4. ENCLOSURE CONSTRUCTION
click on thumbnail pictures to enlarge
with the previous chapter I guess the best place
to start is with the perimeter fence and again I
would remind you that I am only going to talk
about enclosures that my wife and I have built or
those of which we have had first hand knowledge.
Perimeter fences can be comparatively simple to
erect provided you follow a few simple guidelines.
The first thing to do is to determine where the
fences are going to go by marking them out with
pegs and/or stringlines which is the way I did it,
not being familiar with ‘high tech’ items like
dumpy levels, but, of course, please feel free to
use any methods at your disposal with which you
are comfortable. All the
perimeter fences we have built have been of the
same type, which we have found to be economical
and yet very effective. These
are made using permapine posts with four straight
wires from which to hang the wire mesh.
first attempt at fence building was erected in the
Adelaide Hills in 1984, (see Figure 1 in part 3)
was a little under 500m (1,640ft) in length and is
still standing the last time I saw it in late
2001. It was designed as an upside down ‘T’
shape with a width of wire laying flat on the
ground that was attached with ‘hogrings’ to the
vertical portion of the fence and the whole thing
was basically made of chicken wire hung from
tensioned straight wires. The climate in that
area has had snow on rare occasion’s right through
to temperatures in the mid forties (degrees
C). The property was at the peak of a hill
that had medium tree cover and a very ‘rocky’
ground. It was a five sided area of about one
hectare (2.5 acres) and the fence contained the
this was the first feral proof fence my wife and I
had erected and we cheated somewhat, in that four
of the five boundaries of the property had an
existing sheep and lamb fence with concrete posts
already in position. This was in reasonably
good order, so we used it as a basis for our feral
concrete posts of the existing fence were at 12m
(40ft) intervals with a steel dropper at the
midway point. It consisted
of a sheep and lamb mesh topped with two barbed
wires. Personally, I do not like
barbed wire and as far as I can see, is of little
use anyone. Animals of all types
still get mutilated by this stuff without it
seeming to have any deterrent effect.
But I’m digressing.
The first thing we did was to remove the barbed
wire in the places where I thought it likely to
cause problems later. The sheep and lamb wire
was left in place and actually became quite useful
when we were attaching the new wire.
We used 2.4m (8ft) permapine posts which were then
attached to the concrete posts by drilling 12mm
(½”) holes in each one and bolting them together
with 10mm (7/16”) Hex head
galvanised bolts. The existing midpoint
droppers were also left in place and we bought
some 2.4m (8ft) lengths of lightweight galvanised
steel tube as droppers for the new fence.
There were 52 poles that had to be attached to the
existing concrete posts and we found the most
difficult and time consuming job of all was
drilling the holes in the concrete posts. To
put it bluntly it was a s*** of a job and took me
a whole weekend. Tip: don’t ever try to
drill a 12mm (½”) hole into a concrete post in one
go or you’ll probably stuff up your drill and/or
your drill bit. Do it in stages, it’s much
easier for you and kinder on your tools.
Because I had such a lot to do I did it in three
stages by starting with a 4mm (3/16”)
drill then an 8mm (3/8”)
then finished off with the 12mm (½”). The next
job was to drill holes through each permapine
posts at about 150mm (6”) down from the top and at
about 1050mm (3’6”) down from the top. These
holes were to be used for threading a single
strand 2.5mm galvanised steel wire from which we
would hang the mesh. In this case, apart from
the holes to bolt the poles to the posts, there
was no need to drill through the posts lower down
because we had the existing sheep and lamb wire
from which to hang the mesh.
the boundary that did not have an existing fence
we used 3m (10ft) poles and dug holes about 600mm
(2ft) deep which we backfilled, after inserting
the pole, with the soil that came out of the hole
mixed with a little dry cement. The first post
from each corner was placed at the 3m mark and
then at intervals of 12m and a steel dropper
midway between. The corner posts were braced
each side using a horizontally pole from the
corner post to the post at the 3m (10ft) mark and
were also wired diagonally. (See figure 5)
Since building this fence we have now built a
second one without the advantage of being able to
use or add to an existing structure. Here we
used the same principles but placed the posts at
6m (20ft) intervals without the use of a dropper
between them and found it to be just as effective.
The corners were braced in a similar way.
next job was to lay wire mesh on the ground before
we got to the next stage of stringing support
wires through all the posts. Don’t put the
support wire in first or you’ll probably end up
decapitating yourself on them whilst laying the
foot wire. For the foot wire we used 32mm (11/4”)
x 1800mm (6ft) chicken wire flat on the ground
with equal amounts inside and out. When you get
to each post, (remember we were unable to put the
foot-wire down before installing the posts because
of the existing concrete posts) I found the best
way was to cut the mesh halfway through, lay it
down and the re-knit it. This means working on
both side of the fence so you will need to check
with your neighbours before you embark upon this
exercise. In fact, that would probably be a good
idea right at the very beginning of your project,
before you start anything.
mesh we used for the bottom 600mm (2ft) was a
heavy gauge 32mm (11/4”)
chicken wire and the remaining 1800mm (6ft) was a
light gauge 50mm (2”) chicken wire (see figure
1.). This chicken wire was hog-ringed to the
straight wires and the existing sheep and lamb
fence for support. The resulting fence is
‘sloppy’ which is something we were aiming for,
because if an animal runs into it, it will give,
and nine times out of ten the animal will be
uninjured, but if you have a heavy mesh (e.g.
cyclone) there is a better than even chance you
will end up with an animal that has a broken neck
or back or some other unpleasant injury.
so now we have the foot wire laid out around the
entire boundary, but you don’t have to do it this
way if it is not practical, you can do one side at
a time if you prefer.Then you can run the straight
wires through the posts and fix at each corner.
You will find the use of a wire strainer very
useful at this point. These can
be expensive but worth their weight
in gold and you will always have it for other jobs
in the future. It is a very handy tool to keep
by you and you will never regret the outlay.
Barbed staples used for attaching fencing materials to permapine posts and
Now you can start to hang
the mesh which is a simple matter of fixing one end to a corner post by using
barbed staples and then hogring the mesh to the
(See Figures 2
is really all there is to it except that the
addition of and electric fence will ensure you
will keep out cats. The foot
wire will generally stop foxes and rabbits (they
haven’t the brains to walk back a couple of feet
and then start digging) and the sloppiness of the
fence will also stop cats climbing it, but
is still the posts to
have no trouble running up an eight foot fence
Fence line showing the method of attaching the mesh to the strainer wire
shows a couple of options for the electric
fence. The first shows the fence with the
addition of a top
overhang to which you can attach the ‘hot wire’ on
the outside and the other (which is the way we
adopted) shows no overhang but
a hot wire on the top of the fence and two, one
close to the ground and
another close to the top, also on the outside.
have since built a second fence in this style but
it was created from scratch instead of utilising
an existing fence. The only real difference was
that we measured out the boundary first and then
used stringlines and put a marker at each point
where we intending to put a post. In this case
the posts were at 6m intervals (3m at the corners)
with no dropper and as mentioned earlier, we have
found that they both work very well, are
comparatively cost effective and will serve you
well for many years without a great deal of
attention. Tip: When bracing the corners do NOT
put the horizontal poles as high as shown in
figure 5. They should be about half way down
the verticals. This had the effect of pulling
the corner post out of the ground when tightening
up the top strainer wire and the corner diagonals.
line at a corner showing the horizontal bracing with poles. There is also
diagonal bracing with wires although not visible in this photograph.
up on this
section I would like to add a small word of
caution. When building this type of fence have
some consideration for any wild creatures in your
area. We found with the second of these fences
we built, much to our anguish and dismay, that the
mesh of the bottom 600mm (2ft) was
a death trap for the Shingleback Skink (Tiliqua
rugosa), (or Stumpys or Sleepy Lizards) – they
have numerous common names (see
They would try to squeeze through the mesh and be
able to get their head through, but not their body
and then find that they could not ‘reverse up’
because of their large scales and angular shaped
head. This problem is easily overcome
a much smaller or larger mesh. In our case,
larger was not an option, as young Potoroos and
Bettongs would have been able to squeeze through.
thought perhaps that this point, before I
start to describe the building of wombat
enclosures, I would touch upon some of the
internal paraphernalia connected with macropod
There are really only a couple of issues involved,
one is food and water, the other is shelter.
food containers we have utilised old metal laundry
troughs which have had most of their supports
removed so that the animals can reach the contents
comfortably. For a water source we have used a
couple of things, firstly a square or rectangular
plastic trough similar to those often found in the
fishing industry for transporting fish. Secondly,
we have used old baths. Baths have a problem, in
as much as they are very dangerous pieces of
equipment for small creatures. Animals like
Bettongs or Potoroos for example have a habit of
hopping onto the side for a drink and falling in.
This can also happen to wild birds and if some
provision is not made for these creatures to be
able to get out, they will drown. To that end, we
line all our baths with wire mesh and since doing
this we have not had a single fatality, either
captive or wild. You can use any old bits of wire
you've got laying around the place for this
purpose as long as you make sure it goes well
below water level and right over the sides of that
Kangaroo shelter showing feed bins and gutter system
kangaroo shelter shown in
is a very simply built structure using permapine
poles for the supports, 'C' channel for cross
members and second-hand corrugated iron for the
roof and back. An old water tank, cut in half,
was used for wind protection at either
Another use for these old water
tank halves, if laid with the cut side to the
ground, could be as wallaby shelters. If you do
this however, please be sure to cover them with
something so that they do not become a hot box in
the summer. Despite all the trouble we went to,
to build this kangaroo shelter, they very rarely
use it and much prefer to lay about in the shade
under the trees. Its main purpose is in keeping
their food dry and of course the animals do
use it when feeding.
you look closely you will also notice that
provision is made to collect water from the roof
of this structure. Guttering is becoming a
very expensive commodity these days and the system
used here is a comparatively cheap way around the
problem. This gutter is made very simply
from two lengths of 90mm stormwater pipe cut
lengthwise with an angle grinder. This
is then slid over the end of the corrugated iron
roof and screwed down from the top.
This has an added advantage in that it tends to
flatten out on the top and stops leaves and other
rubbish running into the gutter also it tends to
push the bulk of the section to the underside of
the roof making plenty of capacity for the water
Suitable for all wombat species
mentioned earlier, the housing of wombats needs
special care, the basics of which were covered in
part 3 of this diatribe. However
this section covers only enclosures appropriate to
the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus
latifrons) (and would also be quite adequate
for the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus
krefftii) should they ever become available,
which, at this point in time, is highly unlikely).
The Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) will
be covered later in the article.
Dens or Sleeping Chambers
can be any shape you like or whatever fits into
your location, but the following items should, if
possible, be included in your design.
Two or more entry tunnels.
More than one sleeping chamber per animal.
Do not make the sleeping chambers too large.
Allow access to the sleeping chambers from
Concrete floor with reinforcing mesh.
Use chew and scratch resistant materials.
My first attempt at a wombat den showing the
two stone covered entrance tunnels at either
side of the covered overhang.
The logs under the overhang are bolted together to make an access
I have used several different methods to build
wombat dens but only two in building their
enclosures. Up to the time
of writing I have built sixteen enclosures and
seventeen dens. I do
not intend to give you a ‘blow by blow’
description of each of these, as the basic
principles have been the same for all of them,
however, I will endeavour to describe the
My first wombat den was actually a converted
(see figure 8)
and the construction went something like the
wallaby shelter was a small three sided affair
with an area of approximately 2.5m x 1.5m and was
on sloping ground. My first task
was to remove the shelter and dig out the area to
make it level then built a framework of permapine
logs to the outside of which I nailed galvanised
corrugated iron to the back, sides and top,
leaving the front open to allow access for working
on the inside. To the
inside I nailed lengths of timber (old pallet
rails) which then gave me a gap, the thickness of
the permapine posts between the iron and the
This I packed tightly with straw, the idea being
to insulate the whole structure to help keep it
warm in winter and cool in summer.
All the material I had dug out from the floor area
I heaped up against the back and over the top to
give the appearance of a grassy mound rather than
a tin shed. Unfortunately
I did not have enough material to cover the sides
as well, so I piled up a heap of rocks and one
side and fixed a row of short off cuts of
permapine logs on the other which gave it the
appearance of a small fence disappearing into the
floor of the den was covered with a heavy steel
reinforcing mesh to prevent the animals from
digging within the den.
I would recommend a reasonably strong mesh for
this purpose, something like concrete reinforcing
mesh only with smaller squares.
I managed to get hold of some obsolete double bed
spring grids (the things that bed springs are
attached to inside a bed base) which were ideal,
but failing this, probably the best material
would be galvanised weldmesh about 100 x 100 x
minimum 2.5mm gauge (but preferably heavier).
This was laid over the entire floor area of the
den and then covered with about 150mm (6") of
washed sand (not builders sand) and then about a
foot of straw. I spread
two full bales of hay over the floor of the den as
bedding and then placed another three bales inside
the den in one piece, (with the twine removed) and
let our wombat do what she liked with them.
They were all soon totally dismembered and spread
out all over the place, most of it pushed out
through the tunnel entrances and into the
den, and the second, were both originally
constructed in the late 1980’s and have since had
concrete floors added. The first was
also divided through the centre to make two
smaller chambers instead of one big one.
The main reason these dens have since been
converted to concrete floors, is that we found the
animals would dig out the soil from below the wire
mesh, which means they are eventually sleeping on
a grid with nothing but air around them.
We lost an animal (as in died) due to a urinary
tract infection from the second of these
enclosures some years ago and I am convinced,
although there is no evidence to support my
theory, that this animal died through catching a
chill from sleeping in an area where air could
circulate around his entire body; thereby leaving
him vulnerable to the first infection that came
The front of the den is a
complex (see figure
This I arranged into two halves, one half having a
fixed front and the other half arranged into a
hinged door to enable me to gain access for
cleaning purposes. The
fixed part of the front had a hole at ground level
large enough for a fully-grown wombat to get
through. From this hole I placed
a sheet of galvanised corrugated iron folded
lengthwise into the shape of an upside down U and
covered it with soil, rocks, turf etc to give the
effect of a tunnel entrance to the den.
This tunnel idea was in fact an afterthought but
was accepted by our wombat with grateful delight.
I would mention here that I was not particularly
happy with the lining of this tunnel being made of
corrugated iron (there is always the potential for
the animals to injure themselves on the ends)
although it never seemed to present us with any
problem. I would have preferred
something like a concrete sewer pipe but was
unfortunately unable to obtain one at the time.
second den we built was basically the same as the
first except the internal dimensions were only
1.5m (5ft) x 1.5m (5ft) and had a shelter over it
to give protection from rain and sun (a bit like a
carport - or wombatport if you like!).
Another difference was that the access door was
outside the enclosure to enable me to get inside
the den without having to go into the run.
This turned out to be a real bonus as the animal
that occupied that enclosures was a real horror –
he would have had your leg off at the knee given
half a chance!
third den we built was by far the most
satisfactory. It was constructed
under a circumstance where I was able to take
advantage of an existing situation and is not
something that is likely to be repeatable easily.
I would go as far as to say that most people would
probably not be able to copy this idea but if you
can it works really well.
Basically it was the pit under the garage floor
converted to a wombat den.
Actually, that is not entirely true, as the pit
was not there in the first place.
When we purchased our property in the Adelaide
Hills, the concrete floor of the garage had been
cut ready for the construction of a pit; but that
was as far as the previous owners had got.
We just completed the process but turned it into a
wombat den instead of a service pit.
den consisted of three chambers, a tunnel in and a
tunnel out which were at opposite ends of the
complex. The floor (of the den)
was concreted (I wasn’t going to fall into that
trap again) with sheet steel for the sides.
This den was reasonably easy to make and, in my
opinion, is about as good as it gets as far as a
home for a wombat is concerned.
It was cool in summer, warm in winter and had very
easy access from inside the garage.
The roof (or access) to the den was made from 50mm
(2”) thick laminated particle board and was hinged
in two halves so that it could be lifted for
inspection purposes. One of these
halves had a clear panel under it so the animals
inside could be observed without disturbing them.
Unfortunately this idea turned out to be pretty
useless as most of the time it was covered on the
inside with a thick layer of dust created by the
animals underneath. We had a
piece of old carpet which covered one end of the
garage floor and included the roof of the wombat
den. This served to deaden any noise
within the garage and also as you walked across
the top of the den.
fourth & fifth dens we built were an entirely
different story. These were a
construction of bricks and mortar and if I am
allowed to say it myself, were quite a work of art
but if you are no good at brick laying, don’t
Beginnings of a brickwork den.
Note single brick for the internal walls and double brick for
This is the ground floor of the den shown in
They started with a basic design and were built
from the ground, up. They were
designed on paper first and then built to
the drawing with a few small modifications along
The design is really only limited by your
imagination and the space available to you.
Again, the main points to bear in mind, are to
have more than one entrance/exit and do not be
tempted to make them too large. We
found that our animals spurned all the dens with
large compartments in favour of the
smaller ones – maybe it is a security thing?
If I have to give you a size I would say do
not make the internal dimensions more than 1.2m
(4ft) x 1.2(4ft) and if you recall the first den
we built – that was originally 1.5m (5ft) x
2.5m (8ft) which we eventually divided into two
and that housed two animals.
Even then they preferred to sleep together in one
or other of the two, now much smaller, chambers.
These brick constructions
were started very much as you would a conventional
building, i.e. with an excavated site to the
pre-drawn size and shape; then boarding up and
pouring a concrete slab with reinforcing mesh, (a
good opportunity to get rid of any old bits of
wire, steel, old bike frames or any old metal or
hardcore rubbish due for the tip) on to which you
would build your brick walls. Use
single brick for the internal walls and double
cavity brick for external walls.
Not too much height is necessary (the average
Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus
latifrons) burrow in the wild is only about
300mm (1ft) diameter and the sleeping chambers
only 500mm (1’8”) high)1.
The only reason for any extra height is to give
yourself easy access to the den or unless,
it turns out to be a very complicated two storey
affair. We made ours usually
five, six or even seven bricks high depending on
the size of the brick and wether the bricks were
laid flat or on edge. Tip: if
you use bricks on edge you will use a lot less.
Completed den showing the rendered finish.
I went a bit overboard with this one and
ended as a two story
which explains its apparent excessive
Once you have the walls in place they will then
need to be rendered on both sides.
There are a number of reasons for this.
To smooth out any sharp edges on which the animals
may damage themselves, to assist in the
insulating properties of the brickwork and also
lets not forget beautification.
It also means you can use any old ‘daggy’
second-hand bricks. It is
probably also a good idea to position the dens in
such a way that they get the maximum amount of
shade in summer to alleviate the possibility of
the brickwork soaking up the sunshine and
radiating the heat inwards at night.
This is also the reason you are using double
cavity brickwork for the external walls.
you have the walls in place and rendered, you can
start on the roof. However, if
you prefer, you can leave the rendering of the
outside of the walls until you have the roof
in place. It’s entirely up to you.
The roof is a poured concrete slab using lost
formwork. (I can hear you
puffing and panting already)!!
This was a lot of hard physical work but well
worth it in the long run.
For formwork we used the sides of an old defunct
above ground swimming pool.
This was cut up with a pair of tinsnips into
suitable sized pieces which were then laid across
the walls but leaving a small amount of wall
showing at each edge. This was
so we could lay another layer of bricks around the
perimeter that would attach themselves to the
walls below and act as a barrier for the concrete
when poured. Some of the distances between
walls, especially over the sleeping chambers, were
far too wide for the formwork to support the
weight of the concrete without some form of
assistance. Here we used bits of old
timber nailed together as a ‘T’ shape and used as
supports in appropriate places. These
were knocked out after the concrete had cured and
don’t forget that some sort of reinforcing mesh is
essential in the roof; otherwise the whole thing
could crack and collapse.
The sixth and seventh dens
were only temporary affairs and not intended for
long term use and basically consist of using a
wombat box (see
figure 11) covered
with bales of hay at the back, top, sides and part
of the front, and then waterproofed with sheets of
However, it is my considered opinion that, even
though they do not fulfil the criteria listed at
the beginning of this chapter, this form of den is
an excellent way of providing emergency
accommodation for an animal that may be ‘dropped’
on you out of the blue or if you have an animal
that needs to be quarantined for whatever reason..
In my case these dens were provided to house two
young animals at a time when we had to go away for
a short while and were unable to take them with
us. These two enclosures were
built in one weekend and gave me the time to
construct more permanent housing without having to
complete it in a hurry.
Stone wombat den.
Note soil on the roof in place of concrete.
The soil thickness is about 300mm (1ft).
All our other dens have been
constructed using the bricks and mortar method
with a couple of diversions into
stone (see figure 12). These
were built without
allowing us any access the sleeping chambers as
they are all part of a larger system where the
animals have been allowed to ‘do their own thing’
and have dug their own warren systems.
Their enclosures were constructed with exactly
this scenario in mind. We
determined beforehand that if they are going to be
allowed to dig their own warren systems, thereby
not allowing me access to them whilst asleep (or
sick), why should I go to the trouble of
constructing doors to access the ‘homemade’ dens
when, in time, they would probably not be using
them anyway. This turned out to be a lot
closer to the truth than I could ever have
imagined. The dens we built for
them were only used for as long as it took them to
dig their own, which would have only been months
rather than years. In fact, it
would have taken us longer to build the dens, than
it did for them to abandon them.
Once the animals had their own system going our
dens were ignored – and still are.
Access doors with viewing windows underneath
the central flap.
Note the water tank on top of the den – this was an added bonus as
it helped to keep the den at a constant
The access doors of for these dens were
manufactured from two inch thick laminated
particle board lined with metal sheet on the
inside to prevent them being destroyed through
chewing and scratching. The door frames were
welded up to the required size using angle iron
and were cemented into the walls at the time the
bricks were being laid. The door hinges had
previously been welded into the appropriate
position and the doors presented to the frames to
make sure that everything worked properly before
Some of these doors were
affairs (see figure
small windows that had flaps to keep out the
light. The idea of these windows was so we
could 'spy' on the animals without disturbing
them. Unfortunately, as with the den under
the garage floor, these windows would become
covered in dust from the inside and therefore
Back to Part 3