DEER FENCE TIPS FROM CRITTERFENCE
It looks easy to install a deer fence. Knock in some posts, attach the fencing, put up the gates, and you’re done. But deer fencing has rules that differ from those governing most other kinds of fencing. That’s where a lot of installers go astray.
So don’t take chances. Read what Critterfence has to say about deer fence installation and watch our videos. We’re not talking rocket science. We’re talking installation of low-visibility lightweight barrier fencing – a process that with the right materials and know-how creates strong long-lasting structures that besides keeping out deer are far more cost-effective, foot by foot, than most chain link, split-rail, or picket fences.
That’s important, because demand for deer fences is growing. The US deer population now totals about 30 million, roughly the number present in colonial times. But colonial deer didn’t have to cope with shrunken forest lands given over to cities, suburbs, and such. So it’s hardly surprising to find deer invading and denuding yards and gardens, or to find increasing numbers of homeowners determined to keep them out.
Further fueling the demand, deer carry the ticks responsible for transmitting Lyme disease. This ailment, the most common vector-borne disease in the US, can be debilitating and often resists treatment. Moreover, because deer have invaded the suburbs, most of those afflicted get the disease not from tick bites in the wilderness but from tick bites in their own backyards.
Within this context, deer fences are a critical tool, not only for preserving plants but for keeping deer ticks out of yards and gardens, So it’s hardly surprising that the demand for these fences is on the rise.
It’s easy to learn how to build them right. So by all means visit our website, read our instructions, see our videos, and add deer fencing to the list of fences that you know how to install. In the meantime, here are some key points:
Partial deer fences won’t work. The deer will go around them. So make sure you create a complete enclosure by providing fencing across everything – including gate openings and densely vegetated zones
6 feet can be okay. A low-visibility 6-foot deer fence, especially in a wooded area, will generally keep out deer. Hence, if a customer says condo or town rules prohibit taller fences, go ahead and install a 6-footer. However, a 7-footer is better, because a 7-footer will reliably keep out virtually all browsing deer. It won’t keep out panicked deer, but those are not the issue. Of course, some customers will want an 8-foot fence, because the literature fails to distinguish between panicked and browsing deer. In that case, try to persuade them to get a 7 or 7.5-foot fence, because the fencing does not come in 8.5 or 9-foot widths; and so, in building an 8-foot fence with 8-foot-wide fencing, one tends to omit the important 6-inch bottom fold (see below).
The Fence Bottom:
Deer don’t want to go over a tall fence, they want to go under it. So they search along the bottom looking for weak spots. If the fence is unprotected at the bottom, they will simply nose underneath and enter the enclosure. To prevent that, some people stretch a taut line along the bottom. However, that leaves small openings at the bottom wherever ground irregularities occur, inviting deer to nose under the fence. A better answer is to fold out 6 inches of the fencing at the bottom toward the deer and stake it down once every 6 feet with foot-long kinked galvanized ground stakes. Even before grass grows into the bottom fold and holds it down, this does the trick.
The Fence Top:
Don’t put a board or pipe atop the fence. That will increase the fence’s visibility and encourage deer to jump. However, don’t expect a poly or metal hex (steel web) fence to run absolutely straight along the top. You can fix the wobbly appearance with a top support wire or tensioning system. If the wobbly appearance doesn’t matter, leave it as it is. Or, alternatively, you can resolve the appearance issue by installing sturdy welded wire fencing with square mesh and keeping your posts fairly close together (not over 10 feet apart).
We favor long-lasting round black steel posts, which look good in suburban and estate settings. If appearance doesn’t matter, use studded steel T-posts (not U-posts), being sure to put at least 2 feet of the post into the ground. Avoid wooden posts, which are cumbersome to move about, more visible than the other types, subject to frost heaves, and labor-intensive to install.
Avoid most cement footings. Line posts don’t need them, and Critterfence brace posts don’t need them. So reserve cement footings for brace posts bought from other vendors and for gates. (Use them at gates to keep the gate posts from moving – because if a gate post moves the gate may stop working.)
A bottom fold will take care of small ground irregularities. Well then, what about real grade changes? The answer is simple. Deer fencing is not installed under tension but is drawn taut manually. Therefore, when you come to a grade change, install a post at the point where the change seems greatest, terminate the fencing at that point by cutting it and attaching it to the post, and start a new run of fencing following the new grade. Note that in most cases going around a corner has the effect of changing the grade along the fence line. Therefore, when you get to a corner, plan on cutting the fencing, attaching it to the corner post, and starting a new run of fencing following the new grade..
Plastic and Metal Fencing:
Never use really weak plastic fencing. The deer will walk right through it. Also, shy away from any plastic (polypropylene) fencing with a breaking strength of less than 650 pounds per linear foot. In general, plastic fencing is less expensive than black metal hexagrid (steel web) or welded wire fencing, but it doesn’t hold up as well or last as long. Also, rabbits and woodchucks (groundhogs) gnaw holes in plastic fences that deer commonly find, poke their heads into, and enlarge to enter the enclosure. So, if you have rabbits or woodchucks, apply a 2-foot strip of metal fencing (a “rodent barrier”) along the bottom of the plastic fencing. Or bite the bullet, forget the plastic, and install more expensive but stronger and longer-lasting metal fencing.
These are just some high points. To get a better feel for deer fencing and how it works here's our deer fence page where you can read our installation instructions and see our videos.