Pest animals do serious damage in millions of home landscapes in this country. Yet, with all the commercial repellents and home remedies tried by homeowners to prevent this critter damage, there is really only one tool that is almost 100% successful, and that tool is hardly ever used in the home landscape. I’m talking about an electric fence.
How may people do you know have an electric fence to protect their vegetable or flower garden from critters including deer, raccoons, rabbits, and woodchucks? I don’t know anyone and have never met any suburban or exurban homeowner using such a device. So why is the best tool never used to solve such a common yard care problem?
There are three reasons for this fascinating dilemma. First, having lived in the country I have seen lots of electric fences systems and every single one is nothing but horribly ugly if we visualize it being used in any person’s back yard. Secondly, the systems used by farmers are not appropriate for home landscape use (too powerful and too expensive) and the systems that are appropriate for home use are not sold anywhere in metropolitan areas. Finally, the information most people think they know about electric fences is either wrong or terribly exaggerated.
I am currently using an electric fence system to protect my vegetable garden which I believe to be effective and is aesthetically acceptable considering the alternatives. What I’ve done is combine a new fencing system recently developed right here in Michigan by the Jaguar Fence Company (www.gardenfence.com) with an electric fence system from the Fi-Shock Company (www.fishock.com) which was developed to contain pet dogs in a yard.
The folks at Jaguar have developed a fencing system that is easy to install and by using landscape type colors (green and black) produce a fence that is not unattractive while still doing its job. They have invented a ingenious little tool that comes with each system that virtually guarantees your being able to set every fence post absolutely vertical. There is also a very simple but useful gate design. While they offer a number of different fencing materials, I chose a 36 inch tall chicken wire coated with dark green plastic. It is almost invisible at a reasonable distance. The fencing is installed with 6 inches of the bottom of the fence sunk below the surface of the soil to deter tunneling rabbits or woodchucks. A standard system 150 ….costs. ___???
This is a good looking fence but deer can still jump over it and raccoons can easily climb it. I needed an electric fence system integrated into the Jaguar system, and the Fi-Shock Company has just the ticket. Their “pet fencing system” works with either D cell batteries (?$)or with solar batteries (?$). You do not use the standard electric power from your house as most of the commercial systems do. While the systems on the farm have electricity running through the fence 24 hours a day, increasing the electric bill, the Fi-Shock system uses what is called the “New Zealand” design which uses electricity only when the animal touches the fence and receives a shock. Also unlike the farm systems which will short out when any weeds grow up and touch the wires, the New Zealand system is designed to continue to function even if some weeds are in contact, a situation you will find in many vegetable or flower gardens.
I rigged a wire to go along the top of the posts of the Jaguar fence and then again circle the garden from additional short posts rigged only ten inches high. The top wire stops the deer and the lower wire stops the raccoons. Both the battery charged and the solar charged energizers have on and off switches so you can turn the system off when you are working in the garden. This system is not strong enough to repel deer if they are starving or in very high numbers and needing food. It does work for the browsers who have lots of food in other places, but love to nibble the delicacies of your garden.
Now let’s address some of the misunderstanding that surrounds electric fences. The shock of an electric fence is in no way dangerous compared to receiving a shock from your home electrical system. The shock from the fence isn’t really painful. It is more like a very high frequency buzzing the is so uncomfortable you have no need to hold on to it for more than a half a second. On the animals, the effectiveness comes as much from the surprise as from the discomfort. It usually takes only one hit from the fence to convince rabbits to stay away and no more than two or three to discourage the raccoons and the deer.
If you have a pet cat or dog, it may have a need to investigate this new device sitting in their territory. They will, like the rabbits and raccoons, be very surprised, not be hurt, and likely decide to give the fence a wide circuit as they patrol their yard.
If a child touches the fence, it will let go absolutely immediately, will probably cry from the surprise and discomfort, and will never never ever touch it again. The child is in no way harmed by an electric fence using the New Zealand design
Both the Jaguar Fence and the Fi-Shock Electric Fence Energizers are available on the company’s web sites.