One of my favorite tools for containing chickens and ducks is electric poultry netting. This type of fencing goes by several names, such as “electric poultry fence,” “electroplastic netting”, or “electric mesh netting”.
One of the things I like about it is that it is incredibly easy to move. One or two people can easily move a section of netting to a new location and set it up in about 30 to 45 minutes. Since it doesn’t take long to move, we move it to a new area when the poultry need fresh forage.
A single poultry net is about 160′ long and can enclose about 40′ x 40′ = 1600 square feet if formed into a square (various brands and styles may come in different lengths). The nets are easy to connect together, and we usually connect two nets for a total perimeter of 320′. Using two nets together more than doubles the area you can enclose. We lay it out in a rectangular pattern, so that it encloses about 5,500 or more square feet. We currently keep about 20 chickens and 30 ducks in that pen, and there is room for plenty more.
The netting is supported by fiberglass rods approximately every 10 feet, each of which has a metal spike at the bottom that can easily be pushed into the soil, except in very dry or very rocky conditions. Polywires, which are made from a thin rope with interwoven copper wires, run horizontally and are all spaced several inches apart. These are what carry the electric charge.
It is easy to set up the netting to allow the chickens temporary access to the garden or other areas. We planted cover crops of oats, alfalfa, and wheat in our garden last Fall, and now that it is Spring, we are using the netting to let the chickens forage in and eat down the cover crops. This lets the chickens benefit from the cover crop and lets the garden benefit from their manure. Later this summer, we will dig or plow the area under in preparation for our Fall garden.
We’ve also set up the netting in our fruit tree orchard. This allows the chickens and ducks to eat many of the caterpillars that would otherwise harm the fruit trees and their fruit, and the poultry can benefit from the shade of the fruit trees and can also eat any fallen or low hanging fruit.
The electric netting does a good job of protecting chickens against predators when used with a good quality fence charger. We use a solar charger that is designed for compatibility with electric net fencing and that is capable of supporting up to three 160′ sections of netting.
There are a few caveats with electric netting. For one, poultry can fly over it. When this starts to happen, clipping their wing feathers properly solves this problem and does not harm the poultry. Second, the fence will not keep small poultry such as baby chicks or baby ducks contained. They can easily squeeze through the openings. Keeping them in chicken tractors until they get larger solves this problem. Usually, we keep those chicken tractors inside the electric netting, so that the chicks get additional protection against digging predators. Third, the netting offers no protection against airborne predators, but though we have plenty of hawks in our area, in the entire 4 years that we’ve used the electric netting, we’ve never lost a chicken to a hawk from within the fenced area. I think the large meat ducks that we keep penned with the chickens help deter the hawks. We always pen up the poultry after dark, which protects them from owls.
Will this work well for foxes and raccoons? I have lost 2 chickens to what I believe to be fox (based on sighting the fox in the surrounding fields and with the initial two losses finding most of the birds minus the breast area, which one of my books said was indicative of fox kill). So we stopped letting the birds free range and built them a 1-x20 6 ft tall bird kennel, covered with netting. This week one of the silly guineas slipped out where the netting overlapped (only place I could see where she could have got out) and we found a bunch of feathers right outside the kennel and in the horse pasture next to the bird kennel and some blood and more feathers in the next pasture. However outside the kennel I found what looks like racoon scat, so not sure if it was the fox (who had 2 kits I could see playing in the neighbors field before the wheat got too high) or a racoon this time. I am trying to find someone to relocate the fox kits….. but haven’t seen the momma or a raccoon lately. Moving that kennel every week is getting old! And I want more birds…but not to feed the wildlife!
The electric netting is effective against predators like these during the daytime. Within the netting, I recommend closing up the animals in a protective coop at night.
Our hens are still getting through the netting, what should we do?
If the hens are standard sized breeds, then they will eventually get large enough to be unable to fit through the netting. Until that time, you may need to contain them with poultry mesh fencing.
This may be a silly question, but how do you enter and exit the fence to tend to the birds? I am looking to use an electric fence around my chicken tractor. I collect eggs several times a day and feed and water twice a day as well. If I have to disengage the electric and move fence posts every time, I can see that it could be problematic. Also is there a way to complete the circuit if you only want a three sided fence?
I usually turn off power to the fence and step over the fence. Our fence is 48″ tall. I’m 5′ 10″, and it is easy for me to step over the fence by gently bending one of the fiberglass rods toward me, so that the fence sags, then stepping over the sagging section. This is much easier and quicker than opening up the fence where it joins.
You can make a three-sided fence. When you connect the fence energizer to one of the wires in the fence, it will electrify the entire fence regardless of whether the fence is connected into a circular shape or a “C” shape.
I have a major problem with feral cats. They have been in my area of neighborhood for awhile but just moved in right behind me in the trees and bushes and have been killing my girls since the first of the year. They climb over a 7 ft. fence with landscaping timbers every 8 ft. with a cyclone fence gate, kill, drag back over the 7 ft. fence and into the bushes to feed on for a couple of days.
I have trapped all but one! This one will not trap…but …still get the raw bait. Will not let anyone see him….but when I go out after dark ..my light shines off his eyes…then he is gone. I lock up my girls (2 hen houses) at night, but he changes and will chase and kill at twilight or dawn after I let them out! Sometimes the girls are left unlocked at dark before I can get home to secure them and I see he got one again.
Question…..Will this electric netting shock this cat and keep him out??? I hope this is a positive answer because I am down to 6 of my best hens and I need help. Thanks
We have several rolls of electric fence, and we love the security of not having easy access to the girls. I do not have roosters which may protect but just don’t like having them around. My girls have a very large area and with the scraps we shred and the alfalfa we feed, the eggs compare to free range!!! We have moved it a few times, but for the most part it is permanent. The only trouble we have is when it gets dry and the current won’t zap the pesky varmints. But I guess if you live in the country, they will be pesky always, hens will be lost.
I’d like to put a electric fence along side a hedge. Will it still work if it touches the hedge?
I am considering this option for my girls. Free range eggs are by far the better egg, the recent loss of 2 girls and my boy (rooster) is making a re-think of when the flock can free range. I would let them out at my lunch time from work, get home in the evening to close up for the night. One never knows when a predator will make that visit. My problem is thinking out the set up of where I live ( renting a place ). Someone mentioned a solar charger, can you give me the name of it, some specifics. I did have a third girl who survived the attack, she got away but her rear end is bare, feathers will grow back not a mark on her otherwise.
Used it for a couple of years. Hated it. Did the job it’s supposed to do pretty effectively, but I found it really difficult to move, which I had to do every couple of weeks to mow the lawn.
It may be because I’m short relative to most man (I’m female, 5 feet 4 inches) – but I found it hard to handle, and it inevitably became tangled, no matter what I did and how hard I tried to prevent tangling.
It was unwieldy and heavy to gather up, and I spent way more time than I should have trying to disengage it from itself when I reset it. I finally just got so tired of the whole deal that I gave up on chickens altogether.
Was totally useless in snow or ice storms (which literally brought it down to the ground), and even heavy rain pulled it down and over.
I guess it’s the only option if you want to move the chickens around in an enclosed space. However, my property (and a neighbor adjoining) allows plenty of free ranging. Were I to do it again, I’d just put in an automatic door (wasn’t available a few years ago when I bought the electroplastic fence) . . . and go for the old-fashioned protection of an enclosed shed. I lost quite a few hens when the snow had brought down the electric fence, and predators (probably foxes) were really hungry.
Beta, that’s disappointing that you had such bad experience with it. Ours has been pretty easy to move with one or two people. We won’t need to move our fencing very soon, but when we do, I will plan to post some photos and/or videos and further explain the process. There is a certain approach to moving it that makes it relatively easy to move.
You mentioned moving it every few weeks to mow. Normally we don’t move ours anywhere near that often. We do move one edge of the fenceline one edge or one section at a time in order to mow (or weadeat) the grass under the fenceline, then we put that section back in place and do the next section. This is quick to do and simpler and quicker than moving the entire fence.
We also brace the fence with some step-in posts at the corners or any place where the fence makes a turn. This lets us keep a little tension in the fence, and we’ve really had very little trouble with wind rain affecting the fence with the exception of very heavy winds, after which it may require some re-setting. We don’t get a lot of ice and snow in the winter here, but we do get some. So far we’ve not had much trouble with that affecting the fence. I suspect that a large amount of ice our snow buildup could be more of a problem — maybe others can comment on that. Bracing the fence corners in some kind of way is a real key to having success with this type of fencing. In an area where stronger bracing is needed, a T-Post stationed a foot or two away from each corner and attached to the the corner of the netting post by use of a rope or heavy cord would give more substantial bracing.
I live in an area with alot of coyotes and bears. Is this electric fencing with a good charger enough to deter them? Also, is this fencing distributed in Canada?
We have been using two sections of the electric mesh fence for the past couple years. The fence surrounds a large patch of forsythia, that the chickens love to forage under. We lost one chicken to a hawk last fall, but have since put up garden netting with plant posts that stretches across the largest open areas. That along with several holographic pinwheels has kept the hawks at bay ever since. I have noticed that bunnies and occasional squirrels will go through the fence, but they do get a jolt once in a while if they stop on their way. We have even seen a very curious deer get a surprise, then snort, stomp and run off! We make sure to walk the fence regularly and pick up branches that might be near the bottom rows. A voltage tester is great to have also, as you can test the end of the line to ensure there are no interruptions. :)
I wouldn’t even consider buying this fence, it’s far easier to just trim the chickens feathers back every so often to prevent them from flying, aside from that the overall appearance of the fence would ruin the natural beauty of my property.
Wow! This is so very interesting!! I never thought of such a thing but I will surely look into this some more. My biggest problem with the chickens is that although they have 2 1/2 acres to roam they prefer to dig into my raised flower-beds on my front deck!! I hate it when that happens. I do not like to keep the girls penned up all day, I prefer that they be happy free-range chickens, so this electric fencing will be a big help, especially because it can be moved so easily. Thank you for the idea!
We are getting an old trailer and building an egg/nesting house on it and we will move it around as needed. The chickens (and guard dogs) can also go under the trailer for shade during the day.
I am concerned about this netting.
Does it shock the chickens or the predator? If the chicken, I will find another way to protect my chickens but still allow them to roam and forage.
Thanks so much for this article. We are planning to use the electric netting with our chickens. I have been concerned about the flying out and thought it may be that we have to clip them (something I will have to learn). I have also been concerned about the flying predators being able to swoop in to the pen area (we will lock them in the coop at night). It is nice to hear what others are doing/experiencing as it helps new people prepare.
I hope more people chime in with their experience so I can learn even more. :o)
Clipping the wings are really quite easy if you have another person to help. We have 5 big Macaw parrots in our home plus 40+ chickens so we do a lot of clipping!!
It’s easiest if you take an old towel or pillow case that you won’t be using for personal use anymore. I usually try and find a nice day, park myself in a lawnchair and have the kids or my husband bring a chicken to me. Now all our birds are used to this, but for first timers, first grab your chicken around the legs close to it’s feet in one hand. Grasp firmly, but you can still be gentle as to not scare the bird. Have your helper lay the towel over the bird, with most of the towel covering the bird’s head. Birds will settle under darkened conditions. Gently lay chicken on it’s side still grasping it’s feet. At this point you are in position to clip your chicken’s wings.
Your partner should gently pull out the wing of the chicken so that it is completely fanned out away from it’s body. Under the wing you will see the quill of each feather. You will be interested in the outer 3 quills or feathers – the longest and furthest feathers from the body. These are actually the feathers that give loft and initial flight. It is these feathers you want to clip.
Most people ask this question: how do I know where to clip exactly?
Well, there are two basic rules of thumb that beginners MUST live by to clip safely;
1. NEVER clip a ‘blood’ feather. This is any feather that has a plastic type sheath wrapped around it. This is a brand new feather and is growing thus has a direct blood supply to that feather. If you clip into a blood feather, your chicken could possibly bleed to death. There is a product out called Quick•Stop that you can pour the powder onto the blood feather wound. However, this product is more for nail care for birds. Just don’t cut there!! That’s where rule # 2 comes in!
2. LESS is better!! Chickens don’t need to have their feathers clipped much to prohibit flight. As you become more practiced, you will be able to tell where it’s safe to clip and where it’s not. You’ll be able to tell the difference between old feathers that can be clipped really short and newer feathers that should be left longer. During a molt or when your chickens are poising old feathers is NOT a good time to clip as new feathers are coming in helping move the old one’s out. The rule of thumb here is clip cautiously. Start with clipping and outside feather that is showing no signs of life or growth around 3″. Just have your partner slip the scissors between the 1-2 feathers 3″ from the end and snip. A 3″ chunk of feather will flutter to the ground! Then put your scissors between 2-3 and snip. Then 3-4 and snip. STOP!!! Change sides of the chicken! Just do the one chicken. See how it gets about. Is it still trying to fly over the fence? If so. You may need to clip an inch or more off Terry. Totally up to you! Just be careful to not it by cutting a blood feather.
Good Luck!! Enjoy your chickens!!!
Thank you, Mari, for the information and detailed description on feather clipping. It does sound a little complicated but I am sure that I can learn to do this and it will get easier with some experience. I just want to keep any chickens that are bent on getting out safe from dogs or other predators.
I have a question about the electric netting. Can it come in contact with the grass and not be grounded out? Do you have to keep the grass mowed short under it or use it on bare ground?
Good question. The bottom strand of the fence is not conductive, so the first conductive polywire is a few inches above the bottom of the fence. Once the grass gets a few inches tall, it will start to come in contact with that lowest conductor on the fence and will send electricity through the grass to ground and will make a popping or clicking sound. When this happens, we move once side of the fence over a few feet to give room to mow the area with a lawnmower or string trimmer, then move that side of the fence back in place and repeat for the other sides of the fence (we usually lay out the fence in a rectangular pattern, so we do this on one side of the rectangle at a time). This is usually pretty quick to do.
If the bottom strand is not conductive does that mean that the netting isn’t effective against snakes since they could crawl through?
I think it acts as a mild deterrent to snakes, but I don’t think it would keep them out if they were determined to get in. Even so, we’ve not encountered any snakes within an area fenced by the electric netting.
One innovation that I’ve used with my poultry setup is to add an 8×10 tarp off the side of my roosting house, with guy ropes to short metal posts in the ground. This simple addition (replaced about once a year) has given my chickens additional shade and protection from hawks. I keep my feeders and water under the tarp as well, so less feed is lost during rain or wind storms. In several years, I have lost only 2 birds to hawks in an area where my neighbors are losing many birds each year to Florida’s abundant hawks.