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How Electric Fencing Works

An electric fence will either keep animals in or keep predators out, and is both a very effective and economical way of performing either function.

Electric netting is best used for poultry, rabbits, goats and often sheep. Netting is a very flexible method of setting up a temporary pen which will enable you to move the fence frequently if required. You can use electro-tape for horses (they can see it more easily) and polywires for smaller animals such as sheep and goats. Strong galvanised wire is usually used for cattle and pigs and for longer, permanent fencing.

For temporary fencing, plastic tread-in posts are a popular choice for supporting either tape or polywire. For permanent wooden posts there is a wide selection of insulators to carry tape, polywire or galvanised wire.

You will need an Energiser to convert power from either a battery or the mains to energise your fence. The type of Energiser you will need is dependent both on the length of your fence and whether you will be drawing power from a battery, or the mains supply.

Briefly, to set up:- Put your fence posts and wire in place, install your energiser next to a mains outlet, or with a battery near the fence. Push the earth stake into the ground near the energiser. Clip the energiser's red clip to a wire of the fence and the green earth clip to the earth stake. Turn energiser on. Voila!

Your Electric Fencing Checklist

What do I need to make an Electric Fence?

An Electric Fence is a circuit where an electrical current (one pulse per second) passes through the fence wire. When the animal touches the fence it completes the electrical circuit. The electric pulse travels through the animal (harmlessly) to the ground it is standing on, the energy goes through the ground back to the earth stake and then back to the energiser unit. The fence can be in one long straight line and it will still work, as it is the animal that makes the completed circuit.

All electric fencing systems need the following:-


1. An Energiser (battery powered, solar powered or mains powered) to provide the current to the Fence. The Energiser is often called a 'Fencer'. The type of Energiser you will need is dependent on the length and type of Fencing you plan to use and the type of animals you intend to keep in or keep out.

Either: A roll of Electric Netting Or: Rolls of Electro-tape, electro-rope or polywire in sufficient quantity to make up from one to six strands of fence depending on the animal.

An Earth Stake - some energisers have them built in - but without one your fence will not work.

For Electric Netting: No other posts or insulators are needed, the posts are already in the netting and it comes with some pegs and a warning sign.

For electro-tape, electro-rope or polywire: Insulators to screw into timber/metal posts and there a large variety of these available, or, use Plastic Posts which have 'wire carriers' on them and these come in different heights and 'sturdiness' too. If using several strands of tape/wire then connectors are also necessary to connect all strands together and ensure the pulse transfers through each line, or, the wire can be 'woven' in a zig-zag way through the insulators or posts.

For Mains Energisers: Some insulated cable (often called lead-out cable), and crocodile clips or clamps, to connect the Energiser to the fence and also to the Earth Stake.

For Battery Energisers: A battery, either 12v, 9v or 6v, appropriate to that energiser. Some low voltage energisers use normal 'D' size batteries available in any supermarket.

These are the requirements for any basic system. There are also many other bits and bobs you can add e.g. gates, reels etc. to get the final system you need. If you need advice please do call us on 01300 345229.

Video Demonstration of Electric Fencing

Take a look at an amusing video demonstration of how and why electric fences work by following this link to the Brainiac programme.

Safety Regulations for Electric Fencing

Electric fences shall be installed and operated so that they cause no electrical hazard to persons, animals or their surroundings.

Electric fence constructions, which are likely to lead to entanglement of animals or persons, shall be avoided.

An electric fence shall not be supplied from more than one energiser or from independent fence circuits of the same energiser.

The gap between two separate electric fences with different energisers shall be at least 2m. If this gap is to be closed, this should be effected by means of a electrically non conductive material. Barbed or razor wire shall not be electrified by an energiser.

Any part of an electric fence which is installed along a public path or highway shall be identified by warning plates securely fastened to the fence posts or clamped to the fence wires at intervals of approximately 10m. The warning signs shall be at least 100mm x 200mm. The background colour of both sides shall be yellow. The inscription shall be black and shall be the substance of TAKE CARE - ELECTRIC FENCE. The inscription shall be indelible, inscribed on both sides and have a height of at least 25mm.

Except for low output battery operated energisers, the energiser earth electrode shall penetrate the ground to a depth of at least 1m. Connecting leads that are run inside buildings shall be effectively insulated from the earth structural parts of the building. This may be achieved by using double insulated high voltage cable.

Connecting leads that are run underground shall be run in a conduit of insulating material. Care shall be taken to avoid damage to the connecting leads due to the effects of animal hooves or tractor wheels sinking into the ground.

Connecting leads shall not be installed in the same conduit as the mains supply wiring, communication cables or data cables.

Connecting leads and electric fence wires shall not cross above overhead power or communication lines. Crossings with overhead cables shall be avoided wherever possible. If such a crossing cannot be avoided, it shall be made underneath the power line and as nearly as possible at right angles to it.

If connecting leads and electric fences are installed near an overhead power line the clearances shall be:

Power Line Voltage under 1000 volts a clearance of 3 Metres.
Power Line Voltage of 1000 - 33,000 volts a clearance of 4 Metres.
Power Line Voltage over 33,000 volts a clearance of 8 Metres.

If connecting leads and electric fence wires are installed near an overhead power line, their height above ground shall not exceed 2m. This height applies either side of the orthogonal projection of the outermost conductors of the power line on the ground surface, for a distance of 2m for power lines not exceeding 1000V and 15m for power lines exceeding 1000V.

A distance of 10m shall be maintained between the energiser, Earth Stake and any other earthing system such as the power supply system protective earth or the telecommunication system earth.

Electric fences intended for deterring birds, household pet containment or training animals such as cows need only be supplied from low output energisers to obtain satisfactory and safe performance. In electric fences intended for deterring birds from roosting on buildings, no electric fence wire shall be connected to the Earth Stake.

A warning plate shall be fitted to every point where persons may gain ready access to the conductors.

A non-electrified fence incorporating barbed wire or razor wire may be used to offset electrified wires of an electric animal fence. The supporting devices for the electrified wires shall be constructed so as to ensure these wires are positioned at a minimum distance of 150mm from the vertical plane of the non electrified wires. The barbed/razor wire shall be earthed at regular intervals.

Where an electric animal fence crosses a public pathway, a non-electrified gate shall be incorporated in the electric fence at that point or a crossing by means of stiles shall be provided. At any such crossing, the adjacent electrified wires shall carry warning plates.

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