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Fences that Keep People Out: Smart, Or a Bad Investment?

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: July 3, 2019
Fences that Keep People Out: Smart, Or a Bad Investment?

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Securing our property is a top concern for preppers and other humans are often a top concern. The right type of fence can be a significant deterrent to humans in a variety of SHTF scenarios. But, fences are costly, especially those tough enough to slow humans down, so are they a worthy investment, or not?

Pros of a Human-Proof Fence

The classic prepper concern is a hungry mob, coming to steal your food supply after rule of law, the food supply chain, and electricity have all gone by the wayside, temporarily or not. That’s certainly not the only SHTF scenario where a human-proof fence can be of help. But if it is your concern, a fence has virtues and flaws. Obviously, no fence can keep out a very determined human, especially one who is willing to smash a car into it. But, it will keep many people out, even by sheer intimidation.


You also have to think about less severe SHTF scenarios. For example, would-be thieves and home intruders can be deterred by fencing, although there are less expensive theft-deterring options that may work better. A tall fence is a particularly good choice to protect from defense against civil unrest and rioters. During a pandemic, it’s a great physical barrier to keep the ill from approaching your home and infecting you and your family. The fence could also shield your home from a terrorist attack, should such an attack happen to occur on your street. Of course, for some people, that’s much more likely than for others.

Plus, a fence that can repel humans provides a great deal or privacy, which can be helpful in any number of SHTF scenarios. It’s a huge advantage for people to not be able to see where you store your valuables or your prepping stockpile. Ideally, no one will know you’re a prepper.

Something Worth Protecting

You might argue that a large, secure fence indicates to the whole neighborhood that you have something worth protecting, perhaps even that you’re a prepper. But, I don’t think this holds true. Few people consider prepping a common “hobby.” Therefore, I think most people are more likely to assume that you have a huge fence because you’re wealthy, “paranoid”, have been the victim of a crime, or are a minor celebrity than because you’re a prepper. These things might still make you more likely to be a target during a SHTF scenario, but don’t necessarily make you a screaming beacon the way, for example, a visible food stockpile might.


In urban areas, there are enough other residences and homes around that a fence might be just enough deterrence for a thief to choose another target. And, if you live in a rural area, your fence could be some distance from your home and incorporated into your early warning system, whatever that is. That way you have time to prepare for an intruder as they worry about passing your fence.

Cons of a Human-Proof Fence

Putting up such a secure fence isn’t all benefits. Instead, a fence can limit you in the same way it limits other people. The primary disadvantage is that a human-proof fence makes it much harder for you to leave your property. What if you need to flee from a fire, but it traps you in? Not only could you get stuck, but firefighters and other emergency personnel won’t have as easy access to your home to save you. Adding multiple exit points to your fence can help prevent these problems, but can’t eliminate them.

human proof fence

If you live in a rural area or plan to hunt and forage if SHTF, you have to consider the effect your fence may have on pets and wildlife. It can be smart to keep deer and other pest animals out of your garden. However, a neighbors cat might get caught in your barbed wire fence. And, if you want to hunt deer, you don’t want to drive them away entirely. Plus, your fencing might keep animals from the water or food sources on which they rely.

You should also consider your relationship with your neighbors. Are they the type of people who will be off-put by a huge fence, or will they think it devalues their property? It could be more important for you to have a good relationship with your neighbors than to have a big fence. After all, during SHTF you can rely on your neighbors for support by trading goods, knowledge, and skills. Preppers tend to be solitary or family-oriented people who overlook the advantages the broader community can offer, so be sure you mull this one over carefully.

Types of Fences

You can choose a fence to heighten the advantages, or minimize the disadvantages, that matter most to your particular situation. You’ll also have to consider cost, and exactly how much of your property you can afford to fence.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of fencing you might consider. Remember that whichever you choose, you’ll want it over six feet to block sight and discourage climbing. If you choose not to have your fence professionally installed, at least ensure it is thoughtfully installed. And, always be sure that you’ve checked into your local laws, some types of fencing can open you up to liability, or be outright illegal.

Fence Toppers Including Barbed/Razor Wire

A plain wooden or chain-link fence isn’t going to be human-proof by itself. Both are easy to cut, and a chain-link fence is easy to climb. No matter which base you pick, the crown will be more important. This is the fence accessory you place on top that deters climbing. You have several options:

  • Barbed Wire: Barbed wire is a strong metal wire with regular spikes. It’s easy to install but difficult to pass and relatively cheap compared to razor wire. Barbed wire is often installed in elaborate patterns like coils to make it more dangerous for someone to attempt to cut. On the other hand, barbed wire and razor wire are rarely allowed on residential fences.

barbed wire

  • Razor Wire: Unlike barbed wire, every section of razor wire is dangerous. It’s harder to pass, but also more costly and more challenging to install. A thief could cut through your razor wire, just about as quickly as they cut through barbed wire. But, because razor wire can inflict very serious injury easily, few attempt to cut it. When they do, they’re very careful, which gives you time to prepare.


  • Spikes: Other types of fence crowns are metal spikes. They can be plastic spikes meant to deter cats or birds, or high-quality metal made thick enough that they can’t be cut through without great effort, like the ultra barrier. Either type may help discourage a human from climbing the wooden fences you find in suburban backyards.


  • Rotating tops

A Living Fence

You can use certain trees and bushes as fencing, or as a compliment to chain-link or wooden fencing. This strategy has many advantages. It may not be obvious that a line of trees or bushes is a fence, which helps you avoid attracting attention to your property. Many trees and fences add thorns or could cause skin irritation, which heightens the risk for a thief who might otherwise want to climb or cut their way through it.

nature fence

Plus, if you plant a row of thorny bushes along a chain link or wooden fence, you still get the advantages of that fence while you wait for the plants to grow. And, neighbors may be much happier to see a living fence, which you can make out of decorative plants, even climbing roses.

On the other hand, there are disadvantages to a living fence. Depending on your choice of plant, it may take a long time or a great deal of maintenance to make it into a fence. Sure, you could plant a row of trees and hope they fill in. But you might need to force the tree to grow into a proper pattern with pruning or tying. After this big investment of time, and potentially money depending on how expensive your plants are, disease, drought, and fire could destroy your whole fence. Even if they just make gaps, a fence with a gap in it isn’t very effective. Yet, if you decide you want to remove this fence yourself, it’s pretty challenging.

That being said, if a living fence is a good solution for you, there are some plants you’ll want to consider for the purpose.

  1. Osage Orange: Historically, this tree was frequently used as fencing. It grows relatively short (20-30 feet) and thick, with long thorns on the branches to deter people and animals. According to Mother Earth News, one of the main reasons the tree was used is it sprouts new trees from the roots, conveniently filling in any gaps that develop in the fence.
  2. Tagasaste hedges: Those in dry, sandy regions will find a great living fence in the Tagasaste hedge. It grows to roughly 5 feet tall, and quickly. It’s a thick, drooping, willow-like plant that creates gorgeous white flowers. And, you can use it for animal feed if worst comes to worst.
  3. Berry bushes: Many berries can be grown into thick, formidable fences. Plus, you can likely find a berry to best suit your climate, Saskatoon berries will work for those the furthest north. While there are thornless varieties of many berry bushes, you will want the thorny ones for this purpose.
  4. Roses: For those with smaller yards in urban or suburban areas, climbing roses can be a clever fence solution. You’ll need a chain-link fence or wooden fence as the backbone of the fence, but the roses will add the thorns to deter climbing. Plus, neighbors will absolutely love this plant. As an added benefit rose fence will mark you as a gardening fanatic, not a prepper. And you don’t need to invest in the finicky, most expensive roses. Go for cheaper, hardier varieties.
  5. Firethorn: If your climate can’t handle roses, it may support firethorns. They are quite beautiful and thorny, but much more hardy than roses. Plus, they are already in common use as hedges, which means your house may not stand out dramatically from the next.

Electric Fences

Electric fences have big advantages and disadvantages from a prepping perspective. First and foremost, they require power. Many systems have backup batteries in case of a criminal cutting your power, but those aren’t meant to last for days. So you’ll need to have your own source of electricity for when the grid goes down. If you want a fence that will be stable for a long term SHTF situation, electric fences are likely not your best choice.

electric fence

But if you can generate your own electricity, an electric fence is very efficient. It’ll deter thieves, who are unlikely to be prepared to dismantle the fence, as your average bolt cutters aren’t a smart plan. Your fence should trigger an alarm if a thief uses a rubber mat to help them hop over it. As long as your electric fence is tight and well-maintained, it’s a good solution.


You’ll have to consider what kind of fence you can afford, of course. And you know your budget better than I do. But, you should also consider the opportunity cost of a fence. Opportunity cost is a financial term that means when you put resources towards one thing, you can’t put those resources towards another.


If you have a set prepper budget, is investing in an enormous, human-proof fence really worth it? It depends on your situation. For some people, it may make sense. You have the basics covered, all of the important equipment you need, but your home is insecure from one threat or another. If it makes sense, get a fence, but don’t forget that every length represents resources that could be part of a more efficient prepping plan.

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10 Responses to “Fences that Keep People Out: Smart, Or a Bad Investment?”

  1. Nice post, It’s quite informative. People can gain a lot of knowledge from this blog post. Really informative post, very helpful for people looking to learn more about Fences that Keep People Out. Thanks for sharing it with us. I have also found this resource useful and its related to what you are mentioning.

  2. I really like the idea of using a tree or bush to complement my chain-link fence because it’ll look nicer. I have this ivy growing by my house. I bet I could get it to grow on the fence, too.

  3. I like what you said about being careful about electric fencing with all of its cost and maintenance issues. I imagine that for most people an electric fence is an unnecessary precaution since other fences can still be a deterrent. If I needed a fence, I might even look into temporary options, just to see if the fence is actually doing its job.

  4. Note that the people at // will NOT sell you any toppers unless you have a commercial business and can prove you are the owner.

  5. In order to provide security you need layers. Think of prisons, nuclear plants etc. They all have layered security.
    The fence is a good thing especially if you have to defend. Don’t think you might nit be held accountable after things return to “normal”. Having a defined boundary line is important to your justification.

  6. I work for the state highway dept. in CA. Let me tell you that chainlink fencing is WORTHLESS for keeping people out. We have chainlink along just about every highway and around all our facilities, and the “homeless” cut them just as fast as we can put it up. Wire cutters are EDC items for them. I’ve come back within hours after a new fence installation and seen whole panels cut. I think they cut the fences sometimes just to show us they can. That being said, I planted Japanese roses around my house in front and blackberries in the back. The flowers are pretty, the thorns are deadly and the blackberries are delicious.

  7. Fencing is one of those things you should “hide in plain sight.” A lot depends on the aesthetic of your general community. If I saw a barbed wire fence around a property that looked like a farm, or a simple fence around a nicely maintained house/yard I wouldn’t think twice. But if the fence was way higher than other fences in the area…or if it was the only hosue on the block with a fence…or if the fence was papered in all kinds of angry looking “keep out / no trespassing” signs then I’d be highly suspicious of the occupant and what they’re doing behind that fence.

  8. You should check the laws on fencing period. My urban city has height limits, limits on the distance from roads, corners, and other property & limits on the material that can be used. You must appeal to the City if you want an exception. Permits are required, too. Fences are expensive! It’d be a shame to spend time and money to install one only to get a notice from your local government that it needs to come right back down or be subject to a fine.

  9. See what the laws in your state are concerning using electric fencing in a residential setting. You may be setting yourself up for liability issues if, say, a child gets stuck in one and is injured. Same with swimming pools- “attractive nuisance.”

  10. GREAT article – hardscaping is a home security issue that never gets enough emphasis …

    One issue you didn’t cover – walls can be used to “channel” – given a chance the lazy unmotivated thieving punk will take the eazy route every time – same same with the rioter/looter >>>> gives you the opportunity to enhance & reinforce a smaller area of your perimeter with detection & defence …

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