How To Build A Critter Fence

Wire mesh affixed to your wood rail or pipe fence is the secret to keeping critters in or out of your enclosures.
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Wire mesh affixed to your wood rail or pipe fence is the secret to keeping critters in or out of your enclosures.

You'll Need:

  • Staple gun, for wood-rail fence
  • Staples
  • Air compressor (if using pneumatic stapler)
  • Plastic electrical grip ties, for pipe fence (large enough to accommodate pipe diameter)
  • Hoof nippers (to cut the ties)
  • Wire cutters
  • 2" x 4" heavy-gauge wire-mesh fencing, the height of your existing fence
  • Gloves (optional)
  • 12" length of string
  • Helper An inexpensive and easy way to help keep critters out of, or inside, your wood- or pipe-railed pastures is the application of 2" x 4" wire-mesh fencing.
    (Fix-it tip: Such fencing is safe for horse barriers, as its mesh is too small to trap a hoof, unlike that of 4" x 4" mesh, also known as hog fencing. The latter is dangerous for use around horses, because it's a hoof trap.)While the ideal way to install wire mesh is to sandwich it between post and rails as you build your fence, the method I'll demonstrate here will work well to critter-proof your existing barriers--without the need to rebuild them.Plan to pay about $55 per roll of 4' x 100' heavy-gauge wire mesh. If you and a helper do the labor, that's an inexpensive way to upgrade existing fencing.
    (Fix-it tip: We started this project with an electric stapler--and experimented with a manual one--but soon rented a pneumatic unit. Its air-driven power requires minimal hand strength for securing mesh to a wood-rail fence, thus speeds up the project while reducing wear and tear on you.)(See Horse & Rider magazine's "Tool Time," Buy Wise, March 1998, for information on the benefits of pneumatic versus manual or electric tools.) Here's how to affix wire mesh to your wood-rail fence.
    1. On the flat (non-post) side of your fence, use the length of string to secure the mesh-fence end to your starting post. That way, your helper is free to unroll the fence as you staple it. 2. Have your helper unroll a 10' length of wire mesh, holding it taut as you secure it with staples. There's no need to use a stretcher with this type of fencing, as it's heavy enough to hold its shape without being stretched. For security, be generous with your staples, applying five or so to each rail.
    (Fix-it tip: Our fence fixers wanted to try their heavy-duty mechanical stapler. Forget it--you'd have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to work any length of fence with this muscle mulcher!)
    Continue the unroll/ staple method, until you've critter-fenced the length of your barrier. 3. To secure wire-mesh fencing to pipe rails, you'll use the same method, but will replace staples with plastic electrical grip ties. Follow the unroll/secure steps in Photo 1, securing the mesh to each rail with four or more plastic ties. First loop through and tighten each tie by hand... 4. ...then use hoof nippers to gain leverage as you snug each down. 5. Snip the tie's excess with wire cutters for a smooth finish. Dave Archer, Horse & Rider magazine's Mr. Fix-It, built and ran boarding and training facilities in Canada (his birthplace) and Michigan before migrating to Richmond, Texas. Dave now builds barns for such notable trainers as Pete Kyle, as well as for private horse owners.

This article first appeared in Horse & Rider magazine.