Floppy Fences

Aug 11, 2014

The floppy fence is a type of fence designed to primarily keep possums, wallabies and rabbits (and other undesirables) out of your food garden. We’re a fan of this low-tech, effective system which can be easily replicated in most contexts.

What materials do you need?

The material list is fairly straight forward and easy to source, it includes chicken wire (rolls at either 1.8m high or two rolls at .9m high), star pickets (at least 1.8m high), tie wire, high tensile wire and vermin mesh or small chicken wire (optional). As a general rule I try to avoid using any timber posts as possums can climb them much easier compared to steel posts. If you have particularly vigorous possums you might want to consider eliminating 100% of any timber from your fence line. In our current home we’re using timber corner posts as the possums in our area are pretty tame.

Is it expensive?

Depending on the area you’re fencing the cost will vary – fencing isn’t cheap and it can quickly add up. However you can salvage a lot of the materials or find them second hand which helps keep the costs down. Just remember that long-term, it’s well worth the investment in time and finances as it results in a safe and productive food garden.

floppy fence diagram

How do we keep out rabbits, wallabies AND possums? Well there are a few key elements behind this design which specifically targets each of the three animals: Here’s how…

The rabbit

At the bottom of your fence dig in an additional 20-30cm of chicken wire straight down into the soil, this will create a barrier to the rabbits digging under/through the fence. Alternatively you can put a 20-30cm ‘skirt’ on the bottom of your fence where, instead of being dug into the ground the wire is fanned out along the soil’s surface. Something to be mindful of is BABY rabbits who can squeeze through extra small fencing wire. You’ll see on the diagram above that additional wire has been added to the bottom strip of the fence to deter these babies from waltzing into your garden. This is where you can use either vermin mesh or small chicken wire to keep them out.

The possum

The element which prevents possums from rampaging in your garden is the top floppy section. Possums hate climbing on unstable, shaky branches – so we’re imitating this with the floppy top. They’ll climb up the fence like normal, but once they reach the top floppy section they’ll turn around and retreat. Simple!

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You can see the high tensile wire in action here – creating a beautiful curved shape

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The high tensile wire is spaced approximately 1m apart to ensure a consistent and strong floppy top

The wallaby

The wonderful thing about wallabies is they don’t jump very high – yay! Technically all you need is a standard fence up to approximately 1.5m high – that’s it. No floppy top or skirt required. Currently most of our garden is only fenced with this standard fencing approach which is keeping the “hoppies” out brilliantly (touch wood).

To see this all in action: You can watch a short video I helped make for a floppy fence I co-built at the Source Community Garden which shows you what this all looks like.

There are quite a few variations of the floppy fence which people do, it all depends on the materials available and the context in which they’re working. For example Pindari Herb Farm have incorporated corrugated iron into their fence structure to act as a wind/seed break. I’ve also seen this used to keep out wombats, but you have to dig the iron into the soil a good .5m as well.

flopfenc

One very important this to realise is that the height of a floppy fence will vary drastically depending on the vigor of your possums/wildlife. For example we live in urban/peri-urban Hobart and our floppy fence is around 1.5m’ish high, however we know people living in the country who build theirs well over 2m high with an electrical wire on top of that to keep out the possums. Please have no illusion about possums – there are some hard hearted ones out there who will stop at nothing to get to your crops. It seems the possums in our neighbourhood are just a bit more relaxed and casual… For which I am eternally grateful.

The main thing to remember is that fencing is your friend, get over any ‘oh, but fences create a bad vibe’ feelings you might have. Do what you need to do to make sure you can grow food without a constant battle with the wildlife. I’ve seen too many half-hearted attempts at fencing which has resulted in huge amounts of energy, time and resources being wasted and ultimately people decided that growing food is ‘too hard’. Generally it’s not too hard you just need to consider the right fencing design for your situation and get into it!

Handy Resources

*Your blogger is Hannah Moloney, co-director of Good Life Permaculture and lover of all things fun and garden-esk.

your thoughts:

22 Comments

  1. Dave

    Thanks for the article, I’ve been looking for a good inexpensive way to keep possums out of the veggie patch.

    Reply
  2. Madeleine Innocent

    I think your possums are well fed and safe. In farming country, I would imagine they have little food. The bio-dynamic approach to birds eating your food is to plant the trees that they prefer to feed from around the perimeter of your property. They only eat our food when there isn’t enough of theirs. I don’t have a possum problem, just a snail one (duck deficiency?), but I love the idea of providing the wildlife with the food that they prefer, so they (largely) leave ours alone. It isn’t us versus them. Life is all inclusive. We just have to find ways around it.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Great points Madeleine, and I totally agree, it’s definitely not “us versus wildlife”.

      In the past (at other properties) I’ve planted what some people called ‘sacrificial’ crops for possums on the boundary lines so they can eat them instead of the main crops. However it seems to only work when there isn’t a large population of possums. When there is, they move in and eat most or all of the crops regardless of these extra plants provided for them. Some people I know successfully use dogs to keep wildlife away (their barking and scent does the trick), we use fencing. I really feel it comes down to context. For example we live in the city, but back onto a forest reserve so have large amounts of possums, birds and wallabies. There’s a huuuuuge range of food for them due to being on the urban/forest edge, but it also means there are large populations of the wallabies/possums etc.

      One night (last year) we accidently left one of our gates open, and despite there being plenty of food available in the surrounding landscape – the wallabies came right on in and ate most of our young crops. Our neighbours who have been here for 26 years were recently telling us how the amount of wildlife has drastically increased over the past decade and are now looking at doing more fencing because of this.

      Regarding birds, blackbirds do a lot of damage throughout Tasmania, again we have trees on our boundary which they love, but they will also happily scratch up our seedlings/seeds if we don’t protect them. Again – their population seems to be going through the roof. So, yes – in my humble opinion I believe it comes down to context. Thanks for your thoughts :-).

      Reply
  3. Dana Martin

    Great floppy fence. We have done something similar, Wallabies keep the grass trim on the outside of our fence. You have to keep critters out. We too used recycled as much as possible, the difference being we buried the recycled iron into a trench. It’s been working for a couple of years now. Good luck, Cheers, Dana

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Thanks Dana and thanks for sharing your iron the trench approach – hope you have many more years of wildlife free gardening!

      Reply
  4. Tjoan Lie

    Hi,
    Thank you for such an informative article.
    I have a possum issue as well, and I am about to use your method soon.
    I would like to check what is the minimum length of the floppy part of the fence?
    Is it 130cm (straight) + 50cm (floppy) good enough?
    Thanks again
    Tjoan

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      That should be ok Tjoan, just depends on your local possums a bit :-). But def no shorter than that.

      Reply
  5. jon

    Hello,

    thank you so much for the brilliant article, it was the best i could find on the internet.

    I have some years ago built a really good fence and had an electric wire running over the top but the possums did not care about it. I have the rabbit proof and wallaby proof fence all done.

    Now i have just started putting the floppy curved wire on the top and i have done one side which is 45cm long I hope this is not too short? I have only done one long side of 17m so i could make it longer on the others since my wires is 90cm total height.

    Also what thickness wires are the 1m spaced high tensile wires?

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Glad it’s helpful Jon. 45cm might be ok – it just depends on the vigour of your possums. I would normally make it longer. But maybe just leave that section and make the rest longer and see if it matters at all? From memory I think the high tensile wire is 2.5mm or 3mm. Cheers 🙂

      Reply
  6. Michael

    Hi Hannah

    Great post with some good details. I’m wondering about the access point – the gate. Do you simply put a floppy top on that as well?

    Thanks

    Michael

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      You can do Michael, but it can get a bit awkward coming in/out of the gate. Often you can attached a strip of corrogated iron to the bottom of the gate to stop possums climbing up.

      Reply
  7. Cass

    Hi Hannah can you put up a pic of your gate? This is my floppy fence year. Need some hints on what happens at the junction of the floppy part of the fence and the gate.
    Ta

    Reply
  8. Russell Neville

    Hi, have you been able to keep foxes out with this method of fencing ?
    regards
    Russell

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Russell, We don’t have foxes in Tasmania so haven’t tested it with them.

      Reply
  9. Rowena

    Hi Hannah,
    This is really helpful. Do you have any suggestions for fences in residential areas where the floppy part can’t really be sticking out into the neighbours yard? I’m surrounded by neighbours on all sides and have possums running around the tops of the fences and climbing down to eat my plants. Do you think it would work if the floppy part is facing inwards?
    Thanks,
    Rowena

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Rowena, Sounds like a floppy isn’t the best option for you. I recommend looking into Pingg String which is great for urban properties :-).

      Reply
  10. Michael Griffiths

    Good article. I have about 5 species of macrapods on my property. Only 1 species, a lone Swamp Wallaby is responsuble for all the damage to young fruit trees. I meshed them all but he broke them or pushed through. He managed to break into my vegie patch on around 6 different occasions. I have finally had enough. I have purchased dog mesh and putting up 4 zones of the 4 acres under fruit. ( i have 132 acres of which 120 are uncleared voluntary conservation area). These zones i am going to connect with an extended dropper line which will be electified to srop him digging under. I am going to attach the wire to the starpickets using drilled poly pipe to insulate and cable ties.
    This way the wallabies still get access to areas.of pasture but hopefully my fruit trees wont suffer. Its only about 300m of fencing so its not a big deal.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Good luck with it Michael – sounds like you’ve got it sorted 🙂

      Reply
  11. Renee

    Does anyone know if a floppy fence would work to keep Goannas out of a chook coop?

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hmmm, in theory yes – but I’ve never experience this before – I wonder if others can chip in on this one?

      Reply
  12. Karen Willson

    I’m in suburbia (nsw) and my main problem is rats – they eat my pumpkins and my figs (I think – I’ve meshed and netted the fig tree but they’re still being eaten) and my compost. I’ve got a good setup for my chooks – there is no available food for the rats there. Any ideas?

    Reply

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