The Electric Scarecrow
discouragement without creating a crispy critter. Some fence chargers will stop a 1-ton hormone-driven herd bull - but that's not what's needed here. The backyard variety of electric fence requires only minimum voltage to discourage nuisance wildlife.
Fence chargers are available to fit every situation. Some chargers can be plugged into a 110-volt outlet if a source of electricity is nearby. For more remote locations, consider a charger powered by a dry cell 6-volt battery. There is also a charger powered by flashlight batteries that is activated only when something on the ground comes in contact with the fence.
Solar powered chargers that store energy during the day for use at night also are available. Solar chargers are more expensive but require less maintenance because the battery is kept charged by sunlight.
The power source does not have to be massive to discourage nuisance wildlife. Usually the smaller, less expensive charger, will do the job. Finally, the fence charger must be grounded. Simply run a wire from the negative (-) side of the charger to a metal stake (copper, iron or steel) pounded into the ground. The instructions that come with the charger will remind you of this step, or refer to the diagram on the previous page. Once the fence and charger are in place and connected, there comes that haunting question, "Is it working?" You may prefer the "touch and jump" method of testing an electric fence. It's a simple method - just grab the wire and squeeze. If you can hang on, the fence isn't working.
Better to invest in an inexpensive voltage tester that hooks to the wires for a quick reading. A voltage tester is less exciting, but it saves jangled nerves. If buying fencing components sounds too confusing, there is a good alternative. A complete do-it-yourself electric fence kit is available at many pet shops and farm stores. The kit contains all the components needed for constructing an electric fence, including instructions, a fence tester and a small but adequate 110-volt fence charger. The kit is designed to control pets, but is equally effective at keeping wildlife pests out of the garden, flower bed or, in Lawrence's case, the fruit trees.
Those people willing to pay for convenience should consider a prefabricated electric fence that comes complete with wire woven into plastic cords, support posts and easy to understand instructions. The fence charger and tester are sold separately. Prefabricated electric fences come in a variety of heights and lengths, and individual fences can be hooked together to extend coverage.
These fences are handy because they can be installed or removed in a matter of minutes. The advantages are partly offset by cost but, on the other hand, a speedy response to a nuisance wildlife problem can sometimes save money. Squirrels in the fruit trees or coyotes in the watermelons (yes, coyotes eat watermelons) can be discouraged by taking a few minutes to string out a prefabricated electric fence.
Common sense is all that is needed to ensure safe use of the fence and charger. Closely follow the instructions for installation and use of the fence charger. The fence should be identified by installing ELECTRIC FENCE warning signs and verbally warning everyone in the vicinity, especially children, that the fence is in operation.
More specific information concerning electric fence design, materials and addresses of suppliers can be obtained by sending a postcard to Electric Fence, Missouri Department of Conservation, PO Box 180, Jefferson City 65102-0180.