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Electric fence school

Fence layout and installation

Below are some tips and guidelines to follow when designing and installing an electric fence.

 Fencing 'in a circle'

If possible, try to design the fence so that the end joins back to the beginning. This can be done with an electrified gate, or by burying or raising the wire on posts over the entrance lane. The layouts below should clearly illustrate the benefit of 'making a circle.'

Voltages shown are for example only.

Fence in a circle


Gates can consist of one or more regular, galvanized steel (not high-tensile) wires with insulated plastic gate handles at one end.

Another idea is to fit an existing wooden or steel-frame gate with the appropriate insulators so that the gate becomes an extension of the fence wire pattern. Use plastic gate handles on the ends of any hot wires.

If there is considerable traffic through the opening, then it might be wise to consider buying an electrified swing gate. These are double gates, hinged at both posts, that are designed to be opened from either side, even by a tractor. The gates are self-closing, powered by springs. They have various types of flexible conductive wires hanging down to maintain shock integrity.


There are two secrets to successfully burying a hot underpass wire so that little shock is lost through capacity and leakage to the earth.

Use a length of number 12 insulated copper electrical wire in the underpass. Run the wire through a length of 1/2 or 3/4-inch plastic water pipe. Be SURE to bend the ends over as shown in the diagram so that moisture will not enter. If the fence is to be used in winter, bring the ends of the pipe well up the posts, above the drift level. Do NOT attempt to plug the ends instead of bending them over!

Burying hot wires

If the fence uses ground wires as well as the usual hot wires, then the ground will also have to be passed to the other side of the lane. Use another length of number 12 insulated copper electrical wire, but DO NOT run it through the plastic pipe along with the hot wire. Bury the ground wire alongside the plastic pipe.

It is best to also drive in a ground rod near the gate post farthest from the controller and run a ground wire from the rod to the fence ground wires. Tightly wind (at least 8 turns) of the bare ends of the copper wire around the connecting steel fence strands; this will ensure a low-resistance splice.


Overpasses are slightly better electrically than burying wire. An overpass is where you lift the wire up and over the laneway. The drawback to overpasses is that they are more prone to damage.

To make an overpass, fasten a suitable wooden upright to each post. The upright must reach higher than the highest piece of equipment that will be passing underneath it. Run a length of regular galvanized steel wire (not high-tensile) up one upright, across the top and down the other.

Use insulators and make sure you have good low-resistance connections with the high-tensile wire ends by wrapping the softer wire many times around the hard wire. It is a good idea when making an overpass to leave a little slack in the top wire to allow the uprights to bend in the wind.

If there are grounded fence wires, run another steel wire up, over and down. Try to keep it at least two inches away from the hot wire. It may be stapled directly to the wood; insulators are not required.


If your fence consists of more than a single wire, you must even out the current flow by separately jumping together all the hot wires and all the grounded wires. This must be done every 1/4 to 1/2 mile.

For jumper wires use regular (soft) galvanized number 12 or 14 steel fence wire and make sure that all joints are tightly wound. For rigidity always jumper at a post. The picture below shows a 6-wire fence with 3 hot wires and 3 grounds.


To prevent the hot jumpers from shorting to the ground jumpers, slide some insulating plastic tubing, such as the material sold for high-tensile fencing, on any bare hot wires.

Normally at corner posts, the fence wire is passed through a corner insulator and does not require a jumper. Due to the strain on a high-tensile fence wire, corners are handled differently. If the wire is strung continuously around the outside of the post, using either the strap-type or tubular insulators, then no electrical jumpers are required.

If a run of fence wire ends at a corner and a new run starts from the same post, then you must insulate each fence wire where it wraps around the post, and then jumper these two wires together. We suggest using plastic tubing to do this.



Carelessly-made wire splices are second only to poor grounds for causing problems with electric fences.

Make all soft-steel wire splices using the time-proven 'Western Union' splice, as shown below. Cross the ends of the wires to be joined about 10 inches back and do the final twisting with pliers. The result will be very strong and have low electrical resistance for years.

A good splice

Do not join two fence wires with a double-loop type of splice. It is solid, but after one season it will be electrically very poor!

Because of the springiness of high-tensile wire, a Western Union splice is very difficult to make. Instead, try using a reef or figure-8 knot, as shown below.

Splice knots

Crimp-on metal clips are also available in some areas for high-tensile wire fencing. Properly installed, these clips are extremely long lasting. We suggest using two or even three clips on each pair of wires to be joined.

To splice polypropylene-type fence cord, simply knot it together with a number of tight knots, one after the other. The more knots (use at least eight) used between the two ends, the more effective the electrical connection. It is at splices that this cord-type "wire" becomes electrically poor.

 High-tensile fences

Tests made in the northern United States indicate that a good high-tensile fence will considerably outlast a regular, soft-steel wire fence when used with such animals as beef cattle.

High-tensile fences cost more and require more time to properly install, but they require much less maintenance and last much longer. For animals that are hard on fences, such as goats, it is perhaps the best solution.

The drawback of high-tensile fences is that they are more costly and difficult to install. Working with high-tensile wire requires patience and skill or injuries can result if a sharp end whips free.

A second fact to be considered is whether the proposed high-tensile fence will be installed on newly-installed posts. Because of the extreme strain (tension) on the wires, the posts MUST be all in a line and sufficiently strong to withstand the strain. Older, already-installed posts are often out of line enough to prevent a high-tensile wire from being strung without pulling out any insulators or hardware. The posts must stable and secure.