Birds can land on electric fences and they normally won’t feel any ill effects. They don’t create any voltage potential and don’t provide any path to ground, hence they don’t get a jolt.
When a cow or human comes into contact with an electric fence, they’re normally already standing on the ground. Electricity can flow out of the fence and into the ground’s plane through the subject’s feet.
This doesn’t happen when a bird flies onto a fence. Their feet are close and there’s so little voltage potential between them that no current really flows through their bodies.
Birds who somehow come into contact with the ground, perhaps by touching a line an a fence post at the same time, might end up getting a decent shock. This is especially a problem with larger birds.
Remember that some bigger birds, especially those seen on domestic farms, are essentially flightless. That means they might have a much greater risk of running into your fence and taking a shock in the process.
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What Happens When a Bird Lands on an Electric Fence?
Usually, nothing happens when a bird lands on the top of an electric fence. They don’t have long enough legs to touch enough conductor material to complete a circuit and get a jolt of electricity in the process.
This is the same way that they’re able to perch on the tops of high-tension lines run by the electric company. On fences that only deliver power through a single conductor, though, there’s a good chance that a bird could absorb enough electric amperage to get cooked in the process.
Birds will sometimes touch a line and a grounded object at the same time, in which case they’ll receive a potentially lethal dose of electricity.
Will Electric Fences Hurt Birds?
Electric fences only hurt birds if they touch a conductive line and a grounded object at the same time. Weeds and wet plant matter growing at the bottom of a fence post can eventually cause the entire structure to get grounded, which can increase the risk that a bird will get fracked in the process.
Hot wires that run from the rest of your fence to the charge unit are particularly dangerous for birds, but it’s usually so hard for them to perch on these that they don’t bother. If they were to touch one, then there’s a chance that their bodies could complete a circuit to ground and they’d get a solid jolt.
With both feet on the same wire and the distance between the two being quite close, however, the voltage difference is so negligible that nothing usually happens at all.
Bird deterrents are perhaps the best way of keeping birds off fences in the first place, so you won’t have to worry about their safety nor their droppings. These are small spiny appendages that mount on the top of fence posts, which make it hard for birds to perch on them to begin with.
They’re a harmless way to deter birds from staying on any surface, so you may even want to put them on the tops of lamps and other electrically-powered parts of your perimeter.
Why Do Electric Fences Not Shock Birds?
Birds don’t usually complete a circuit when they land on an electrified fence, so they don’t get fracked. They can safely stand on a single wire and never feel any current move through them.
If a bird were to touch more than one wire at the same time, then they’d get a jolt that could possibly kill them. Electric fences are made by running charged wires over a series of insulators, which makes it hard for land-based animals to get around them.
Birds are normally small enough that they don’t come into contact with more than one wire at a time. You’ll normally only experience problems if you have a great deal of current moving across a single conductor, which can cause a bird to complete a circuit and get fried in the process.
Larger birds might also run into some problems. For instance, if you live in an area where wild turkeys or buzzards are common they could strike your fence with some real force.
However, these birds can normally sense the power your fence is putting out and they’ll avoid it.
How to Protect Birds from Your Electric Fence
Ground your fence to a good solid earthing system like they did on Hallsome Farm:
More than likely, you’ll want to have a safe earth ground. Don’t use anything attached to an electric box.
You’ll also want to try some of these tips:
- Lay out your fencing area to only cover the property you need fenced off so you give birds more of a perch than you have to.
- Put solid posts in place to hold your fence up. Birds love to perch on damaged frames.
- Brace your posts with support beams.
- Install bird deterrents on the tops of each posts, which make it nearly impossible for birds to land on them.
- Brightly color the fence or put out flags, which ensure that birds don’t think it’s a natural structure.
- Power your fence with a high-joule charger to ensure a consistent voltage. Birds can sense electromagnetic field and often avoid them.
- Check that all grounding lines are either insulated or at least don’t touch the fencing wire.
- Clean up any weeds in the area that could complete a circuit going into the ground.
- Check the outside lines for any possible shorts.
- Loop and wind any ends over them to keep from providing a perch for birds.
Unlike overhead wires, birds don’t really like to perch on electrified fence lines if they’re charged correctly. Apparently, this is due to the difference in the type of electromagnetic field that they generate.
That might be why you don’t see birds just hanging around on the tops of these wires at farms!