Alternative title – how to set up an electric fence.
I may have something wrong with my head because I’m finding it perversely funny to watch my animals get zapped by the new electric fence, which was a doddle to put up really.
Things you need;
Fence charger – I bought a reconditioned Dare Enforcer, 6J output good for 600 acres or so it says on the box
Polywire, high tensile wire, polytape or some other means of carrying the charge around the place
Ground rods – one for each joule of output is recommended, although I could only find four and one of these was an old prop shaft from some truck or piece of machinery
Insulated Ground wire, also known as Underground wire
A power surge protector for the input side of the fence
A lightning choke for the output side
An isolation switch, which allows you to turn the fence off in a hurry or from a convenient place
Jubilee clips, as my local store was out of fence clamps but these should do just as well
Tools; two screwdrivers, a hammer, some nails and some cable fasteners and some pliers or wire strippers to cut and strip the insulated cable and the electric fence wire if necessary.
I’m sure there’s more to a high-tensile setup but we’re just rigging up some polywire to keep the piggies in the area we want them, which will be our vegetable patch once they’ve finished ploughing it up and fertilising it for us.
So to start with you fasten the hardware to the wall. This is the charger, isolation switch and the lightning choke. I found I had to attach one of the ground wires to the bottom terminal of the lightning choke before I attached the latter to the wall as I wouldn’t have been able to screw it in otherwise. In hindsight I could have probably turned the screw around to the opposite face but what’s done is done.
Next you pound the ground rods in. These should be 6′ jobbies but mine are all varying sizes, from four foot up. We have heavy clay soil here so we should have no problem with them conducting, plus at least three of them were used as ground rods before and salvaged from around the farm. Incidentally a lot of people use rebar but my instructions said not to so I didn’t. The ground rods should go in 10′ apart from each other. Some people stick them in a triangle shape but I just did a straight line.
I then took my insulated wire, measured off enough to reach from each bit to each bit, leaving a little slack just in case I decide to bury the wire that trailed along the ground – might be easier if I ever need to cut the grass around there (although that’s kinda what the chickens are for). When it came to connect each bit to each bit I found that the tradition wire cutters were too harsh and the aluminium (or aluminum around here) wire inside was damaged too easily and subsequently snapped off when I tightened anything to it. I used the set from my old IT kit instead, which were perfect for the job.
I connected the wires up to each item as per the manual, using the insulated wire for everything as I got it for an amazingly good price of 25c a foot from Shur-gain in Antigonish. I think they must have screwed up as this was a third of the price that anyone else was selling it for but I kept schtum and got a deal.
I connected the ground rods to each other first, each ground rod attached to the next one in series although as a mod I might put in a couple of parallel wires to nullify any single points of failure. Next I connected these to the lightning choke, the ground fork of the isolation switch and finally to the ground terminal of the fence charger. I then cable stapled them all down in a logical manner and labelled what each bit was/did.
Next on the list is to run a wire from the live terminal of the charger (not yet plugged in let alone switched on) to the live terminal of the isolation switch. The pivot terminal then connects to the far end of the coil on the lightning choke (just in case you’re trying to do this without any instructions – the ‘far’ terminal is the one on the opposite side of the coil from the gap). The lightning choke is a great piece of kit just for the theory of how it works; there ae three connector, one going to ground, the other going to the fence and the last one going to either your switch or the live terminal of the charger. The ground however is separate from the other two terminals otherwise your fence would be shorting down that. It is separated by a gap of about a centimeter between two electrodes. Between the two live terminals there is a coil of wire. If lightning were to strike your fence it would travel the length of it and into this coil, where the magic of impedance or flux or just plain magic it is reversed, where it jumps the gap and travels down your ground rods and harmlessly into the earth.
The last bit of this phase is to connect from the lightning choke to the fence, again with your insulated ground wire. I joined this wire to the polywire with a jubilee clip on an insulator, the same as you’d terminate it as mentioned below.
The posts to attach the insulators to had been up for a while as we used them to mark out the vegetable garden as soon as the earth showed itself a couple of weeks back. You attach the insulators to these with either a couple of screws or some nails. Positioning is important – research what heights you need it for what livestock you’ll be keeping in (or predators you’ll be keeping out) beforehand , measure up each post and drive the insulators in at the appropriate places. Apparently you can get corner blocks but I didn’t – I just used two standard isulators at right angle to each other. What you’re attempting to do is make sure that the polywire etc doesn’t ground itself out on a fence or vegetation as this will either short your fence entirely or drain a hunk of zap from it.
I wound my wire around the plot area, threading it through the insulators- it’s pretty self explanatory. I then ran a length from one corner post to the pig pen, which is a load of 2x4s nailed together to make a very sturdy fence around the current pig pen, which became a total mudbath after the snow thawed and precipitated me taking the afternoon off from baking and getting this thing going on. I ran it through the end of the pen at about nose height to a swine, cut a corner by 45 degrees, ran it about halfway down the length of the pen then out to a handy post where I terminated it on a fresh insulator by tightening a jubilee clip around it, thus fastening the wire to the insulator. Note that I left this job until last, and a good thing too as one of the piggies was happily chewing through the polywire even before I managed to terminate it. ‘You won’t be doing that in a minute buddy’.
Finally I legged over to the coop where I installed the charger (under cover you see), connected it to the surge protector to stop any electrical surges damaging the charger then plugged the sucker in. There was a faint click accompanied by a blink fro the light, so far so good. I stepped outside, threw the switch on the isolator to the Live position then peered towards the pig pen in time to see it work – old Chewbacon there let out an alarmed squeal and legged it back to the opposite end of the pen.
The chickens didn’t seem too fussed by it, casually walking through the outside perimeter until one unluckily bald headed one ducked under it, squawked like a startled parrot then legged it across the field at warp speed. The drake kinda stepped on the wire and sauntered through but when his wife tried she made a noise like she had been goosed with an umbrella and she tried to fly away, but being a Rouen she just skimmed the ground for a few feet before coming to a feather ruffled rest well inside the fence.
Laura keeps suggesting I touch it, just to see if it’ll give one of us a heart attack but I believe prevention is better than a cure so I’ve put a big yellow rope up along it’s length to keep the boys and any visitors away from it.
Over the next few days I’ll move the part I’ve run inside the pen about a bit, just so the pigs know which bit gets sparky then I’ll try opening up their barrier and releasing them in stages. They’re clever critters though so I don’t think it’ll take too long.
Total cost; $244 Canadian
Dare Enforcer fence charger – $167 delivered from http://www.electric-fence.com … plus $17 tax courtesy of Canada Customs & Excise
Power surge protector – $9 from http://www.electric-fence.com
Insulated ground wire – $35 from Shur-Gain, Antigonish
Lightning choke & isolator switch – $16
Polywire – free from a friend
Insulators, ground rods, jubilee clips, posts – scavenged from the farm