Tips and Tricks for Electric Goat Fence Installation
Fence Design and Driving Posts:
After you have worked out the basics of your electric goat fence, there are quite a few nuances to be concerned about
one of them is the overall design of your fence, crossing obstacles, and driving the posts. One key point to remember
in an electric fence is making sure your fence lines are clear. You don't want weeds or brush touching the wires and
you definitely don't want the fence coming in contact with the ground. This is less of a problem if you are building an
electric fence for cows (which I am told can often be contained with a single wire), but with goats, you need alot of
wires right to the ground. So, I had to do a good job of clearing all the weeds and brush out of the way (including a
few downed trees) which was quite a challenge (see above). It makes the most sense to clear the brush first and then
start pounding in the posts. Another tip (which I didn't do, because I was lazy, but now regret) is to put corner posts
in, then run string between them. This will help you to keep your fence lines straight, as it is difficult to eyeball this,
particularly in heavily wooded areas like I have.
Once you have your fence lines clear, it is time to start pounding in posts. Here you have a couple options: a hammer
or post driver (see below). If you only have a few posts to pound or you happen to be Hercules or Thor, you can use a
standard hand-held 2 pound "sledge" hammer. This is really tiring to do after awhile, and it is difficult to both hold
the fence post and hammer at the same time. If you don't fancy this, you can also invest in a fence post driver. This
really makes short work of driving alot of posts. The one I bought is spring loaded, so it "bounces" back after each
strike. However, I am sure even a basic model will be better than a hammer. The downside of the fence post driver is
the cost (mine was like $40) and it is obviously good for only one thing (unlike a hammer) and the weight. If you only
have a few posts to drive, who wants to lug this 30 pound steel driver all through the forest? Better to just bring a
hammer. Whatever you do, don't think you are going to drive T-posts with a regular 12 or 16 ounce nail hammer. You
can try it, but it won't work.
After you have driven your first few posts, you may come in contact with a few obstacles. Downed trees and branches
are easily removed, you can work around rock walls by removing a few, but sooner or later you will come to a valley or
rut of some type. The best way to handle this type of obstacle is to be sure the posts are always at perpendicular to
the ground (don't pound the posts in at an angle on the down or up slope, stay even with the ground, as you want the
wire to lay flat across all posts). If the rut is small, simply put one post at the lowest point and one post at the top on
either side (see below).
Another obstacle you may come across is a stream or brook. I am pretty sure it is legal to fence across any stream or
brook on your property that isn't "navigable" (which this one obviously isn't), and providing you don't impede water
flow, but you should check you local laws. At any rate, this little brook routinely dries completely and in the spring
completely floods, so for this reason I raised the bottom wire a bit, and "doubled up" a wire on a single hanger, this
will work fine if all your wires are "hot" (see wiring section). Another thing to remember is how to orient the wire
hangers. For this fence I have the wire hangers on the inside of the fence. However on corners, you want to reverse
this and have the corner posts facing outward. Remember you are going to put some level of tension on these wires as
you tighten the fence a bit. So, you don't want all that tension resting just on the "hooks" of the hanger. Instead you
want the corner posts turned around so the pressure is on the back part of the hanger.
Generally Fence Wiring Tips and Gates:
Wiring seems pretty easy. The charger has a place to hook up the hot wires (the fence) and the ground (the ground
rods. Easy right? Well, there are a couple of things to consider. One of these is do you want to rely just on the ground
rods or do you want to have a ground wire in the fence. I chose not to, but there are some advantages to having a wire
in the fence connected directly to the ground on the charger. If you have extremely dry soil, this can help improve the
shocking power of the fence. It will also improve the shocking power even if you do have a good ground. However,
there are some disadvantages too. The goat will have to hit two or more wires to get a shock (at least one hot and one
ground). Also, if the ground wire slips off and hits a hot wire, you will short out the fence, and you need to be careful
doing things like "doubling up" on the wires (see the stream example above). Basically, if you have a good ground,
and a powerful charger, you don't need to do this.
Another thing to consider is isolating the bottom wire or wires. This makes the wiring slightly more complicated, but
if you get alot of snow (for example) or if you fence across a stream that might flood (see above) or if you have alot of
weed growth mid-season (and don't clear it all the time) you might want to have a way to shut the power off to the
bottom wire or two so you don't drain your fence. Because of the high voltage involved in electric fencing, you can't
use regular switches (like you would buy at Radio Shack) because the current will arch across these. Instead you need
to use old fashion "knife switches" like you would see in those old Frankenstein movies. I got stainless steel knife
switches at Tractor Supply for like 5 bucks (see below). Now it is easy for me to shut off the bottom wire for any of the
Now another thing to think about is wiring across other fences. Part of my electric fences backs up to my regular goat
fence. Now one might be tempted not to run electric wire in this area, but remember the previous lessons on my first
page! You always want the fence to be in a complete circle or square, so I wanted to carry the current across this
section of the fence to connect up to the far end of the electric fence. To do this, I just used a single strand of
aluminum wire with screw in insulators (below).
Now this single strand of wire goes about 200 feet. To connect it up again, I hooked this wire up to another knife
switch (to keep the bottom wire on its own circuit) and then used some insulated wire to connect this to the bottom
wire, while another wire coming of the knife switch kept the other four wires hot (see below).
Also sooner or later, you are going to need a gate. As I mentioned on the previous page, I made wooden gates (see
below). Wooden gates are far more sturdy and convenient than those "spring hooks" you can buy. I used those screw
in insulators to connect the wire to the edges. However, the problem is to carry the current across the gate. For this
you have two options: You can run the wire overhead or bury it underneath (I did both for certain locations). To run
it overhead (uglier, but slightly more durable) simply build a frame over the door above head height and run a wire
over the top (below). For this you can use regular wire (non-insulated). To bury the wire, you need to use insulated
wire and line clamps (see below). This isn't prefered because it if the insulation fails your fence will short out easily,
also it is easy to damage by stepping or tripping on it, etc. You can bury it in conduit if you like, but I was too lazy.
Note: Because I have the bottom wire isolated I needed to bury two wires, obviously you only need one if you don't
do this. Merely run one wire and connect all the other wires together with a "jumper" wire.
When you finish all your wiring, you need to check all your connections and your fence shocking power with a fence
voltage detector. You generally can't use a regular voltmeter, (unless it can handle 10,000 volts or so). I bought a
high-end digital voltmeter for fences (about 30 bucks). However you can probably get away with a cheaper one (that
just has a serious of lights for around $10. Anyway, to test the fence you simply need to stick the probe in the ground
below) and touch the electrodes to the hot wires. This is displaying about 4,600 volts because I have a tree that fell
across the wire and is shorting it out somewhat. Normally this charger keeps it around 8 or 9,000 volts, so I know
there is some kind of problem already (without having to walk the whole fence line). A fence tester like this is an
absolute necessity! Invest in one.
Once you get this all done, all you need to do now is "train" your goats to the fence. Some sources will say put a hot
wire in their existing enclosure and try to force them to touch it (put food behind it etc.) to teach them about the wire
before you expose them to it. I was too lazy to do this, so I just put them in the field. Well, when they touched the
wire the first few times, they just busted straight through the fence! Then they got scared of even going in the
paddock with the electric fence! They literally wouldn't go through the gate at all. However, after awhile they got used
to it and now they don't touch the wire at all. It took just a few weeks or so. Now everything is great!