October 04, 2014
Electric Fence Gates and Gate Handles
We have tried numerous materials for electric gates over the past 25 years and have identified
several products that have worked well for us and numerous other that did not. Gates have three
primary components: the conductive gate material itself, the gate handle, and the gate hookup.
Using hi-tensile wire for your gates maintains continuity of conductivity, but is otherwise mostly
a nuisance. It has no give so if livestock or wildlife hit the gate it usually results in either a
broken gate handle or hookup. It is prone to twisting and kinking unless it is carefully opened and
either laid to the side or hung out of the way. There is no such thing as tossing a hi-tensile gate
hurriedly to the side and then putting back in place without untangling the wire.
Spring gates have similar characteristics. Great conductivity, but a mess if it ever gets away from
We went through a period of using 11 or 12 ½ ga. aluminum hi-tensile wire for gates but had similar
problems. Great conductivity, but prone to breakage and kinking.
We began using all-steel brake cable and found, while it could be tossed aside and kinking was no
longer a problem, handle and hookup breakage was still a problem.
Polyrope is another portable fence material that is used more for specialty applications such a
horse fencing. We found it to be an excellent gate material. This is basically a very heavy-duty
polywire that may be 3/16 to 1/4 inch diameter. It has excellent conductivity, high visibility, and
good breaking strength. Polyrope is available with either polyethylene or polyester base. The
polyester products tend to be more durable and easier to work with. Polyrope has enough give to
eliminate most of the handle and hookup failures we had experienced with all of the wire or cable
used for gates.
Another useful material for gates is electrified bungee rope. This is exactly what the name
implies: stretchable bungee with electrical conductors. It provides resiliency in gates that has
not been available with either wire, cable, or polyrope. Conductivity is similar to polyrope.
Bungee is usually cut to about 60% the width of the opening and stretched to close the gateway. It
has a lot of give so rather than breaking upon animal impact, it can stretch with the animal and
continue to shock it.
Usually the animal will move backwards from a bungee gate
a ft e r r e c e ivi ng mul tip le sh oc ks be c a us e they soon realize the pain is
ahead of them not behind them. Bungee is also useful for the longer gates we commonly use around
water blocks. When we used cable or polyrope, precise placement of the four posts forming the water
block was critical so that any gate would fit any opening in the block. The additional stretch in
the bungee eliminates the need for such careful post placement.
Gate handles can be divided into two basic types: stretch springs or compression springs. The
usefulness of stretch spring handles is easily destroyed by animals running into the gates. As the
name implies, the springs stretch. The problem is they do not return to their original length and
have lost all their springiness. The majority of electric gate handles are this type.
The spring inside the handle cannot be stretched out of shape as it can only be compressed. Animals
running into the gate rarely ever damage the handle itself. Compression springs do not have near as
much give to them as do stretch handles. The one advantage stretch spring handles have is you do
not have to be quite so careful have just the right length of gate to fit the opening.
If using these products for gates, it is advisable to move them out of the way rather than just
dropping it and driving over it. We have found both the polyrope and bungee products break down
much more quickly where they have been driven on. It is still very easy to just toss the gate aside
without worries about it becoming twisted or kinked as is common with wire gates.
You can spend anywhere from $1 to $2.50 for a pre-made gate hookup. These are typically a metal
plate with one or more slots or holes for hooking in gates that are mounted on a pin-lock
insulator. We prefer to make the simple hookup shown in the picture to the right. Simply leave a
long tail on the hot wire after tying it off
at the terminal insulator and bring it around to the gate side of the end post. Slip on a short
piece of insultube and then crimp a loop in the end of the wire. Staple the tube to the end post
and there you have it. This costs about 20¢ rather than $1.50.
Do not confuse this blue compression spring handle with blue stretch spring handles often found in
& home stores. There is no c o m p a r i s o n i n q u a l ity
between the two!