Monday, September 1, 2014

No-Kill Fence?

After blasting four groundhogs and having Meatball the dog kill another while visiting with the owner of delli Carpini Farm, I figured that there must be a better way.

In the long run, a dog pen around the garden perimeter will accomplish a lot, as we plan to have herding dogs who live outside. They will go on walks to pee the perimeter, and this seems to keep animals away from gardens.

Now that we have chickens, too, there's the issue of predators after more than an ear of corn. I recently found a dead gray fox near our driveway, and that's a chicken-eater who can climb fences. I'd like to keep our wildlife alive, but at a distance. Killing everything simply seems wasteful, since we need wild predators and prey to keep the forest and field healthy. And of course such slaughter is impractical without poison baits or an army of hunters. I reject the former practice as evil and the latter as a waste of time and beer.

A mistake made in 2012 was in fencing. We have a fence that deer won't jump, thanks to height and some white streamers at 8' intervals, 8' off the ground. Ten feet would be ideal, but given that the garden is at the peak of a hill, it works. What has not worked is the game fencing itself for smaller animals. Field fencing consists of welded wire, with either with the same sized holes (usually 4 by 2 inches) or small holes at the bottom, larger ones up top.

No one but a hawk or barn cat will stop field mice, but groundhogs and raccoons can climb fences until they get high enough to slip through a big hole or go right over the top.

Thus, out come the rifle and live-traps. This year, however, I did more reading and discovered what some bloggers call "the floppy fence." I credit Debra Graff of Square Foot Abundance for inspiring me, as I found her post about fencing (ahem, a "fence post") and studied her design.

I have combined this fencing method with my technique of burying fencing to deter diggers and building everything around a firm barrier of 6' game fence. It works this way:
  • 4' chicken wire, with 1' laid flat on the ground away from the game fence and buried
  • Next 2' attached by wire and cable ties to the game fence
  • Final 1' left to flop outward (Ms. Graff uses 2 or 3 feet. Let's see if my cheapass version works)
When an animal climbs up such a barrier, it gets to the top-most bit to falls back and, one hopes, off the fencing. Several writers who have tried this report that corner posts and gates are weak points. I have fixed the corners with extra chicken wire, also flopping out.

Such a fence is expensive. We have sunk over 1000 dollars into posts, game wire, cement, and now, the chicken wire. I do build my own gates, so that saves a lot of money.  We have seen a great deal less pilfering this year, with only one groundhog caught and killed in the garden proper. Thanks, Meatball!

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