Preppers and off the grid homesteading families grow and raise the bulk of what goes onto their dinner tables, so keeping their crops and animals safe is a priority. Protecting the crops from critters and keeping the livestock safely tucked inside their pens often requires a lot of of fencing.
Putting in fencing is a physically demanding and tedious task. I have had enough sore lower back muscles and blisters on my hands to contest to how laborious a day spent putting up fencing can be, but it is not necessary to bust your wallet or your back to protect what you have.
There are many different kinds of fencing. Some are designed for garden protection and others to house specific types of livestock. Most folks who keep cattle use either wooden or barbed wire fencing. Both require a lot of hard work to put up and maintain.
Electric fencing is a great option for horses and the money-conscious prepper, but it can sometimes be too weak to house cattle. Electrical fencing has successfully been used to contain cattle when a significant charge is applied to fence, but the higher charge could be harmful to smaller livestock or cause them to panic and bolt through the fencing. I have seen horses tangled up in electrical fencing. It is a sight that causes panic in horse owners, who must react quickly to keep the frantic animal from becoming even more tangled and injured.
All types of livestock fencing have both their benefits and drawbacks. As the old farming adage goes, fences should be “horse high, bull strong, and hog tight” if you want them to work for you. Natural fencing, like bushes or shrubs, can be a superb alternative to store-bought fencing, but it requires time to cultivate.
Benefits of Natural Fences
One of the advantages of living fences is that the border dividers and pen constructers can also serve as a food source for the livestock. Natural fences also help block small livestock, like wild rabbits, from gaining access to your garden..
Some living fences can actually help your garden grow. The locust and Siberian pea shrub can add nitrogen to the soil, enhancing the soil’s nutrient density, which makes it great for seeding or compost.
Natural fences also often serve as great windbreaks that help to preserve soil and protect plants and livestock during storms.
Best Natural Fencing Options for Preppers
Osage Orange Trees
Living fences that are strong enough to hold in large livestock such as cows are often made from Osage orange trees. Osage orange trees are also commonly referred to as hedge apple trees. They grow rather quickly and are known for their durability.
Before barbed wire was invented in 1867, Osage orange trees were frequently uses as fencing on farms. During the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, the trees were planted along the prairie by the thousands to prevent wind erosion on farms.
The hedge apple trees can survive drought conditions and are hardy enough to deter many insects and diseases that afflict other trees in the area. About four years after planting saplings, the trees are supposed to be tall enough and strong enough to safely house large livestock.
Osage orange trees boast both large and prickly thorns that deter livestock from pushing into them. If the trees are pruned just once each year, they can soon be turned into a thick hedge that is about two feet wide and four feet high. If the trees are not pruned, they will grow out of control quickly and become tall enough to block the view from the prepper retreat. The wood made from the termite-resistant trees was once used to make the rims and hubs of wagon wheels.
Willow and Siberian Pea Shrubs
Willow, the Siberian pea shrub, and honey locust are also frequently used as natural fencing for gardens and small livestock. The poultry on your prepper retreat will most likely consider the peas on the Siberian shrub a gourmet treat. The pea shrubs can survive even when subjected to temperatures that reach 40 degrees below zero. Humans can cook the young spring pods and flowers from the shrub and eat them alone or toss them into a salad.
Willow hedges can survive in most types of soil and can withstand the cold temperatures found in the northern region of the country. The hedges take root quickly from cuttings and thrive without any added tending. The shrubs can be allowed to grow free and create an entirely natural barrier, or they can be cut and tied together to make a more traditional-looking and very decorative fence.
Chinese chestnut trees also make great natural fencing for horses or smaller livestock. Plus, they contain more protein than alfalfa. During a long-term SHTF scenario, feeding the livestock and your family could become an immediate concern. A living fence can help supplement your feed stockpiles for the animals on your off-the-grid homestead.
The hedges remain full of leaves virtually year-round and offer great windbreaks for gardens and shelter for small livestock. The tagasaste hedges have even been used to create firebreaks to stop brush fires from spreading as well. Many prepper retreats and off-the-grid homesteads are nestled in the woods and surrounded by trees, making them perfect targets for a raging wildfire.
The hedge grows bulky quickly, and its foliage is attractive to both poultry and pigs. The leaves that form the tagasaste hedge contain about 20 percent protein, making it a great food source to help fatten up the livestock without costing you a dime. Wood from the hedge makes great kindling for the fireplace or woodstove as well.
The small thorny trees can be used as both a natural fence for livestock and as a perimeter security fence on the prepper retreat. The trees produce berries that are edible by both humans and animals. The wood from the tree can be tossed into the woodstove to heat the home, or it can be carved into handles for farm implements.
Jujube trees are very hardy and can grow in drought-ridden areas and in poor soil. They begin producing edible fruit in about two years. The seeds, roots and leaves of the jujube tree have long been used in natural home remedies. The leaves also make great fodder for most types of livestock. The wood from the tree makes decent firewood and its charcoal is hard enough to be used to make handles or furniture.[Image via Wikimedia]