We finished the fence around the barn this past weekend. The job was completed faster and easier with five sets of hands doing the work and the weather being fine. There are many fencing options available these days and every time I talk about fencing with others, they have their own opinion as to what is best. Being old school, I decided to go with wood for the small pasture for the miniature donkey.
One of the most popular fencing options these days is electric. For many, this also seems to be the simplest. Some believe it looks the best, too, but I disagree. To me, it looks dangerous.
The benefits of using electric fencing are numerous. Firstly, you don’t have to have great posts because there is no significant weight load on them. You can pound a metal bar into the ground, hook up the thingys to attach the wire and you’re done. A fence can literally go up in an afternoon.
Many people feel that an animal need only get shocked once or twice to realise they can’t go through the wire, so the fence doesn’t get damaged from numerous rubs and shoves. Perhaps this is true, but I’ve heard of a few cases where horses became tangled in the wire and with no one to free them, they were killed.
Electric fences are easy to use. Turn it on, leave it on. If the power goes out, the animals are already trained to not touch the wire, so they don’t test it. The added bonus, some say, is that electric fences keep critters out, too, so roaming coyotes and foxes soon learn that they shouldn’t enter the pasture.
So why didn’t I choose an electric fence? Because animals are shocked into submission, and if they get entangled in the wire, they could die. That’s a sight I wish to spare my young children.
Some farmers/hobby farmers use a combination of fence rail and electric, stringing the wire along the top board. This reduces or eliminates the possibility of an animal getting entangled in the wire. However, it won’t eliminate the possibility of my kids or me getting shocked. And frankly, fences are made to be leaned on and against perhaps even climbed by a young boy wanting to see his donkey.
Secondly, I don’t want electricity flowing all day and night. It may be only a small amount added to the electric bill but even that’s too much. That’s not green. Some suggest electric fences are greener than wood because no wood is required, but they don’t realise the energy it takes to make the equipment to create it. These people are the same ones who’ll argue that a plastic Christmas tree is greener than a real one. And then there is the constant need for electricity. In the long term, wooden fences are greener and when they rot or break, the wood can be used in campfires or shredded into bark mulch.
I read in a book many years ago that humans who are constantly surrounded by electricity can develop health problems. Living in a house surrounded by electric wires running through the walls isn’t the best environment yet we accept it without question. The book suggested that at least one night of the year, a person should sleep electricity free.
I first learned about health problems connected to electricity in a television show. The documentary revealed details about an elementary school which had been built beneath a row of huge towers with electrical cables. After years of exposure, a higher than average percentage of teachers and students developed cancer. Although there was some sort of cover up to smudge the facts by the power company, the facts were obvious: living too close to too much electricity is harmful to your health. Why would I want to subject my animals to this, particularly the ones which I’ll draw milk and eggs from?
I know I’m small scale and the electricity racing through an electric fence would be minimal, still I don’t want it around. Take it. Shove it. It has no place in my life. For centuries, people have fenced in animals and they didn’t use electricity to do it. And from what I’ve learned, it is no less expensive than wood to set up. So really, where’s the benefit? Oh . . . it’s easy . . . people are all about easy these days.
Another fence option available is plastic. It looks very nice, but I believe it’s the most expensive option out there. And anyway, it’s plastic. Who needs more plastic in their life?
The other option is wire. The initial cost is high, but for large pastures, it’s cheaper than wood and plastic. We are going to use this with wooden posts to enclose larger areas. It’s not as pretty as wood, but if done right, it’s not ugly and is very effective in keeping things in and keeping things out. It lasts for years and can be repaired.
My goal with my hobby farm is simple: Keep it fun. Keep it natural. Keep it simple.