One night last spring, a pack of raccoons broke into our basement & ate our baby chickens. I discovered the grisly murders at 1AM. Chicken leg stumps in pools of blood. Dripping red arcs spattered across our chest freezer. Feathers & raccoon paw tracks everywhere. A scene straight out of CSI: Hobby Farm. I spent the next 4 hours cleaning like Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction.
Since then I’ve been on a personal vendetta to remove food sources, as the best way to discourage the cute little killers from living anywhere close by. I double-walled our compost bin with hardware cloth & ultra-secured the trash can. It wasn’t enough. They started eating the sunflower seeds from our bird feeders. Well played, raccoons.
For awhile I took the bird feeders in at night, but then the early morning birds miss out, all because of the evil raccoons. Can’t have that.
Enter the small-animal-safe electrified bird feeder.
For an electrified bird feeder to work, there needs to be a “live” part that’s energized by the fence charger, & another part that’s the “ground”. The live section needs to be electrically insulated from the ground, so the electricity goes nowhere while there are no raccoons around. When the animal touches the live & ground at the same time, they complete the circuit & feel shocked.
My bird feeder hanger is mounted with screws into our railing post.
There are two ways to make this work:
- Ground the feeder hanger, & run an exposed live wire along the deck railing.
- Ground the deck railing, & make the whole feeder hanger “live”.
I went with method #2 because the deck railing wires go flat on the railing & I liked how subtle that looked. The hard part is then the feeder hanger needs to be insulated from the deck & can’t touch the screws. I widened the mounting holes to fit short pieces of rubber (beer) tubing inside, & put the screws back through the tubing. I used a rubber spacer & flat washer on the screw head end, & a plastic spacer of 1/2″ PEX water line (which fit nicely over the beer tubing) to hold the feeder hanger away from the deck. Then I drilled another hole in the hanger & used a small bolt to attach the live wire. I ran a loop of ground wire on top of the railing with fence staples.
In hindsight, method #1 is MUCH easier. The feeder hanger doesn’t have to be changed around since it’s part of the ground — attach the ground wire behind one of the existing mounting screws. Run a short length of exposed “live” wire along the deck railing with a few insulators to keep it from touching. Pretty simple & a lot less work.
Few things to keep in mind: the fence charger isn’t waterproof so either stick it indoors or build a small box outside. The grounding rod should be within 20′ of the charger. I set up my charger just inside the cellar bulkhead & then ran the wires outside. Don’t hit anything when you set the grounding rod: sewer pipes, water lines, power conduit, large rocks…
Here’s the equipment list:
- Patriot PE2 Electric Fence Charger ($32) – THIS IS A LOW-POWER PULSED OUTPUT CHARGER, SAFE FOR SMALL ANIMALS!
- 50′ of 12-gauge insulated fence wire ($24)
- 200′ of 14-gauge steel fence wire ($27)
- GE 15154 digital timer ($12)
- Plastic insulators ($15 for 25)
- 4′ grounding rod & clamp ($25)
- Romex wire staples, 50-pack ($3)
DO NOT use a charger with continuous output (not pulsed).
DO NOT use a charger with output over 0.7 joules (for livestock).
Those can kill small animals.
I used a low-power pulsed fence charger that’s specifically rated for small animals — squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, cats etc. It puts out 0.5 joules at a 1-second interval, with a 2-mile range.
Continuous-output chargers, even with low power output, are dangerous. They shock constantly, so sometimes animals can’t escape. It’s a never-ending taser — the continuous charge overpowers the animal’s muscles & eventually stops their breathing & heart. Pulsed-output chargers shock very briefly & animals have time to escape between pulses.
Some inexpensive continuous-output fence charger models to stay away from: SS-525CS, SS-725CS or EAC10A, which are branded Havaheart, FI-Shock, or Zareba. Amazon has reviews for those like “Good job keeping dogs in, KILLS kittens though” … or another one, “Kills small animals”.
Get a pulsed low-output (under 1 joule) fence charger like the Patriot model listed above. Other fence chargers will work if they have pulsed output, AND less than 1 joule. Here are some other models to consider: EA2M, EA5M, EAC5M. You’ll find these with -RS, -FS, -Z, -BL suffixes which are just the branding … Red Snap’r, Fi-Shock, Zariba, Blitzer.
The total cost is about $140.
Larry of Grand Haven
I remember fence chargers from my youth. They interfered with radio and television signals. Has that been addressed in the newer versions?
Yes I think modern fence chargers are much better at RF suppression at the charger. Fence chargers still require proper grounding, & watch for anything on the live wire that creates RF noise like vegetation or bad connections or insulators — that causes most interference problems.
If you plug in the fence charger with the live wire disconnected & it still causes RF problems, then it’s the fence charger. Otherwise a good way to troubleshoot fence-generated RF noise is walk along the fence with a battery powered radio, & try the AM band which is typically more susceptible.
For my project I used one continuous length of insulated fence wire from the charger to the bird feeder hanger & made sure to do a proper ground … no interference on radio or TV.
I am thinking about using a timer that would turn the equipment on after dark and shut it off at daybreak. Comments?
I was hoping to seek a little advice as I am having the same problem with racoons. I purchased the same Zareba fence charger and simply connect the “live” feed wire to the metal round bird feeder pole and used a grounding post to connect the grounding wire from the Zareba system. I then insulated the live wire to the bird feeder and the bird feeder hangers to ensure that the birds would not receive a pulsed energy. I don’t have a way to test this as volt/ohm meters are set up to test higher amps and lower voltage. I called Zareba and they would not comment as they said this was not an approved use of their charger. Any comments/help would be appreciated.
Hi John. If the bird feeder pole (live) is just stuck into dirt (ground), raccoons won’t receive a shock because electricity takes the path of lease resistance & a metal pole stuck into dirt means the circuit is already complete. The idea with fence chargers is live & ground should be insulated from each other, & the animal completes the circuit between live & ground.
For a ground-mounted pole where you have the pole & feeder as live, you would need to create an insulating layer separating the pole from the ground, in some way so that raccoons make the only path between live/ground. For instance you could put the pole into a PVC pipe in the ground that’s capped at the bottom — PVC is an excellent insulator. Or you could switch the pole/feeder to be grounded, & instead run your live wire on plastic stakes around the base in such a way that raccoons are likely to touch both the wire (live) & the earth or pole (ground) but birds are not. Birds won’t receive a shock as long as you make it impossible for them to complete the circuit between live & ground.
You can buy an inexpensive fence tester for ~$10, although I think the only truly fair way is to test it yourself 🙂
Thank you for the reply. I feel a bit lame for not thinking of the pole as the ground 🙁
I will try PVC idea…or, a wooden 4×4 to mimic wooden deck mount. Raccoons are creative and destructive…10 other tries to keep them off the feeders failed or I would not be resorting to electrifying the bird feeder. Thanks again for the help and I will keep you apprised of my efforts. John
Sounds good – just keep in mind the wood post isn’t an insulator, & it’s also not a good conductor. To have the feeder/pole “live” & the wood post “ground”, the pole still needs an insulating layer separating it from the post. You could attach the pole to the post with U-bolts & have some rubber (like a cut-up bike tire tube) or PVC separating the pole from the wood & U-bolts.
Don’t mean to be a bother, but I have one last question:
I don’t have the ground running to the pole presently. If I use PVC, where would you attach the ground wire to the pole above the PVC section; if not, wouldn’t the raccoon be isolated from ground…i.e., how would the circuit be completed?
Sorry for the trouble, John
Sure, no problem – sounds like you are keeping the pole/feeder “live”? In that case the live wire would be attached to the metal pole, & the ground wire runs to your grounding rod … the earth becomes the ground (this is sounding very metaphysical!).
Initially I was thinking the PVC would only extend a few inches above ground level, since its purpose is to keep the buried portion of the pole from direct contact with the soil. Thinking about it more, the concern there is snow if you want to run this year-round since raccoons are typically active in the winter.
You’re right though — if you used a long section of PVC above ground, the raccoon wouldn’t be able to touch both the soil (ground) & the pole (live) at the same time. You’d have to run the ground wire up the PVC. That setup would be similar to how I ran the ground wire up onto the deck railing to help extend the ground circuit along the poorly-conducting wood.
THANKS VERY MUCH for your response. Since I am in Florida, we deal with a 105-degree heat index, but not snow. I think this is both a blessing and a curse. I am going to pick up some PVC this morning. I should be able to run a test later today or tomorrow. Again, many thanks for the help and I will keep you posted.
Could this be used with a remote? When a raccoon or non-native bird (house sparrow/starling) lights on the feeder, someone in the house could activate it?
Sure, you’d plug the fence charger into a wireless outlet switch like this one.
Hank In Virginia
Wick, I have an all metal bird feeder about 2 feet tall. Would it be possible to connect the hot wire to the top of the feeder and connect a ground wire on the bottom and back to the grounding rod. Would this work or would it possibly damage the charging unit. Of course the feeder would be isolated from the metal post. I really don’t want wires running all over my deck because of the grand children.
Hi Hank, as long as the top part of the feeder (hot) is electrically isolated from the ground & any other parts that are grounded (like the post), that should work fine.
When the feeder is just sitting there getting pulses from the charger, you want there to be no regular path from hot to ground. When the animal you’re trying to prevent comes along, you want to set it up so the animal has to touch both the hot & the grounded parts simultaneously, which gives them the shock. Hope that helps.
Enjoyed reading the ideas for energizing the feeder pole. I have a metal feeder pole and here is my setup. I had no animal activity on my feeders for a couple of months and now the squirrels are back at it. I have split water pipe insulation around the pole. I have two insulated wires running to base of pole from charger, then two bare wires wrapped around the insulation separated about an inch apart and terminated separately at the top of the pole. I have to protect against jumping from trees or the roof sine I have a small yard. Shouldn’t this work?
Hi Ed, I assume the two bare wires are hot & ground? That should work.
I have a squirrel off solar bird feeder. It stopped working it has two perches one is ground the other is hot. With a good ground stake. Can I run the ground back to the ground perch and the hot to the other perch. The perches are made of aluminum. Thanks Wick
Hi Brian, sounds like that would work. The squirrel touches both perches & would complete the circuit (receives the shock).
Hey Wick set up a Patriot PE2 for small animal. Works great no more squirrels Thanks. P.S no ground stake needed.
Hi Wick, just ran across your excellent post on raccoon-proofing a bird feeder. I have a somewhat different setup I’d like to run by you. I have a 16′ (3′ in-ground) stand-alone 4 X 4 treated post with four bird feeders about 12 feet from my back deck that the coons are wiping out on a nightly basis. I have aluminum flashing wrapped around the bottom 4 feet of the pole and a 2 foot black canister raccoon baffle above it, which has proven ineffective in keeping them off. Using your setup, would it be possible to either energize the flashing so that when the coons touch it from the ground they get zapped OR would it be better to energize the baffle and leave the flashing as a ground so that when the coons reach the baffle they get zapped?
Hey Dennis, whatever you energize with the charger needs to be insulated from ground/post. The baffle sounds like it would work well, if you could electrically insulate it from the post. The aluminum flashing would work great too but again it would have to be insulated from the ground/post. If you wrapped the post in a thin rubber or foam sheet & then the aluminum sheeting around that, that would do the trick as long as the flashing also didn’t touch the ground (grass weeds etc) & obviously you can’t use nails or screws into the post to keep the flashing in place, at least not without also insulating the nails/screws from touching the flashing… The good thing about this system is it’s very effective, the raccoons remember. Hope that helps!
Hi Wick. I have a metal chain link pole in the ground with a plastic bird feeder that slips over the top of the pole. I want to electrify the pole. How would I go about doing this.?
Hi Ray, basically the pole (or something metal) has to be electrically insulated from the ground. So if you want to electrify the pole, it would have to be sleeved in PVC with a PVC cap on the bottom, or something to that effect — fully insulated from the ground. It may be easier instead keep the pole grounded & run a short loop of fencing wire on insulators around the pole — so the pole stays grounded & the fencing wire is hot. Any animal that touches the pole & the wire at the same time gets shocked. Hope that helps.
Hello Wick, I’m planning the put a electric pulse charger on a deer feeder and have painted metal poles. Do you think that the paint will effect the shock or keep the animal from receiving a shock? do you know if anyone makes a low voltage solar powered fence charger?
Hi Tony, the paint will act like an insulator but since the voltage from the pulse charger is so high, it will probably still work fine. For instance the pole on my bird feeder has black spray paint & works just fine. Just depends on how thick the paint is. For a low-amp (not voltage) solar-powered fence charger, this is a good one.