The main types of fences are described below, with examples of designs given on the following pages.
Strained fencing is the usual type of rural fencing, because of its versatility, ease of erection, and relatively low cost. Wires of various thicknesses and strengths can be chosen to suit the situation and the use, and the fence can be made of single wires or netting, or a combination of both.
All strained fences are built on a similar principle, with wire stretched between two or more large posts, called straining posts, and with stakes used to stiffen the fence and keep the wires the correct distance apart. Straining posts are normally set in dug holes, while stakes are driven into the ground by hand or machine.
Strained wire fences are best suited to long fence lines over fairly level or smoothly sloping terrain, where straining posts can be set the maximum distance apart. It is less easy, and more expensive in materials, to build a strong strained fence over uneven terrain, or with many changes of direction.
As with any fence, the standard to which it is built, and the use it receives, will affect the life of the fence. A poorly built strained wire fence will rapidly become slack and no longer stock proof, and can be awkward to repair if the straining posts are not satisfactory.
The materials, techniques and procedure for constructing strained fencing are described in chapter 4 – Fencing materials, chapter 5 – Techniques for post and wire fencing and chapter 6 – Constructing a post and wire fence respectively.
Post and rail fencing
Post and rail is used for high quality fences where appearance and durability are important. Post and rail has a traditional rural appearance which makes it acceptable in most situations. It is more expensive than strained wire fencing for an equivalent length, and also takes longer to erect. Posts must be set at carefully measured distances, and are normally set in dug holes.
Post and rail has the advantage of needing no special tools to erect, and can be fitted to any terrain or line of fence. Unlike strained fencing, if one section gets damaged, the whole length is not affected. Nailed rails are easy to mend if broken or dislodged. Provided that durable or preserved timber is used, and any damage is repaired as necessary, a post and rail fence can have a very long life.
Post and rail fencing can have wire netting or single line wires added to make it stock proof for sheep, lambs or other stock. The addition of overlapping vertical boards, called pales, makes a strong fence for screening or security.
This is a fence of prefabricated panels, attached to posts at set intervals. Many different types and sizes of panels are available. Panel fences are used for screening, shelter and privacy in gardens and elsewhere.
A simple and traditional type of panel fencing are woven hazel hurdles, originally used for enclosing sheep, but now used for garden fencing.
This is a lightweight strained fence, but different in principle to all other types of fences. The electric shock acts as a psychological barrier, thus the fence itself does not have to present such a strong physical barrier. Lighter and cheaper components can therefore be used, as there is less danger of animals leaning on the fence or trying to break through.
The disadvantage is that electric fencing needs frequent supervision and maintenance to keep it in working order, as once the psychological barrier is lost, most electric fences are ineffective as barriers to stock. Non-electrified temporary netting can be dangerous to animals, as they can become ensnared in it as they push their heads through to graze on the other side.
Types of electric fencing range from simple temporary fences to complex permanent systems. They can be used to enclose nearly all types of stock, as well as to exclude foxes and rabbits.