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(610) 346-8004

Oldest & Most Experienced
Pennsylvania Radon Mitigation Company

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Keeping Deer Out of Your
Garden using an Electric Fence

One of the joys of living in Springfield Township is the beautiful woods that surround many of the homesteads including ours.  My wife Sherry is an avid home landscaper that has gradually transformed our property from a few vegetables in the garden to abundant flower beds, lush trees and shrubbery.   And while the kids and our dog roamed the yard we never had any problems with deer snacking on our evolving paradise of outdoor beauty.

But the kids went off to college and our last dog was replaced with only an outdoor cat and then it happened.  The deer started coming right up to the front door to snack on our yews and every other edible treat in the yard.

The first year after they arrived I tried deer repellent.  The side benefit of spraying your shrubs with deer repellent is that you get a relaxing evening at home because you smell like you were dipped in garlic stew and no way are you going out on the town.  The first rain however and deer repellent is gone.

The next year I netted all the shrubs.  This is really attractive!  It does save the inner branches and a bit of greenery but anything close to the edge of the net gets nibbled away.  In the spring you get some early pruning as the branches get ripped out that are entangled in the netting.

A few years ago I was installing a radon system for a customer here in Springfield Township who had magical garden landscaping surrounding his lovely house tucked inside dense woods.  I was amazed that his spectacular landscaping was not eaten to the ground by deer.  He told me, “I have no problem with the deer.  I have an electric fence.”

I said “You have a six foot high electric fence around your whole property!”

He said “Nope.  You only need two wires, 16” and 30” off the ground.”

"But they can step over that I protested."

“Of course” He said “The trick with deer is not preventing them from coming into your property but training them not to.”

I thought It took some serious persistence to teach our kids to be respectfully for other peoples property maybe you can do it for deer too.

So I Googled “Electric Deer fence” and sure enough there are companies that sell electric fence supplies and bulletins from Penn State and other agricultural agencies that explain that you need just one or two wires that the deer will casually walk into.  They had additional recommendations to bait the electric fence with strips of aluminum that had peanut butter smeared on them.  That would be a shocking lesson!

So I went down to our local Tractor Supply store and picked up a cheap fence charger and some single strand aluminum wire.

Back on my property I ran some UF electric wire underground from my barn to a large tree across from the barn and installed an outdoor outlet.  I then ran two lines of aluminum wire 16” and 30” above grade from tree to tree with a 2x2 stake pounded into the ground between the trees as needed.  The wires are run in a big loop back to the charger.  I enclosed about two or three acres but only ran the fence on the wooded side of my property.

I initially got the least expensive $20 charger (being a bit of a cheap skate) but  I soon realized the deer couldn’t even feel it through their fur.  They actually broke the wires in several places.  So I upped the ante to a $100 charger that, believe it or not, is rated for 50 miles of fence (here to Philadelphia!)  The Zarebra 50 mile fencer is about $100 and is actually the recommended one for deer.

That charger died during an electrical storm so I upped the anti and purchased a Dare Enforcer DE2400.  The electrical usage is really small even with the bigger charger.  Initially I only installed one grounding rod but with the bigger charger I added four more grounding rods.  There are two ways to test the fence.  One is to touch it with a weed.  Yikes!   The other is to buy an inexpensive voltage meter that has a grounding rod you first push in the ground.  I went for the meter which barely registered with my cheap meter but now all five of the indicator lights lit up at the farthest distance from the charger.

So how well did it do?  Good actually.  It does however require regular maintenance.  There are however a few things I would do differently if I started over.  The first is to not use existing trees to attach the fence insulators with.  The trees grow over the insulators.  I would get pressure treated 2X4's by 8 feet and rip them down to 2X2's by four feet and cut points on the end to use as posts.

I would also not use aluminum wire again.  It is always getting broken and stretched.  I would use steel wire although I don't know how well it will do with rusting over time.  The deer are going to stretch or break the aluminum wire but it does have the benefit of not rusting and is a good conductor.  When it does break it is usually stretched so typically I can just twist the broken ends together and the bend the wire so it continues in the same plane so that it has maximum contact with the other wire to continue its circuit.

In general on my property you have to walk the line once a month because branches fall on it or the deer stretch it or break it.  But the damage definitely gets less as the winter goes on.  During the summer you also have to occasionally pull or cut down all the weeds that could touch the wire and short it out.  But the great news is we have very few deer problems considering our woods are loaded with them.

I think the occasional sign that bambi has showed up is likely due to the road and stream side of our house that have no fence.  I figure all it takes is one deer to get shocked and he will let all of his buddies and children know you don’t want to go over there, that place hurts!

You can email me if you have questions at bill@wpb-radon.com

Bill Brodhead

© 2017 Bill Brodhead          Call WPB Office  at  610 346-8004 for Estimates or Information