How to Set Up a Portable Electric Fence

Portable electric fencing is used for a variety of purposes. A horse owner may wish to sequester part of a pasture while weed control chemicals are applied or to allow an overgrazed area to recover. The fence also might be employed as a temporary corral where livestock can be penned while maintenance work is performed in a primary pasture area. Setting up a portable electric fence is a relatively simple task and requires a minimal number of tools.

Install the fibreglass rods at 12- to 15-foot intervals until the area you wish to span or enclose has been defined. Push the rods deep enough into the ground that they will not topple over. If a rod is difficult to insert into the soil, slip the plastic driving cap over the top, and pound the rod into the ground with the hammer. The cap protects the rod from shattering.

Screw two plastic insulators onto each rod. Space the insulators at the same regular intervals on each rod.

Tie the polywire to the first insulator on the bottom of the rod where you intend to begin and end the fencing.

Thread the polywire onto each successive bottom insulator. Raise the wire to the top row when you get to the end. Work back the way you came, threading the polywire onto each insulator in the top row.

Tighten the wire as you thread it to prevent sagging. Do not overtighten, or you may cause one of the rods to topple over. Unroll a few extra feet of wire when you are back where you started.

Cut the wire with the utility knife. Tie the wire to the insulator where you began, making sure the wire makes good contact with itself. You have now formed a continuous loop of wire. Trim off any excess with the utility knife.

Drive the grounding rod into the soil with the hammer or sledgehammer. Insert the batteries into the energizer. Attach it to the grounding rod according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Connect the fence energizer to the polywire, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Turn the unit on.

Insert the continuity tester's grounding peg into the soil. Hang the unit on the polywire from the integrated metal hook. Watch the testing light. If it blinks, you have a complete circuit and your portable electric fence is activated. If it does not, there is a break or breach in the wire, which you must locate and repair. Test the wire again after completing any repairs.


If you intend to use your portable fencing on a regular basis, you can add a pair of gate hooks and connectors. They are available at farm-supply stores or equine websites. Instead of assembling the fencing components yourself, you can purchase a kit with everything you will need to enclose and electrify a small area.


Battery-powered fence energizers produce an electrical pulse as high as 8,000 volts. Keep small children away from the area any time the unit is activated. Never work on the fence before turning off the energizer.

Things You'll Need

  • 4-foot fibreglass rods
  • Plastic driving cap
  • Claw hammer or hand sledgehammer
  • Screw-on plastic insulators
  • Spool of polywire
  • Battery-powered fence energizer
  • Four D-cell batteries
  • Grounding rod
  • Utility knife
  • Continuity tester
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About the Author

Rich Finzer earned his boating license in 1960 and started his writing career in 1969. His writing has appeared in "Northern Breezes," "Southwinds," "Living Aboard," "Good Old Boat," "Latitudes & Attitudes," "Small Craft Advisor," "Life in the Finger Lakes," "BackHome" and "Dollar Stretcher" magazines. His maple syrup has won awards in competition. Rich has a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ithaca College.