Electric Defences

Posted by on Oct 8, 2010 in Chickens, Farm Blog | 32 comments

This ‘Fowl Friday’ our focus is keeping our pullets safe from predators.  At Curbstone Valley we’re striving for a balance between the native wildlife here, and the domestic feathered inhabitants of the farm.  As much as we’d like to give our hens and pullets free run of the property, it’s neither practical, nor safe.

New Electric Fence Sign

Most of the property here is fenced in by mother Nature, as we’re surrounded by some very steep slopes.  However, this means that predators have relatively free-run here. As such, our poultry has always been ranged under at least some degree of supervision, as brazen bobcats and cunning coyotes are not afraid of making their presence known, even during daylight hours.  When we can’t supervise them, the pullets have been in the enclosed run during the day.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are a common sight at Curbstone Valley

With so many projects going on, at various locations on the property, it’s become increasingly difficult to range the hens, and be close enough to intervene when a marauder wanders through looking for an easy meal.

Siegfried is tough, but he's no match for a bobcat

Siegfried, our Partridge Plymouth Rock rooster, although vigilant and mindful of his girls, is no match for teeth and claws.  He does do an excellent job of squirreling away the hens in the coop if danger lurks, but there is invariably a hen or three that doesn’t listen, becoming potentially easy fodder.

This is where our new portable electric poultry fence helps to bolster our defences.

This electrified net fence helps protect the pullets while out ranging

There are a number of poultry net-like fences available on the market.  We elected to go with a heavy-duty portable fence, primarily so we can move the hens around the property as we need to.

Each 100' section is lightweight, with the posts built in. It's easy to store when not in use, and easy to install

We purchased a 100 foot linear section of fence, along with an energizer, to power the fence.  We can add additional 100 foot lengths of fence as needed by connecting a new fence section to one of the terminal clips.

Terminal clips at each end of the fence enable additional 100' sections to be connected as needed

The fence is not self-powered, and requires the use of an energizer (power unit).

The fence is powered by this energizer

We chose to use an energizer that runs off house current, as we have power outlets at various locations on the property.  Portable energizers, and some solar powered energizers are available, however many require the use of sealed, non-rechargeable batteries, which can become expensive, and potentially sends a lot of batteries to the landfill.  There are many options available though in portable fence systems, so it’s worth doing your homework before investing in one.  With net fences it’s imperative to use an energizer rated for that style of fence, or the fence may melt!

The fence is not effective against aerial predators

This fence will not protect the hens from aerial predators, like hawks, as you have to have at least one foot on the ground to be shocked by an electric fence. We’ve found, at least here, the hawks, although frequently sighted circling above, don’t seem too interested in the chickens now they’re grown.  The pullets are getting quite large now, and no hawk, not here anyway, would realistically be able to fly off with one.

Hawks make the pullets quite nervous when they circle overhead

This fence likely won’t stop a determined mountain lion either, but there hasn’t been a sighting of a lion here for a few years…hence our thriving deer population.

For ground-roaming creatures though, including stray neighboring dogs that have been a problem recently, when they walk up to the fence directly it should help to provide a short, sharp correction, and teach the offender a lesson in respect.  After all, there’s nothing like 8,000 volts to a wet nose to help get a predator’s attention.

This 8000-volt fence is currently set up forward of the existing coop and run

While the girls, and Siegfried, have been adjusting to their new enclosure, we’ve left the fence terminated at each end of the existing run.  This permits the hens to still use the nest boxes in the coop, and provides a more secure hiding place if a persistent predator should wander through.  Our intention though is to ultimately move the fence around the property, but to do that we ideally also need to build a small portable shelter with a couple of nest-boxes for them while they’re on range, so the girls don’t start laying eggs in the shrubbery.

The girls now have the freedom to forage every day

For now though, the girls seem to be enjoying their new set-up.

That said, our fence isn’t bomb proof.  In part because our variable slopes here can actually make it quite easy for a predator to launch itself over the fence.  We have to consider this during fence set up.  However, on level ground, this gives the girls a fighting chance against intrusion, and gives them the opportunity to be out on range every day.

The chickens are much happier to be out running around every day

In our recent Gardening with Chickens post we mentioned that in an effort to protect your seedlings in the garden, a small fence to corral the chickens can be helpful.  Depending on your situation, a fence such as this can be useful, especially if you have over-inquisitive dogs, or your property borders on wild-land.

Don't be fooled...just like any wild predator, some dogs have high prey drive and would love to catch a chicken!

Our high prey-drive young Labrador hasn’t yet met the new fence…no doubt she’s in for a shock!

***UPDATE: Before investing in this style of electric fence, we recommend you read our subsequent post “Cat Among the Chickens“***

32 Comments

  1. The portable electric fence sounds like a good fit for the chickens. Well, against their predators I mean. I’ve resisted putting up an electric fence here for the time being. If the local deer herd gets any bigger we may have to reconsider.

    Thanks for another Fine Fowl Friday. There’s nothing like listening to some chickens happily clucking away!
    villager´s last post…Sunflower- Squash and Sweet Potato Stew

  2. Bobcats a common sight? Lordy, I’m such an urban animal, I can’t even imagine encountering one of these beautiful…if unwelcome visitors! (I’m a cat lover, as you can tell, no doubt.)
    Round here, in my town/county, I hear every sort of story about chickens being abducted, killed, or even disappearing for a variety of reasons. I have great respect for the responsibility involved in raising them in a way that takes so many variables into account.

    I do hope one day to visit Curbstone Valley Farm;~D
    Alice Joyce´s last post…High Line Open House New York

  3. I too am thrilled at the thought of encountering a bobcat in the barnyard… Though of course I should not like to spy one hauling off a hen, if I had one. Hope your new fence does the trick!
    Zoe´s last post…The rain gauge runneth over

  4. That is one handy-dandy invention there! As usual, I love your chick photos. They are such pretty creatures. And the bobcat! That would be a rare encounter in my neck of the woods, though certainly not unheard of. I’m not sure I’d have the presence of mind to grab a photo if I saw one though. We had a black lab many years ago that would nab songbirds mid-flight in the backyard…much to my dismay. I continue to keep notes on your chicken-rearing just in case I ever take the plunge.
    Floridagirl´s last post…Learning Curves and Growing Pains

  5. Have you heard of Maremma sheep dogs? Quite a few farmers in Australia use them to protect their poutry from dingos, wild dogs and foxes and they are great pets as well apparently. Not sure how they would go against a bobcat. This farm is just near where we live – http://www.rarechooks.com.au/?page=161
    They may be worth a try if the electric fences don’t work out.
    Missy´s last post…Whats in flower at the moment

    • It’s a good idea, and I love Maremmas. We’ve discussed livestock guardian dogs before, although more in the context of ‘if we add goats to the farm’, as others near us have lost goats to mountain lions recently. It seems here if you have goats, sooner or later you will see lions. Our poultry flocks are quite small though, and our coop is very secure at night, so I’m not sure we could justify an LGD for the chickens at the moment. It’s just the daytime while they’re on range that’s the trouble, and we could go back to a large area enclosure system if the electric fence doesn’t work out. Part of the issue we have here for a LGD is the ticks are phenomenal (thanks to the deer), especially during the tick-bloom in spring and early summer. It’s tough just picking them off our couch-potato dogs, and they get a monthly tick-repellent. A shaggy dog, with tons of ticks, would be a full time grooming job! 😛 It is something to consider further though.

  6. One of my pink roses is called Chaim soutine. Which always makes me think of Fiddler on the Roof. To life, to life, La Chaim!

    Erm we are having a senior moment here – but nature conservation uses (?) large dogs to protect sheep against the Cape leopards.
    Elephant’s Eye´s last post…Pink Ribbon 1 – Winter Chill

  7. Dear Clare, The portable electric fence looks to be an excelent idea for deterring predators. Light and easy to move, it obviously gives planty of freedom of movement for the chicken whilst not being incredibly burdensome to erect.

    As for Bobcats and Lions…..what a wild time you have at Curbstone Valley!!
    Edith Hope´s last post…Bathtime

    • I love that we can pick up the fence, move it, and reinstall it in less than 15 minutes. The chickens have figured out to give it some healthy respect, and now too has our dog! She met the fence this weekend while staring down a chicken, and needless to say, the score was Fence 1, Wet Nose 0. She won’t go within about 8 feet of it now!

  8. Haha, I like that sign…protects against any wandering Germans that happen to try and get in. Well it does! ‘Elektrozaun’ appears at the top of the list! And very fitting that there is a ‘Patriot’ to protecting your perimeter against said Germans!

    I don’t know why this post conjured up so many absurd images in my head. Like the one image of dogs, cats, deer, hawks…all lying unconscious around the outside of the fence. I’m too silly today..my brain is like a Monty Python skit.
    Kyna´s last post…Gasoline &amp Matches

    • LOL…I agree, your brain is like a Monty Python skit. The visual was hilarious 😛 I’m just grateful that bobcats and coyotes can’t read!

  9. I hadn’t realized there were portable fences~Everyday there are more fun goodies to tempt us. Good thing that the fence protects your chickens from the temptation they are for bobcats and dogs. gail
    Gail´s last post…Bumble Bee Hotel

    • These portable net fences were fairly new to us too. People who range sheep apparently have used a very similar product for some time, but we’ve never kept sheep, and weren’t aware that there were electric fence systems this simple to set up and install. The only real difference with the poultry net fences is that the wires are closer together at the bottom of the fence, so a small chicken couldn’t just walk through it. So far I love it, and it couldn’t be easier to use.

  10. I am very interested to read about your electric fence. In a dfferent garden and incarnation, we used to keep chickens and right now COULD again apart from our badly trained terriers, local foxes and a fairly plagueish amount of rats round here. I think the elec fence could be the answer. I wonder whether energiser translates into battery in UK speak?
    CatharineHoward´s last post…Celebrity pin up

    • The energizer isn’t the battery. It’s the unit that sends the power from the battery (or house electricity) to the fence, and regulates the voltage through the fence. The unit we purchased is a ‘dual energy’ energizer, as it can be run off of a portable 12 volt battery if needed, instead of plugging it in to the wall. Other names for an energizer here in the US include ‘fencer’ or ‘fence charger’.

  11. Great info – and very timely for us as we are looking into electric fencing. We’re considering it both for the chickens and the goats we’d like to add to the farm! We have problems with coyotes and other dogs, but I don’t envy you the bobcats!
    Aagaard Farms´s last post…The Garage Runneth Over!

    • I actually love seeing the Bobcats, and this portable fence system is great because it keeps the chickens separated from the bobcats, but we don’t have to fence across the trails that the bobcats use as they walk through the property. We don’t want to stop them coming here, or using this land to get to where they need to go, we just don’t want them picking up ‘chicken to go’ on the way through 😛

      There is a similar fence product, just slightly different net style, available for sheep/goats. If you have the flat range land, I rather like this portable fence idea if only so your flocks aren’t stuck grazing in one spot. Being able to move them around, without building miles of permanent fence, is definitely convenient.

  12. Oh, some days I read your post and imagine what it would be to be a chicken at curbstone valley… It really sounds like a wonderful life (well, unless you’re Frodo). Great bobcat photo! I’ve seen them once or twice on hikes, but they don’t come close to where I live.

    • Awww, Frodo has a good life too. He’s probably more spoiled than the rest of the flock 😛

      This Bobcat came within just a few feet of me. I was actually sitting down on the ground, and he wasn’t the least bit afraid of me…although I felt a little threatened at one point as he walked toward me, staring intently. We had one bobcat climbing the outside of the chicken run one morning. As I ran out of the kitchen door, he climbed down, and started charging toward me with a look of ‘hey lady, get your own chickens, these are MINE’ 😛 They can be quite bold!

  13. You need the Superman there, to guard those beauties! I should admit that I am a big fan of bobcats, they are such beautiful animals!

    • I’m a huge bobcat fan too, we’re so lucky to have them here!

  14. It’s astonishing that a post about chickens can be so interesting to someone who doesn’t keep any. (Me!)

    I love their chatter. If there were CDs of them, I’d have one on by the back door all the time!

    I’d be wary if I were a chicken and a hawk circled over me!

    What a lovely photo of a Bobcat. Did you take it yourself?

    Esther
    Esther Montgomery´s last post…GREENFLY AND GARLIC

    • I did take that photo. I’ve been fortunate to have had a few very close encounters with these gorgeous creatures. Most of them are quite shy, but some seem quite tolerant of a camera lens.

  15. Electrifying post. But seriously, really informational. You do have to be on the look out for predators because chickens are really easy prey I guess. I would be taking all precautions too if I lived where bobcats roam. In Pennsylvania, mountain lions used to come and take the new foals. That was devastating. I love chickens and could not bear to lose even one of them.

    • So sad that the mountain lions would take the foals, but I suppose to them they look like an easy meal. 🙁 It is challenging keeping animals safe from predators.

  16. Dear Clare – nearly missed Fowl Friday – a fave read at the end of the week. So impressed with the professional way you take care of your hens in the wilds of CV and yet the love you give your girls. Some superb shots of their gorgeous plumage and what a shiny dog.

    Laura
    PatioPatch´s last post…Triple Ten Day Garden Blogs

    • I cheated on the shiny dog…she’d just had a bath, so she was extra sparkly that day 😛

  17. You really do have a WildLife Habitat! Happy Fall!

  18. Sounds like a great plan to protect them and if I was a chicken I would want to live on your farm.
    Also, your lab is adorable…very pretty dog!
    Amy´s last post…Now- where did I plant those bulbs

  19. An electric fence, of course, that’s the way to go. If I ever decide to raise chickens (which has been on my mind for a while but the timing is still not right for me) that’s what I’ll have to do too, because of predators. Too many bobcats, raccoons, coyotes, foxes… I’ve even see a mountain lion around here.

    Thanks for the very informative post. I look forward to your poultry update every Friday.
    Angela´s last post…Cucurbits

  20. Nice fence! This is what I plan to do when I get my “dream farm”. Did the chickens quickly learn not to touch the fence? I would worry about a couple of mine that might get shocked several times before learning not to touch it…
    Jackie´s last post…The sophistication of chickens is questioned in Carmel

  21. I want a few of these so badly but can’t make up my mind about size or energizers. I can see myself using them for chickens, goats and pigs. And if my pigs get out one more time I’m going to be forced to make a decision rather I’m ready or not. They are much worse escape artists than goats are.
    Elizabeth Wilson´s last post…Building a permanent greenhouse with cattle panels – part 1