McDougal • Orchards

Electric Fence then and now

Baiting the electric fence with peanut butter

Baiting the electric fence with peanut butter on the aluminum foil.

When I retired in 2009 I checked the voltage on the electric fence surrounding both orchards. I found that both orchards had minimal voltage. So I started to do some research.

Video of numerous deer in the Main orchard

I replaced the ground. Three, three foot galvanized pipes placed 10 feet apart (interconnected) by the house field fence. I then replaced the wires that run from the charger to each fence. The Main orchard (or Back Orchard) is over ¼ mile from the barn. Eventually both wires had to be buried.

There were 7 to 8 strands of 12 gauge high tensile galvanized wire spaced about a foot apart on fiberglass poles. The fence was held up with wooden posts by the gates and caorners. I grounded the bottom wire then alternated hot, ground, hot, hot, ground, hot, ground. There are 3 gates in each orchard. The gates have 5 to 6 spring closures per gate. They look like long slinkies. I had to run a new underground wire between each gate opening. This was so the fence had power all the way around when the gate closure for a gate was open. If you are careful with the slinkies you can open them without getting zapped. A huge issue with these is if they get tangled with one another I could spend hours untangling them. Talk about frustrating.

Gate closure iced up

This is an ice encrusted Slinky electric fence gate closure. The gate openings were 20 feet.

Before I started all this work one of the fences got hit by lightning and it blew the fence charger (in the barn) off of the wall into numerous pieces. We had to replace it.

Electric fence charger in the barn

This is the This is electric fence charger in the barn showing 9200 volts

I was pleased when I tested the fence and had over 9,000 volts on it. Before winter came we baited the fence. We wrapped a small piece of aluminum foil around a hot wire (with the power turned off) and slathered it with peanut butter (See the picture above). You can also buy metal bottle tops with a cotton ball in them and they have a wire to attach it to the fence. With these, you purchase a bottle of apple scent to put on the cotton ball. The smell of both will attract the deer. Hopefully they take a lick and get zapped. This should train them to stay away.

Here is what I learned.

Electric fences are best suited to keep domesticated animals in and they don’t work very well for keeping wild animals out. When when we get a lot of snow it can cover a hot wire which reduces the voltage going through it. If we get a foot or more of snow and there is a gale of wind from a westerly direction the snow can cover most of the wires with only one or two showing above the snow. This has happened 0n the easterly side of the Main Orchard. At this point you can grab a hot wire bare handed and you might feel a tingle.

8 Foot Woven Wire Fence


Woven wire fence being stretched into place

We had some young trees that the deer decimated. They ate the fruit buds, next years apples, and the deer did so much damage that these young trees weren’t much bigger than when they were planted.

So we installed an 8 foot woven wire fence around both orchards. 3 gates in the House field and 4 in the Main. So far not one deer has gotten into either orchard. Well, a couple of times when the crew left the main gate open we had deer wander in. Then we spend quite a bit of time trying to chase them out of the orchard.

Some of the old electric fence wire and posts still surround sections of the orchard.

3D Electric Fence

Between the barn and the House Field orchard we have a number of fruit trees that are not fenced, apple, sweet and sour cherry and pear. In the winter and early spring the deer come in overnight and feast on the fruit buds. We have a few small cherry trees that have been eaten back.

deer feeding around fruit trees

Deer between the barn and the House Field fence, during the late afternoon.There is a temporary plastic fence around the 3 small cherry trees.

So this year I decided to try and keep the deer out. We still have the electric fence charger that we used to power both electric fences. It’s usually used in the spring/summer/fall to keep critters out of our small garden with 5 foot T-posts and 4 poly wires.

I put in 7 foot T-posts and ran 6 poly wires in an effort to keep the deer out. I had alligator clips between all the poly wires so I could disconnect lower wires if the snow covered them. Well that didn’t work very well. I have a camera mounted to the barn and a deer (or two) jumped the fence. A few wire strands were parted.

I remembered watching a video of 3D Electric Fencing. Apparently deer have something called “landing anxiety” which means they are not sure where they are going to land if they jump the fence. They don’t see things like we do.

Elecric fencing attached to the barn
Elecrtic fence wire attached to the barn
3D electric fence

Coco under the 3D electric tape

Three feet outside the 6 strand fence I used electric fence tape attached to fiberglass posts about 3 feet off the ground. The ends were attached to one of the 6 strand poly wires to get voltage. The energizer is applying 9.3 volts to the fence. I did not bait the fence. So far the 3D fence is working. I am trying to remain optimistic but I have this nagging feeling that if the deer can’t find enough food in the forest they will go right through the fence to eat this years fruit. Fingers crossed.