Can You Use a Barbed Wire Fence for Sheep?

Sheep behind a barbed wire fence.

Herding sheep is a difficult endeavor, especially if your herd is particularly large. Keeping them contained is extremely important, but the question is, can you use just any kind of fence for sheep, and is barbed wire one of those options? If you have ever wondered or are wondering about this, look no further!

Barbed wire can be used as an effective fence for sheep as long as it has been properly installed. Barbed wire is also effective at keeping out predators. However, sometimes sheep may wander too close and their fleece will get caught on the barbs.

If you are interested in learning the best way to keep your sheep fenced in, you have definitely come to the right place! Read on for some barbed wire installation tips, pros and cons, and some alternatives to barbed wire as well. Hopefully, when you’re through you will know exactly what kind of fence you want and need for your flock.

Barbed Wire with Sheep: The Pros and Cons

Barbed wire fences do work for sheep, and as a matter of fact, they are very commonly used to contain sheep, horses, cows, goats, and all kinds of livestock. However, there are a few downsides to using it as well. Before you get started installing your barbed wire fence, take a look at a few of the pros and cons that might be helpful to know.


The barbed wire looks and feels lethal for a good reason. Predators such as wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, and even domestic dogs may sometimes wander into your sheep’s field or pen and wreak havoc. Barbed wire is a very discouraging obstacle for any of these predators as well as for any trespassers. Those barbs can do some serious damage if they are approached in the wrong way.

Barbed wire fences are also a fairly cheap option. While most other fences require a lot more material and work, barbed wire fences require posts, wire, some wire cutters, and that’s almost all you’ll need! It’s fairly easy to install, and your wallet won’t be empty by the end of that endeavor.

Sheep wool stuck on a barbed wire fence.
Sheep’s wool stuck on a barbed-wire fence.


Unfortunately, as said before, barbed wire is indeed lethal and that lethality is not limited only to predators. It is sometimes a hazard for people and animals who have to be near and inside the fence. If sheep wander too close to the fence, they will often snag their fleece on the barbs.

Sometimes it’s bad enough that they can’t move and will have to be cut loose. Sheep will not likely suffer any wounds from barbed wire fences, at least in the areas they are covered with their wool. Their noses and faces, however, are completely exposed and could fall victim to a few scratches or worse.

Sheep are not the only ones at risk. Barbed wire will pop tires, tear the skin, and create all kinds of problems. If you happened to get thrown off a horse or out of a car and land on the barbed wire fence, it could mess you up pretty badly. If you’re willing to take the risk then go for it, but just be warned that there are plenty of potential dangers that come with installing a barbed-wire fence.

Barbed Wire Fence Installation Tips

If you have decided that a barbed-wire fence is indeed the best option for you, then it’s time to get started on the installation. For this, you will need eye protection, a power drill (with a 3/8 in-by-10 in drillbit), gloves, and a hammer. Materials include barbed wire, t posts, and crimp sleeves. Make sure you have the proper permits and are going about this legally!

First, you need to determine what height you need. For sheep, you should put the lowest wire at least six inches from the ground, although if you are concerned about predators sneaking their way underneath you may not want to raise it any more than two inches from the ground. Your fence needs to be four feet tall to contain sheep.

First, you will need to set the bottom line. Adjust it to the desired height and tie the end off on the first post. You will do the same thing for each of the wire lines in turn from bottom to top. You will need to stretch the wire to make it tight and secure. However, the staples in your wire posts should be fitted somewhat loosely. This will allow the wire to move and flex as needed when weight or pressure is applied to the fence.

When you install your fence, please be sure that your fence posts are installed in a sturdy manner. If your fence is not secure enough, bad things will happen. If a sheep panics about something and suddenly runs into the fence, it could topple over and tangle the sheep up, which will result in major injury. That will be much worse than simply getting some wool tangled in the barbs. You can read more about how to install barbed wire fences here.

Alternative Options

Because barbed wire does pose a couple of risks, some people choose to use different fencing methods to keep their sheep contained and the predators out.

One such method is the woven wire fence. This consists of several strands of wire woven together to form a grid. It can come in all shapes and sizes. This is a particularly nice method because, like barbed wire, it is pretty unclimbable. The nice thing about woven wire fences is that you don’t need to worry about your sheep getting all tangled up and caught in it. If they do happen to get startled and run toward the fence, they’ll push against it, but it won’t hurt them or vice versa.

You can also use an electric fence, though you will want to be fairly cautious if this is the path you choose. Electric fencing will keep the predators out for sure, but you will want to take precautions and make sure your animals will be protected. You will also need to be careful if you or any other people have to be around the fence constantly. Don’t take any risks!

More Alternatives

If you want more alternatives that are potentially safe, easier to manage, and longer-lasting. Take a look at our article all about the best alternatives to barbed wire here. You just might find a few fencing ideas that will actually work better in your situation.

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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