Do Electric Fences Kill Birds (and Small Animals)?


While electric fences can be quite useful in keeping unwanted wildlife out, or in, they can also pose a danger to pets, neighbors, or even the person who set it up in the first place.

Electric fences can only harm or kill animals such as pets or wildlife if improperly maintained. A large reason for this includes turning the voltage up too high. To avoid harming animals, regularly check on and maintain your electric fence.

No real harm should come from an electric fence set at the appropriate voltage.

What Happens to a Bird when it Lands on an Electric Fence

Electric fences are used as a barrier to keep animals (and on occasion people) from passing through by the use of a mild shock. This shock, while startling, is meant to serve as a scare tactic, nothing more.

Small electric shocks, while jarring, cause no physical damage as it only goes through the surface tissue of a body. You can let out a sigh of relief.

Actually many birds prefer to sit on fences or power lines.

When a bird lands on an electric fence, or even one of the power lines that are strung up around neighborhoods and business, not a lot happens. Something to understand about the electric charge is that a charge can only cause a lot of damage if someone is “grounded,” meaning they are touching the ground.

Electric fences can be described as two large reservoirs that are filled with opposing energy. Those reservoirs are connected through the use of a wire. Anything that gets in the way of that shared power, that is also connected to something big enough to redirect that power (i.e. the ground) is in for a shock.

Since birds simply just stand on the wires and are not “grounded” the electricity just goes through them, which they don’t feel. However, if a bird touches two wires at the same time, like on a power line, it will usually shock them.

Electric Fences Were Created to Safely Keep Wildlife and Farm Animals Separate

Electric fencing is extremely useful when it comes to keeping and safeguarding farm animals such as horses, sheep, goats, cattle, or even chickens safely.

Since specific amounts of electricity have different effects on different sized animals, it’s important to take note of the size of voltages. If these voltages are wrong, sometimes an animal can get hurt.

To keep larger animals in or out of an enclosure, like cattle, or deer, the recommended voltage is 4,000 – 5,000 V. To keep horses or cows in a space the recommended voltage is 2,000 – 3,000 V. And for smaller animals, it’s best to keep the voltage at 1,000 – 2,000 V and the electric line closer to the ground. As with all technology, though, mistakes can happen.

If an electric fence malfunction, which can happen when they are built without a regulator, the voltage can grow bigger and kill animals, and on a few occasions, people. 

How to Avoid Mistakes Setting Up your Electric Fence

To build an electric fence safely, it’s best to get all the parts needed, not leaving anything out. This includes using the following:

  1. Fence Energizer
  2. Fence Wire or Tape
  3. Insulators
  4. Earth Stakes
  5. End Strainers
  6. Fence Post
  7. Connection Bolts
  8. Fence Warning Signs
Electric fence used to secure horses.

Be sure that there are no touching wires or unwanted grass blades making contact with the electric wire, as it could take away from the continuous charge of the entire fence.

Ground rods should also be clear of any connection with other electrical gear such as telephone wires or waterlines.

Essentially, a clear space is necessary for the creation and upkeep of a working electrical fence. This should be easy though, as most people that use them have specific areas of land for livestock or farm animals.

And remember, it should be supplied with enough power that it only supplies a startling shock. This means using the right equipment, such as:

  • 10-14 gauge copper wiring
  • Insulators that work best with whatever fence post your using
  • Insulated handles for gate posts, for easy coming and going
  • 6 ft tall ground rod made of galvanized steel or copper

For more detailed information, be sure to watch this in-depth step by step guide:

Remember; the right materials are absolutely necessary when creating a safe and useful electrical current. Any other kind of material poses a danger to not only the wildlife, and farm animals, but also YOU. Getting shocked by an electric fence is no fun when the voltage is correct and harmless.

Getting shocked by an electric fence can cause serious problems to animals and humans, such as skin burns, or even issues to your organs that could be hidden from medical professionals.

It’s also possible for electric shocks of a large magnitude to turn a body into a ragdoll, throwing them around. This could cause broken bones, dislocated joints, or head injuries.  

Ensuring Electric Fence Safety for All

Electric fences have been used for a variety of uses for a century with pretty successful results. One of the first ones was built because a man wanted to prevent his horse from scratching itself on his car, leaving marks. 

It’s pretty easy these days to make sure that an electric fence is working properly. Modern technology has equipped pet or farm owners with devices that have voltage meters or flashing lights that indicate whether the electricity is working properly.

The people who build these machines create them with security layers because they are professionals. Don’t try to save money by creating your own electric fence, as many things can go wrong.

Electric fences are relatively one of the cheapest options for long-term security anyway.

Also, don’t forget the added layer of security that warning signs offer. Although this won’t stop animals, this can help ensure that neighbors or people passing by understand what is going on around them.

All it really takes to own and successfully operate an electric fence, thereby not harming wildlife, farm animals, or pets, is the following:

  1. Build with the Right Materials
  2. Monitor Your Voltage
  3. Don’t Skimp on Precautions

That’s all! While electricity can be highly dangerous, all it takes a little research and taking the necessary steps in order to keep wildlife, your pets, and you, safe. 

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