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A Beginner’s Guide To Choosing The Perfect Fence

wood fence woven wire synthetic barbed wire electricWhen it comes to fencing, there seem to be as many options as there are jellybean flavors, and like, jellybeans, you can combine different options to get just the right combination for you and your farm.

But when you’re first starting out, it can seem a little overwhelming and fencing can get expensive quickly, so ensuring that you have the best type to suit your particular needs is important from the get-go. Below I’ll share a little about each of the most popular types of fencing. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to choose what should work best for you and your situation.

1. Woven-wire

Woven-wire fencing comes in a variety of heights and spacing and is constructed from galvanized wire that has been knotted at each intersection. (There are types of wire that have just been welded at these intersections, but they are far less sturdy and are usually only suited for smaller animals, like rabbits and chickens.) For animals that can’t be contained by an electric fence alone, like sheep and pigs, woven wire is an excellent option. Goats, horses and ponies also can be contained in woven-wire fencing, but ensure that you get “no-climb” fencing to ensure that they can’t get their hooves stuck. If you are going to use woven-wire fencing for keeping wildlife (like deer) out, then use the kind that has larger openings at the top to lessen the chances of them getting stuck when they try to leap it. Woven wire is often combined with an electric strand of wire or barbed wire to encourage animals to stay away from it. For animals that need more than just an electric wire, woven-wire is cheaper than wood and is an excellent option.

2. Wood

Wooden fences are typically used for containing horses. Corrals where livestock may bump up against the fence are often made from wood as well. Wood is sturdy, but one of the more expensive options for fencing. One way to offset the cost is to harvest trees from your own land, if this is an option. You can also sometimes find used wooden fencing available in your local newspaper or through online sites like

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Wooden fencing, however, is very susceptible to rot and decay, especially in moist climates, so it is important to check used fences thoroughly before you hand over any money for them. A fence is only as good as its posts, so be sure to use pressure treated ones. When you install your wooden fence, use aluminum or stainless steel nails, as iron nails rust rapidly. You can also coat your wooden fence with water resistant preservative. An additional coat of paint is optional, but can offer further protection and aesthetic appeal. Wooden fences are one of the prettiest and safest fences, but the cost can be prohibitive at times.

3. Synthetic

Synthetic and recycled plastics are used to create attractive fencing options for horse pastures as well as residential applications. Synthetic fencing used to contain horses may include aluminum to reinforce it. Strap forms of vinyl horse fencing often have high-tensile or electric wires woven into them. The wire adds extra strength to the fence and the ability to electrify it, while the vinyl straps increase visibility to animals and humans alike. Residential synthetic fencing isn’t strong enough to hold livestock and tends to be less sturdy, but it can often work well for keeping dogs and other pets in the yard or out of the garden. While synthetic fencing can be one of the most expensive fencing options, it does tend to last a long time (some products come with lifetime warranties!), so the initial cost may well pay itself back, and then some.

4. Barbed Wire

Barbed wire has a long history. The concept was first presented in 1873 at a county fair and in subsequent years it was improved upon by several men. It was the first wire fencing option for containing cattle. Today, it is used in combination with other fencing types to contain not only livestock, but also prisoners at correctional facilities, and to discourage enemies in war zones. Barbed wire is made from steal with pointed wire projections occurring along its length. The wire can cause discomfort and even injury to those who seek to cross it. While barbed wire is an option for containing cattle, don’t use it for horse fencing. Horses can become caught in it and panic, resulting in injury and even death. While slow animals that tend to back off at the first sign of discomfort, like cows, can be contained fairly safely in barbed wire, be sensitive to local wildlife in your area that may become caught and injured in it. Barbed wire is one of the cheapest and easiest fences to put in place, but weigh the pros and cons carefully before installing it.

5. Electric/High-tensile-wire

When it comes to fencing, electric is one of the cheapest options. It’s fairly easy to install as well, but unlike other fencing options, you need a power supply to run your fence charger. There are solar-powered chargers available as well depending on the range and strength you need. The ease of installation coupled with the adaptability of electric wire makes this the choice of preference for many farmers and livestock owners. Electric fences may also be one of the safest fences since the intermittent electric pulse trains animals to avoid the fence altogether. Electric pulses can be set to varying levels of strength to suit the particular animals contained in it. The wire comes in a number of different thicknesses and styles and the fence can be made up of a single steel wire, or several wires, some electrified and some not. High-tensile-wire is often electrified and its strength is substantial. Fewer posts are needed since the wire can be stretched tighter between posts. However, the one downside to high-tensile is its strength. If an animal runs into it, the damage can be quite considerable. Think cheese-slicer affect. For excitable animals, like horses, choose lighter wire or other fencing options. There are electric netting options for containing poultry, as well as portable electric fences for containing livestock temporarily. Basic maintenance includes checking and tightening the wires and ensuring that grass and weeds don’t soak up the pulse. Electric wire has so many applications and is affordable, so chances are that you’ll be working with it at some point.

Whether you choose one of the above fencing options or a combination of several, know that no fencing choice is set in stone. When you first start out an operation, you are going off of advice from others, but no other farmer’s situation is exactly like yours. So, use good judgment and forethought when you break ground with your first post to avoid extra expense, but allow yourself the freedom to grow and design as needs arise and you determine what works best for you.

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  1. I like the look of wood fences but after awhile they just fall apart. I’m hoping to get a ‘synthetic’ fence, most likely vinyl. It would be perfect for our pet.

  2. I thought it was interesting to read your section on barbed wire and how it first was introduced in 1873 at a county fair. You go on to mention that this fencing style was the first available to contain cattle. I think it’s important to choose a horse fence that is modular so that it’s easy to move around to create different pastures. I also think it’s important to find fencing material that is plentiful so that when you need to repair it (and you eventually will), it will not be so expensive.

  3. I appreciate your advice about synthetic fences and how they are less durable against large animals. My grandfather has a pasture and it’s surrounded by vinyl fences, and while the fences have been effective at keeping the horses in, one of the posts got cracked once when a horse was reaching over the fence with its neck to get some food. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure the pass them along to anyone looking for advise about what type of fences to use.

  4. Great post and a helpful guide to read when thinking about choosing a new fence.

  5. I have decided to put a fence on my property. I want my kids and my dogs to know how far they are able to go. I didn’t realize that animals would try and climb woven-wire fences if you didn’t get climb-proof fencing. That is an important thing to know if you have animals that you want to keep in.

  6. I never thought about harvesting trees from our own land to help offset the cost of wood. My husband and I have been wanting to get a new fence for our horses for a while now. We have a lot of trees on our land so that might just be something that we will have to look into. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. You mentioned that wooden fences are generally used for containing horses, that is something that we are looking into. We just bought a ranch and we would love to upgrade the current fencing situation. We will have to keep this information in mind while we are looking for the right set up, thank you for sharing!

  8. Hello, very nice article about fences! But i have a question what is better for long lasting and between the price, metal fence , or vinyl fence?

  9. Ya, a house owner has various fence options to choose from and many things to consider before the fence installation. So, before installing a fence it should be kept in mind that the fence that is going to be installed meet the need of the home. Here, in the following I wan to deliver some of the purposes behind fence installation.
    1)It is installed for safety and privacy of the children
    2)It may be used for decorating the backyard.
    3)Sometimes it is used as a barrier between the children and pool.
    4)It can be used to distinguish own property from another and also to control the crowd by barricading the stadium. Etc..
    So, depending upon the purpose one can choose the right fence for installation. Thank You.

  10. I think the reason for the fence plays a big factor in which type to get. The needs of privacy are very different from security and require different fences. If you live in an HOA you are basically stuck with whatever they tell you unfortunately.

  11. In order to create a safe environment for our children and pets, we are looking at having a fence installed in our backyard. We want something that will be low-maintenance while still looking good aesthetically. As you mentioned, synthetic plastics can create an attractive option that is durable and functional for animals such as dogs and other pets.

  12. I agree that it is important to remember to assess your needs carefully in order to get the best fence for your home. It makes sense that taking the time to do a little homework can help you make sure you find the best material for the type of weather you have. Do you know how often it is recommended to call in a professional to help maintain a wooden fence? I want to make sure mine lasts for a long time.

  13. My wife and I have been looking at getting a fence installed around our yard now that we have considered purchasing a dog. According to the article, a synthetic material could be good for keeping dogs in the yard and is aesthetically pleasing for residential options. Would you say we could benefit from speaking with a fence contractor as to what synthetic material could be the best possible application for our needs?

  14. This is a great source of guidance to choose perfect fence. All methods are helpful, but I like electric wire method most. Thank you!

  15. My best friend is thinking about building a house soon and was asking me for advice on what kind of fence they should put around it. Before reading this, I had no idea that woods is most commonly used for fencing in houses. It seems to me like my friend could make any kind of fence work as long as she likes the way it looks. Thank you for the helpful information!

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