbors” and once you deal with animals it makes a lot more sense! While you may have the courtesy not to wander onto your neighbor’s property and scatter their mulch, the same can’t be said for your chickens! Hoofstock is a whole other ballgame – particularly goats. Electric fence for chickens and goats can be a lifesaver.
Electric fences have long been a great method for keeping different species of animal in (or out) of an area. If you chose to go this route you need to keep a few things in mind! They only work if they are hooked up properly and they require regular maintenance.
If you’re new to electric fencing or you’ve just never really thought about it, it could be helpful to understand how they work. Once you have a full understanding of what makes them tick (or not, if it’s done wrong) you can confidently pick the best setup for your electric fence for chickens and goats.
One of the most important parts of the electric fence is the energizer! Sometimes called fencers or chargers, these can be plugged in, hard-wired, solar-powered, or even run off batteries! The energizer will state how much energy they output and some even have a suggested mileage of fence they can reliably charge.
Pros and Cons of Solar Powered Energizers
Solar powered electric fence energizers are amazing when you don’t have easy access to electricity or need something a little more portable. They work by charging a large battery with solar panels and using that energy to power your fence all day and night! The amount of energy they put out is nothing to scoff at either and anyone who has accidentally touched a properly-energized solar powered electric fence can attest to that!
Even the best placed solar energizers can run into problems when the weather is cloudy or rainy for an extended time or if there is a lot of vegetation on the wires, draining the charge. They can sometimes lose charge overnight if they’re already struggling, which can leave your animals exposed to predators or able to escape. Take these problems into consideration when deciding on an electric fence for chickens and goats.
Another of the most important parts of the electric fence system are the ground rods! You want to pick an exceptionally conductive metal, like copper or galvanized metal, to get the most shocking results. Electric fences work by an animal completing the electric circuit, so they require the energizer to be connected to the actual ground they walk on.
When the animal contacts the wires it completes the electric circuit through their body, into the ground, then into the ground rods and back up to the energizer. This delivers quite the startling shock! You can see why you need three, long metal rods for the fence to function properly!
This also means that electric fences will not shock birds that land on them and may not be as effective if your ground is not very conductive. Wet ground conducts electricity a lot better and leads to a stronger zap while dry, rocky ground can result in a weak fence that’s easy to ignore.
You don’t want your electric fence for chickens and goats grounding out and becoming useless, so you’ll need good insulators! These are plastic, sometimes ceramic, parts that hold electric wire, rope, or tape and are designed to be attached to wooden posts or T-posts. Don’t skimp, because cheap insulators can degrade or disintegrate in sunlight, pull out of wood posts, or just flat out break under tension which results in the fence shorting out or grounding and losing power.
The Wire (or tape, or rope, or…)
Last, but not least, are the wires! You will often see plain metal electric fence wire used on farms because it is inexpensive compared to some of the fancier rope or tape options. You can find both aluminum and galvanized at most farm stores and they are both good choices for your electric fence for chickens and goats.
Aluminum wire is nice, because it is lightweight, is more conductive than steel, and is easy to bend and work with! Unfortunately, it also breaks easier and is significantly more expensive. If you ever go to the agricultural supply store, pick up a roll of each type of metal. Yeah, the aluminum is much more appealing to carry around the perimeter of your pasture!
Galvanized wire is much stronger and cheaper than aluminum, but it’s heavier, harder to bend, and not as conductive. It will still pack a punch, so if you need something a little beefier you’ll probably want to go with this metal.
High-tensile electric fence wire is usually even strong and thicker, but requires a lot more work to install. These wires are best used for permanent fences to contain larger animals like bison or cattle. Polytape and polyrope are a strong, most visible option out there. These are both pretty tough to break due to the braided polymer filaments, although not impossible.
If you have poultry or goats there’s another option out there for you – electric netting! Both of those species can be tricky to contain, so an electric fence for chickens and goats with smaller openings is ideal. Electric netting also keeps small predators out easier and many are sold in kits that include the posts, so they’re easier to set up.
Electric Fences for Poor Soil
If you live in an area that has super dry or sandy soil and your normal electric fence doesn’t work well you have a secret weapon! To bypass the need for moist ground you can set it up so the fence or netting alternates hot and ground wires. You may see these called positive/negative, hot/ground, or pos/neg netting or fences. When the livestock touches both types of wire they get a zap, even if the ground is totally dry! Alternating hot and ground wires for your electric fence for chickens and goats may be a great option in your area.
The one catch is that not all fences or nets can work with this method. You need to keep the ground and hot wires separate, otherwise the fence will not function. It is easier to convert a wire fence, but netting can be impossible. If you know your soil is just not going to work well for a standard electric fence, be sure to look for the pos/neg alternative! You can always convert these to a regular electric fence if needed by using ground rods and connecting the net’s hot and ground strands.
Electric Poultry Netting
Poultry are pretty small, so they can be tough to contain using an old-fashioned wire fence! Their predators are also pretty small and can slip under or through wires that are not spaced properly. Poultry wires will need to be spaced very close together to prevent them from squeezing through. The “varmint wire” needs to be close to the ground at all points! Electric netting is easier and quicker to install and can be more effective for containing small animals.
If you are planning on pasturing your poultry then moveable netting can be a great option! A strong energizer will deter many predators and prevent the chickens from escaping. Easy-to-move step in posts allow you to change the area they have access to without a lot of trouble. You will want a taller fence for some of the more lightweight breeds like Leghorns and Araucanas. You can get away with a short fence for heavier chickens that are less prone to flying, like Orpingtons and Barred Rocks.
Even birds that can clear a fence may think twice if there’s nowhere for them to jump. Keep trees, shrubs, wooden fences, coops, and other structures away from the poultry netting or wire. This makes it more difficult for them to comprehend that they can just fly over it. Most chickens and many turkeys won’t simply jump over the fence. Instead they want to jump onto it and then jump down on the other wise.
A thin wire at the top can discourage escape attempts! A desperate or neurotic enough bird will still escape if they can fly that high, though, so consider the characteristics of the breed you’re trying to contain. For exceptional naughty birds you may still need to clip their wings.
Electric Fencing for Goats
Goats are even tricker to contain than chickens due to their inquisitive, stubborn nature and strength. They have a knock for getting into things and you can expect them to regularly test your fences! They love climbing and standing on things and can really wear on your fences over time. In addition, goats with horns have been known to get tangled up and stuck!
Even the best installed electric fence might not be enough to keep a goat contained! Males can be extra persistent during rut. Other goats have been known to jump fences if they’re not at least four feet tall! You may need to have a secondary, more physical fence set up if you have a super stubborn individual.
Setting Up Electric Wire For Goats
Due to their smaller size, goats need fence wires spaced much closer together than you would for horses or cattle. It is recommended to use about 5-6 strands of wire per 40-42” fence posts! This might seem like a lot, but it is vital to keep them from sticking their heads through! If they were to be able to reach the other side the shock of the fence could startle them. This may inadvertently drive them the rest of the way through.
Large goats or goats with exceptionally thick coats will likely need more voltage in their fence than smaller ones. A more powerful energizer will also compensate for lush vegetation or drier ground. It can prevent larger predators, like dogs or wolves, from slipping through. It’s safer to err on the side of higher voltage than buy a weak or underpowered energizer!
Electric Netting For Goats?
You’ve seen electric poultry netting, but does it work on goats? Absolutely, yes! As long as the netting isn’t too large and the fence is installed and powered properly you can be confident that your goats will stay safely in their designated space.
Many types of electric netting for goats is moveable, which means you can rotate them around the pasture as needed. This could save you money in the long run, because you don’t have to worry about making the whole pasture electrified and goat-proof and can customize your pasture management and improve production! Carefully managed pastures can greatly reduce your feed bill as well as the costs for seeding or applying herbicides. This netting option can be perfect combo for your electric fence for chickens and goats.
Alternatives to Electric Fences For Chickens
If you are more worried about sky predators picking off your chickens you’ll probably want to consider constructing a covered run or a covered chicken tractor. Both of those could benefit from the addition of an electric wire or two on the outside. So you don’t want to right it off completely.
Ideally, you’d use a welded-wire fence with small openings. This kind can be buried about a foot deep along with a roof or welded-wire top. Hardware cloth is ideal for poultry applications. Poultry are at risk of attack from small animals like weasels, rats, and snakes. Use hardware cloth and bury the fence, and keep it covered. You now won’t worry about anything digging under, tearing through, or diving from above to nab your chickens.
There are chicken tractor designs out there that allow you to safely move your birds to fresh grass daily, but keep other predators out. Poultry are generally locked in the coop at night to prevent those nighttime diggers from snatching your birds. Again, even these chicken tractors can benefit from some electrification! You can try the Pos/Neg style for the wires or buy some of the easier-to-move ground rods.
Alternatives to Electric Fences For Goats
Goats have their own set of optional fence design! You can try cattle panels, just be aware that small kids might be able to slip through. Goats could get their horns caught. There are panels for other species, like hog panels or feedlot panels, that may work better. Welded wire fences generally work well, but goats tend to slowly wear on the welds with their shenanigans.
The best non-electric option? Woven wire fencing made for goats! It stands up to the abuse goats dish out. Woven wire has small holes to prevent them from sticking heads through, and can keep predators out. Just be sure it’s installed correctly and pulled tight! Again, added in some electric wire can help reinforce the fence and keep persistent predators out.
Electric fencing is great for both chickens and goats, depending on the area you live! While it is mostly a psychological barrier, it is well known to deter predators and keep even the largest livestock contained. Provided that it’s installed correctly, that is!
Many electric fences can be cheaper than board, welded, or woven wire fences. This makes them a very attractive option! No matter what type of fence you chose just be sure to factor in the time and energy it will take to maintain it.