Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Electric Fence

Toward the beginning of our serious-about-getting-pigs talks, I expressed concerns about them getting out of whatever yard we'd construct for them.  When Princess and her friends lived at our neighbor's last summer, they occasionally broke through their fencing.  They didn't cause much trouble when they were out but I knew how I hated it when a chicken or two of ours gets out and meanders into our neighbors' yards.  I know they say they don't mind but *I* mind.  And, I didn't like imagining a giant pig roaming the neighborhood with me chasing it with my broom and a bucket of scraps.

Jamey told me we'd solve that problem with electric fencing.  Electric?  This relieved my broom-wielding, pig-chasing fears but what about our kids and all the other kids that come to play at our house?  Would they accidentally get shocked?

Well, I didn't quite have the right picture in my head of how it would be set up.  Jamey installed real fencing and, then, using re-bar and these nifty yellow extender things, attached the electric fencing several inches inside the real (post and wire) fencing.  For a child (or adult, for that matter) to get shocked, they'd have to deliberately reach through the regular fencing and touch the electrified wire.

The current on the kind we purchased is pretty low (and cheap) - intended for smaller animals, like chickens even. The pigs don't like it either. We felt so bad for Spock the first day we turned it on. He was already a jumpy and nervous pig but once he touched it a few times, he went a bit crazy- running all over the yard, accidentally bumping into it in other places only to yelp and run again.  Thankfully, it only took him (and the other pigs) a day to learn to stay away.  When they see us approach the fences now, they first get excited- thinking we've brought scraps- but they stop when they see that yellow wire and come no further.  We are able to feed them scraps and have easy access to them through the barn.

Another benefit of using electric fencing is that we can section off the pig yard easily with it by repositioning the re-bar stakes.  This allows us to limit their access to one part of the yard so the rest will grow up. The idea is to transfer them to a new section once they've depleted the first section's food supply. Imagine a funnel with the narrowest part being where the pig yard meets the barn. They'll always have access to the barn and water at the narrowest part but the upper, larger part of the funnel (pig yard) is what is being divided.

In the picture below, I'm standing inside the barn looking out.  Just beyond the large tree to the right, the electric fence cuts straight across to the left (hard to see), sectioning off part of the back of the pig yard.

Jamey has tried out the fence- a couple times on purpose and a couple not.  It gives a nice little jolt but nothing too terrible.  So he says.  I've decided to take his word for it and always make a point to tell our guests not to touch the pretty yellow wire inside the pig yard.  That's a mild trade off for not having to chase after pigs so I'll take it.
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  1. But I love the mental image of you chasing the pigs wielding a broom! ;)
    We use electric fencing to protect our chicken tractors and rabbitry from predators. I was also concerned about folks accidentally bumping into the wire, so we hung yellow duct tape "flags" at intervals along the fencing. It doesn't bother the electric fence, and it (usually) keeps folks from a shocking experience. I'm fascinated by your pig entries; we are seriously considering one or two for our experiment next year. Thanks for the updates!

  2. I don't blame ya for not wanting to try it out! I would be right there with ya.

  3. Imagining you wielding a broom and chasing a pig reminds me of a book I recently read called The Good Good Pig: The Incredible Life of Christopher Hogwood. It's a relatively light read and definitely had it's amusing moments as the pig repeatedly broke free from his home. Enjoy your pigs!

  4. Hi Jane!

    Having grown up on old fashion beef farm (not a confinement operation, one with real pastures) I can tell you from personal experience that brushing against an electric fence as a child is memorable but won't really hurt anyone. Getting crowded into one by a rowdy cow or steer is a bit more memorable and hurts a bit more, but you at least get a good story out of it. Getting into one while, um.... doing something that little boys occasionally do outside is something you never, ever forget and genuinely hurts, but does no damage.

    That little confession being made, we had a big 'ol 'Weed Chopper' fence charger that would burn off weeds that grew up into the fence. In all the times I got into the electric fence from young childhood on I never got a burn, a mark (other than minor barb wire cuts) or suffered any damage. You may well end up comforting your kids when the accidental "oops" occurs, but they will all be fine, even if they do get the occasional 'zap'.

    I love reading about the goings on in your family and look forward to your posts.


  5. Have you seen this before?: Sounds like it does what you did but sets up and takes down a lot quicker :)

  6. Have you seen this before?: Sounds like it does what you did but sets up and takes down a lot quicker :)



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