Pallets are hands-down one of the most versatile and important no-cost homesteader supplies. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever use them, if you happen upon a stash of them at a store for free, you owe it to all of your soon-to-be jealous fellow homesteaders across the world to bring those pallets home. From instant patches in existing fences to building entire lines with only pallets and elbow grease, pallets make the easiest and quickest fence to put up.
My husband lived and worked out of state for a year and a half while I had three (now four) small children and a small farm to take care of alone. I remember how much I appreciated being able to use pallets then. I could put up a single line by myself while the baby napped. (I originally wrote about our pallet fence back in 2012 on my old blog, but in an effort to consolidate info and remove myself from Google’s clutches, I am rewriting those articles here and ditching the Blogger blog.)
Finding Pallets for Pallet Fencing
Look around your local town for any store that receives shipments on pallets. In our area, the feed store, a stove manufacturer, a building supply company, a cooling manufacturer and occasionally Walmart have free pallets lying outside. You do need to check with the shop owner first. I remember a story a couple of years ago where people kept stealing a business’s pallets and the business had to keep paying their supplier for the missing pallets. Not all companies throw out their pallets because they have agreements with suppliers, so be sure to check around first. And, like a prime huckleberry picking spot, try not to tell too many people your super secret source or you’ll find yourself out of pallets before too long.
Building a Pallet Fence
Pallets go together really easily. You don’t need any tools, posts, latches or money to build a sturdy pallet fence that will keep pigs, goats and other small critters in. The trick to making it without posts is to alternate standing the pallets up and laying one down for stability. As you can see in this photo, there are two pallets fastened together upright, followed by a pallet turned the other way, laid down on its side.
This proved to be a mistake in the area we used it, because the bucks figured out they could ping pong off the shorter pallets to jump over. All of our future pallet fences were made with the sideways pallet standing up to its full 48″ height, rather than on its side for a 6″ shorter height of 42″. The method remains the same, however, and these fences are instantly sturdy.
Tying Pallet Fencing Together
If you’re looking to make a totally no cost livestock fence, all you need is a stockpile of baling twine, the other indispensable material no farmer should be without. Working one pallet section at a time, simply tie the pallets together, one at the top and one at the bottom. I triple knot the twine because it will eventually work loose otherwise. Annual inspection is a good idea anyway, but it’s nice to know they aren’t breaking loose while I’m not looking.
This fencing goes up super quick. Set two upright and they’ll hold each other up while you tie them. Then, just add another, tie it to its earlier fellow, and continue down the line.
Tying Pallet Fencing Together Permanently
If you have a few bucks to throw at some torx screws, you’ll have a fence that won’t ever come down without your permission. We tried using regular Phillips head screws to begin with, but since most pallets are made of hardwoods, it’s a slow, drill-killing process that required a lot of pilot holes. Torx screws use a star bit and if you have an impact drill, they go together in seconds. Ahh, technology!
See Charlie, our young buck, in this picture? By fall he was leaping like a gazelle over this fence, but once we put the bucks into their own pen, this time withe sideways pallets turned upright, none of the bucks could figure out how to escape.
Making Gates in Pallet Fences
If you want a simple solution, just open and close one of your pallets. You can use a chain or other easier fastener instead of tying and untying twine every time you go through. If you have two spare t-posts, put one on either side of your intended gate area and drop a pallet down over it before attaching the pallet to its buddy on the other side, which stabilizes the pallets enough to put a gate. A cut up chunk of cattle panel can be affixed to the side of a pallet with horseshoe nails, then it will hinge and open/close easily.
Putting up Cross Fences with Pallets
If you want to subdivide your fenced pallet area, butt a pallet up next to one of the sideways stabilizing pallets, tie or screw it tightly together, and start building perpendicular to the original fence. It’s amazing how sturdy these fences are and how quickly you can create small paddocks to rotate through.
Other Uses for Pallets
Some other ways we’ve used pallets around the farm have been:
Tree protection. If you have goats, and trees, you must pick one or protect the latter. Both cannot coexist peacefully. In goat pens or for young fruit trees, four pallets tied in a square around the tree will keep goats and deer from reaching in to eat the tree.
Pallet goat feeder. This went together easily and provided a great way to keep the hay up off the ground. You’ll get a lot of waste any time you use a cattle panel as-is, but if you have other critters around to eat up what’s dropped, like pigs, waste is not an issue. It can also provide bedding for the goats if it’s under cover. This pallet goat feeder was large enough to fit one bale of hay. The cattle panel was hinged with horseshoe nails so it could be opened for putting the bale in. Plywood on top of the overhead pallet kept rain out.
Hay foundation. If your barn or hay storage area has a dirt floor, your bottom bales will become moldy and mice infested. Putting them up on a pallet solves both problems and keeps everything dry. If you store hay outside, the pallet makes a great tie-off point for a hay tarp.
Bridges over muddy pathways. We have a couple spots that are prone to mud overload in the spring, like in front of the chicken coop. For those trouble areas, I’ll eventually lay down some gravel, but for now, a pallet makes a great bridge to keep critters and boots out of the mud.
Emergency pens. Anytime you need to put up a short term pen, pallets are an easy solution. Each section of five pallets (two standing up, one sideways, two more standing up, like this – – I – -) measures 14′ long, so you can make a cozy holding pen out of 20 pallets wherever you need to.
Temporary kidding pens. Four pallets against a wall create a pen large enough for a Nigerian Dwarf to comfortably kid in. You can set up a row of them for multiple does and easily access all of them. When kidding season is over, take the pallets down and you’re back to your regular shelter.
Sturdy summer shelters. Speaking of shelter, you can make a quick and easy shelter out of six pallets, or more, as needed. Pallets laid on their sides make great walls. Another pallet on top holds things together and can be finished with plywood or tin to keep the rain out. I don’t have a picture of our shelters made entirely of pallets, but they are similar to this one we’re building now, just made of all pallets.
You can side it with plywood and finish the end to make a sturdy, snow-proof winter shelter, or leave it open like this photo to allow airflow while protecting from sun and rain.
This shelter we’re building in the photo will be fully finished and sided, with a tin roof and a finished end. This will be the goats’ year round shelter out on pasture.
As you can see, pallets are incredibly versatile and a cost effective way to build shelters, fences and myriad other things a homesteader needs. I only regret that we couldn’t move the 200+ we had at our old house!