[NAFEX] Rabbit/squirrel fence

William C. Garthright billg at inebraska.com
Fri Aug 8 17:01:54 EDT 2008

I thought I'd report my experience, so far, with my rabbit/squirrel 
fence. I'll warn you, this is pretty long.

My backyard is surrounded by a 4' high chainlink fence. I've got fruit 
trees growing outside the fence, too, but at least the backyard is 
fenced in. Well, this spring, I covered the whole thing with 4' high 
chickenwire, to try to keep the rabbits completely out. I fastened it to 
the fence with black (outdoor-rated) nylon cable ties.

The fence doesn't look any different, not from any distance. The 
chickenwire is really unnoticeable against the chainlink. And so far, no 
rabbits have gotten in. I worried that they might dig under it, but that 
hasn't happened (so far). However, my neighbor complained about how bad 
the rabbits were this year (I imagine that he got my share, too), and he 
said he'd been shooting them with a pellet gun (illegal here in town, 
but OK if you're not caught). So that might be one reason the fence has 
worked so well.

Then, I put electric wires all around on the fence, to try to keep the 
squirrels out, too. There are insulators that fasten to the side of a 
chainlink fence, but the wire stands out a ways, so I fastened a second 
wire onto the insulator, halfway out, with more cable ties. So one wire 
runs about 2" out from the fence (the outside of the fence, mostly - 
I'll get to that later) and another about 2" out from that. Both are 
close to the top of the fence.

Since I didn't want to run the wire across the gates (the local meter 
readers might frown on that), I put aluminum flashing on them, instead 
(so they'd be too slick to climb up). The electric wires fasten to an 
insulated wire that runs down the fence, under the ground (a few inches) 
below the gate, and back up the other side. (Note that this has to be 
wire specially insulated for the high voltages of electric fences.)

Unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - I got a very low-powered unit, 
one that electrifies in pulses, designed for pets and short-haired 
animals (like squirrels, in fact). But it turned out that a squirrel 
could go up and down the fence without - usually - any problem at all. 
Their fur seems to insulate them well enough, on average. On the other 
hand, I certainly notice the jolt whenever I lean against the wire, 
especially when I'm hot and sweaty. And since that seems to happen, on 
average, about once a day, I suppose I'm glad I didn't get a more 
powerful unit. And the squirrels do seem to be bit by it occasionally, 
so it does seem to be working, at least to some extent.

Last year, the squirrels devastated my strawberries (which are out near 
the alley, in prime squirrel territory). This year, I rubbed strawberry 
juice on the electric wires, and I didn't have a single strawberry lost 
to the squirrels. That really worked well. (In fact, I tossed a peanut 
to a squirrel when my fingers were full of strawberry juice, and the 
squirrel wouldn't go near it. I had to toss him another one using my 
left hand.)

My little apricot tree is outside the fence, and it had only a dozen 
apricots on it, anyway. I rubbed the electric wires with dried apricots, 
but I don't know if that had any effect (probably not, but maybe some). 
I ended up getting half of them, and that was after leaving them on the 
tree until they were dead ripe. Again, note that the tree was outside 
the fence.

I had a row of sweet corn in the backyard, and nothing bothered that. 
However, the peaches haven't been so lucky. There were two problems with 
them, though. First, they grow right alongside the chainlink fence, so 
it's an easy hop from the top of the fence to the trees. And second, my 
neighbor's yard is on that side, so I couldn't run the electric wire on 
the outside of the fence. On that side of the yard, I had to run it on 
the inside, so a squirrel wouldn't even get close to it at the top of 
the fence (only if he climbed down the inside).

I tried rubbing peach juice on the wires, but it didn't seem to help. 
The squirrels really started going for my nectarines, which were the 
first to get ripe. When they started on the peaches, I finally tried to 
make some adjustments. I fastened 6' garden poles along that side of the 
fence, then ran an electric wire between them, 2" inches above the 
fence, and another 5" above that (to make it difficult to leap onto the 
trees). That seems to have helped. They're still getting at the peaches 
- and have chewed up a couple of plums, too - but it's slowed down a bunch.

Unfortunately, I'm getting increasingly lazy this summer. If I'd gone 
out every day to rub fresh peach pits on the wires, I think that would 
have helped even more. But I've suddenly lost my ambition.   :-)   And 
the squirrels already know that there are peaches on the other side of 
the wires. That's a strong incentive. Frankly, the squirrels are 
extremely tame, because I feed them peanuts from my pocket when I'm 
outside (I figure a full squirrel will be less trouble than a hungry 
one, but they've got mighty powerful appetites). I don't feed them in 
the backyard anymore, but I used to. It's going to take time to teach 
them differently.

I plan to leave this electric fence up all year, except during ice and 
snow storms. The squirrels don't get bit very often (not when I've been 
watching them, anyway), but it must happen often enough to be a 
deterrent. A couple of days ago, I was watching one squirrel chase 
another across my neighbor's lawn. When they got close to my fence, they 
turned to the north, turned west again down the alley, and finally 
turned south alongside the fence on my west side. Clearly, they were 
avoiding the wires.

Regarding other critters, something used to crap in my backyard 
regularly. It seemed to be a real popular location for whatever it was. 
That has only happened once since I've had the electric fence up. I lost 
a bunch of peaches that night, too, but it never happened again.

I'm happy with the experiment, so far. I might end up getting a more 
powerful zapper, if I ever learn to stay away from it myself. And there 
are kids in the neighborhood, too, so... I'm probably better off staying 
with this one. (But I really have to keep the vegetation away from the 
wires, if I expect it to work at all.)

And next year, I plan to fix up some kind of temporary fence around my 
fruit trees growing outside the fence (most of those - except for one 
apple - don't have fruit this year, anyway). That'll be more difficult, 
especially for when I need to mow the grass. And I'll try to keep up the 
aversion therapy by continuing to rub fruit juices on the electric wires.

Sorry that this was so long, but I thought there might be some interest.

Lincoln, NE (zone 5)

PS. Wasn't someone here going to be testing squirrel repellent? Did it 
work? I do know that deer-and-rabbit repellent spray does nothing to 
keep squirrels away.

PPS. Squirrels are delicious, but they're way too hard to clean. I'll 
take rabbit, any day.

My Grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks 
right out of the bottle. - Henny Youngman

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