*Homestead Fencing Basics*
By Migalo

One thing most homesteads today have in common is fencing. A good fence can be as simple as a few strands of "Barbed Wire", to a fancy lattice panel fence. There is "Chicken Wire" and "Hog Wire". There are metal "T" posts, wood posts, metal posts and wood staves. You can use specialized and mass produced "clips" or simple "bailing wire" to hold your fence up on "T" posts, or large staples on wood posts.

Let’s discuss uses.

For large animals, a few strands of "Barbed Wire" are enough to keep "domesticated" animals within your set boundaries. "Barbed Wire" is a twisted double strand wire with sharpened "barbs" or points that stick out every 12" to 18". It comes on a reel. There is a whole catalog of different styles and shapes in the "Barbed Wire" industry; it’s even a collectable because of its ‘historic’ value. As the first true tamer of the west, "Barbed Wire" is proven to be effective with Cattle, Sheep, Goats, and Horses. When installing or ‘running’ a "Barbed Wire" fence, you only need the foot or so on either side of the fence to be cleared. You need just enough clearing to walk along the fence while tying up the wire.

For medium and smaller animals, a good "Hog Wire" fence is best. (Also called "Deer Wire") "Hog Wire" fence has the standard ‘squares’ we recognize as ‘fence’. It comes in different sizes. You can get from 3’ to 8’, and if you need it you can ‘stack’ it for higher fences (used by exotic game ranches and deer ranches). Hanging "Hog Wire" is more involved than "Barbed Wire". You must keep it taught while keeping it tight against the ground, fallowing the slope and undulation of the terrain. You also need a wider area to work in. You need to be able to roll the fence out flat on the ground, so you need to clear at least the height of the fence on one side of your fence. You can run a string of "Barbed Wire" along the top to discourage jumping over the fence. "Hog Wire" is used for Dogs, Sheep, Children, and of course…Hogs and Pigs! It’s also used for Deer control around farms and gardens. It’s used widely, and I bet you’ve seen MILES of it along US highways and byways!

For small animals you need "Chicken Wire". This comes in square or hexagon patterns. (It’s also called "Rabbit Wire") It is installed like other fence, or made into ‘cages’ around a wood or metal frame. It can be used in conjunction with "Hog Wire" to keep rodents out of gardens, or keep chickens in chicken runs.

Installation Basics:

You need to know roughly how much wire or fence you need. This is a linear measurement around the area you want to fence (for "Barbed Wire" multiply this by the number of strands you intend to install…usually 3.) You need at least one stave for every 10’ to 12’. You need a post at the corners, at any entrances, and about every 50’. The posts hold the wire taught, the staves hold the wire up between the posts.


Post Hole Digger – Gas, electric, steam, horse, or Human powered.


Pliers – (there are special fence pliers w/ hammer built in)

Wire Cutters – BIG ONES

Gloves – GOOD ONES

"T" Post Driver – this is easier on you back than a sledgehammer

Bailing wire (or ‘fence clips’)

String – crooked fences look bad

Stretching tool – a Come-Along hand winch will work


Let’s Build!

Start at a corner. You need set a good corner post; the rest of the fence depends on this. This corner needs supports. Run wire from the top of the post to a stake in the ground OPOSITE from the fence line. This will counter the ‘pull of the fence on the post. An alternative is to place a post along the fence-line about 2 feet from the corner, and connect the posts along the top with a 2x4.

Now run a string to the next corner if possible, otherwise, to the farthest POST you can.

Now place your posts every 50’ or so. You need to put the at least 2’, possibly 3’. Secure with compacted stones or concrete.

Then place staves or "T" posts every 10’ between the posts. This is where a "T" post driver is nice. It’s a steel tube with handles that slips over the post. It’s heavy, but you just lift, and drop…gravity hammers the post into the ground in 4-5 hits. It’s a lot better than whacking away with a sledgehammer. You damage the posts less also.

For "Barbed Wire", secure the end of the wire 1 foot above the ground, and then run the line to the farthest post. You need to stretch the wire taught, then attach it to all of the posts and "T" posts. Repeat this again at 2’ from the ground, then 3’ from the ground.

For "Hog Wire", roll the fence out on the ground. IMPORTANT – make sure you roll it out with the bottom of the fence facing the posts! I most brand the bottom few ‘squares’ of "Hog Wire" get smaller. Starting at the corner, stand the fence up. Align it with the corner post, and attach it securely. Now work your way to the far end while standing the fence up. When at the far end, you need a metal bar (a "T" post). Weave the bar through the end of the fence, use the bar and Come-Along to pull the fence taught. Now start at the first corner and attach the fence to each post with staples and each stave with wire while being sure the bottom of the fence fallows the terrain.

"Chicken Wire" can be wired securely along the bottom of the "Hog Wire’. It does not have to be taught.


A good fence is only as good as it’s Builder.

A long-lived fence is only as good as it’s owner.

Like everything in life, without maintenance, a fence will not last long. Walking a fence has been a way of keeping up with friends and family…mostly because it’s time consuming and you have time to talk.

You need to check for lose and fallen fence. Animals pull down fence as fast as you put it up. You need to check for rotted posts and rusted "T" posts. Both last years, but eventually they need to be replaced.

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.