OPTIONS: DEER FENCE BRACING: DO YOU NEED IT?
Deer Fence Options: Introduction
Deer Fence Height
Polypropylene Deer Fencing
Metal Hexagrid and Welded Wire Deer Fencing
Metal, Plastic, and Electric Fences
Deer Fence Posts and Post Spacing
Fence Anchors and Bracing
Post Tools and Cement Footings
Fence Support Lines
Deer Fence Stakes and Flags
Deer Fence Gates and Grates
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Deer Fence Bracing: Do You Need It?
The aim of bracing is to counter sideways stress. If your fence weighs a lot, or there's a snow load on it, or a tree branch falls on it, the fence will experience sideways stress. if the stress is too strong it can tilt or bend the corner posts, as well as all the line posts between the corners, so it's definitely something to avoid.
A good way to avoid it is with corner, end, and gate bracing. Put an earth anchor or braced post at or near each corner, gate, and end (an "end" being a place where the fence butts up against a building, wall, or other fence). Then, when a sideways stress comes down the line it won't do any harm because the bracing will counteract it and nothing will move. Your fence will be protected.
Well then, Do you need this protection? The answer is "Not in all cases." For instance, where you are using trees as posts corner bracing is not needed because the trees won't move -- and so they will provide any necessary bracing. Likewise, if no great sideways stress is expected you don't need bracing. Suppose your fence is short, protecting a small garden, and not in the way of falling branches. Then chances are it can deal with modest amounts of snow without bracing. Or suppose you have a really long poly fence away from falling branches in California and do not anticipate massive deer impacts. Our polypropylene is really strong, but it is also really light, so again the chances are you don't need bracing.
Choosing the Right Bracing
But suppose you are using metal hexagrid fencing, which weighs more, or are in a snow-prone area or a place where tree branches can fall on the fence. Then, especially as the fence gets longer, you can see the potential for sideways stress increasing and you should consider bracing.
In that case, what sort of bracing should you get? The best and least expensive bracing is provided by earth anchors. Ours have a propeller-like screw at the end of a long shaft and an estimated pullout strength of 2,000 pounds. Just put a rod through the anchor's handle, screw the anchor into the ground at roughly a 45 degree angle (this can be dicey if rocks or roots are in the way), keep going until only the handle pokes out of the ground, and attach the handle to the top of the corner post with a length of heavy wire. These anchors cost about $10 each, so price is not an issue.
The problem is where to attach the anchors. If you attach them to the corner posts you will only need one anchor per post -- installed about halfway around the corner's exterior angle. However, there will then be a cable hanging off the corner that can make trouble for lawnmowers, running kids, etc. To avoid having any cable outside the fence line, install the next post over (the "corner approach post") a little closer than usual to the corner, screw your earth anchor into the ground right along the fence line, headed from the corner approach post toward the corner post, and attach it to the top of the corner approach post. This leaves the small distance between these two posts unbraced, but since the distance is really short it doesn't matter. Of course, since each corner has two corner approach posts, you will need two earth anchors per corner instead of one; but they cost so little it doesn't make much difference.
Similarly, you should put your bracing anchors on end approach posts rather than end posts and on gate approach posts rather than on gate support posts. Doing this works well on mid-length to long deer fences. But what if your fence is short, say 40 feet on a side? In that case your corner approach post will go a quarter to a half of the distance to the next corner, and the length of fencing protected will range from very short to nil. Here the best course is to abandon earth anchors and decide whether to use corner and end/gate bracing posts, or else whether to forego bracing altogether.
Corner and end/gate bracing posts (like the corner bracing post shown at the top of this page) are ordinary round metal posts with one or two bracing posts attached to them at a roughly 45 degree angle. They are expensive, but the cost is mitigated by the fact that each of them replaces one regular post. So if you face a major threat from heavy snow, falling branches, or repeated deer impacts, go ahead and use them even though your fence is short.