What to Feed Deer in Your Backyard to Bring Nature Home

Bill Taylor
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Basic Facts About Deer

Adjusting to outdoor feeders is the first step in feeding deer. A growing deer population means that more hunters are taking advantage of backyard food plot opportunities. Food plot owners are eager to oblige with the first chance.

The excitement of watching naturally-imprinted deer from the yard is nearly as exciting as watching them during hunting season. While the temptation to feed deer is great, keeping them in your yard may not be the best idea.

In harmony with other wildlife regulations, you should carefully consider the following.

1: Encourage the Deer Population

In the past 30 years, scientists have reported a 58% increase in the overall white-tailed deer population. While some areas have shown double-digit increases, reaching numbers near and even above populations in the 1960s. Especially in the north, populations have experienced prolific growth throughout the early 1990s, exceeding deer numbers from the 1960s.

2: Control Populations

Deer management is a growing practice across the country. Without such practices, your deer population may become too large and damaging to the surrounding environment.

Bucks can become bad neighbors and bully young deer off your property. Over-harvesting deer can also be a problem because it can lead to a lack of population control.

3: Habitat Preservation

Reducing these populations take a great deal of effort, but it’s worth it. Because if it’s balanced, your local deer population helps the economy and preserves their habitat.

So then why feed them? Because it’s rewarding. When you’re out in your yard you have the opportunity to observe deer as they feed. Observe their habits, traits, and behaviors. If nothing else, it’s a great chance to get some exercise and a bird’s eye view.

Also, feeding deer can show you different food preferences and seasonal changes. Although deer will consume grain, high-protein foods are popular almost anytime of the year. By observing deer diet, you can make changes to your planting schedule and learn to grow food deer prefer.

Principles to Keep in Mind

1: Give Them the Food They Want

The Rise of the Deer

What Caused It and What Can We Do?

The deer population has exploded in recent years leading to a lot of concern among people and controversy over whether it’s desirable or not. While there’s no denying the popularity of deer, deer friends and the cute factor associated with it, do we really want deer all over our backyards and neighborhoods? The reasons for the increase in deer population are multiple.

For starters, there’s more land for them in the suburbs than there used to be. Lots of people in cities and rural areas either moved to the suburbs or invested in suburban-style country homes. Since more land was available, deer use it.

And with more households keeping deer-friendly yard and putting up cage-like wildlife fencing, there’s no need for the deer to seek an alternative route to the same food supply.

People make things even worse for deer during the hunting season. They’re more vigilant in the area where they live and may not move as much which causes them to become injured or sick.

The problem it causes can be severe. Some deer seem to lose their natural instincts and fear for themselves and start approaching people and vehicles quite well, which leads to many accidents. They also cause destruction to the yards and gardens, consume garden produce and tree bark, and destroy crops. The report of deer entering eating habits and causing damage to gardens and crops is becoming very common.

Many times, people also blame deer for destroying their farm animals’ food resources as well. Many a deer has been accused of having eaten all of the bean crop while the real problem was an abundance of insects all around the area.

Some of the ways people can help the problem include:

  • Fencing off their gardens, fields, and other areas from deer
  • Creating smaller fields and gardens
  • Using fencing clear of vegetation
  • Using the best deer repellants

Despite the problems associated with deer, if not overdone, it can still be seen as beneficial for the human health as well as for the environment. For example, when deer visit your area…

A Day in the Life of a Deer

The deer have a few hearty meals every day in the winter. I feed them from a window in my home. In the winter the deer have a few hearty meals every day in the winter.

Deer forage on their feet, wandering for hours of their day to find food.

Most European deer species are basically crepuscular (from dusk till dawn). The activity of all deer species increases with the coming of rain, when they leave their resting places and move in groups to their feeding grounds.

They must replace the moisture they lose by transpiration through their skin and by drinking. Deer gather in fields that are now covered with short grass – the first crop to regain its height following a mowing. Flower-rich grassland is particularly attractive to deer in spring and early summer. The young leaves and grass shoots of many plants are favored by fawns.

Why Poisoning New England Deer Is Not an EPA-Approved Solution

Deer are feeding machines, consuming up to 10 percent of their body weight each day during the summer months to build fat and prepare for winter. But feeding bucks is a delicate task and requires making sure they have adequate protein and minerals for better antler development. Deer also require nutrients such as calcium and magnesium for muscle and bone strength.

"There is no conclusive method to determine exactly how many minerals and vitamins a deer eats in a certain amount of time," said Howard Backer, deer researcher and deer resource management specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in an article for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

Bucks in velvet require 25 to 30 grams of protein to reach peak antler strength. Based on their diet, bucks may not reach peak antler growth potential unless there's a nutritional advantage. Typically, bucks have ceased antler growth before reaching their nutritional potential.

Deer Startle – Deerwalk

Rabbits are one of the more curious and rebellious of pets. That is, unless you consider that of all pets, they're the most entertaining. The American rabbit has long been a popular pet, and in fact, have been a beloved pet of both children and adults alike for hundreds of years.

Pros and Cons of Feeding Deer

There are many pros and cons to feeding deer in your backyard. The following are some reasons why you may want to skip the deer feeder, and some reasons why you shouldn’t:

1: Will this feeder attract other wildlife?

Yes! A deer feeder will most likely attract rabbits, squirrels, opossum, raccoons, rodents, and unwanted species.

2: Will deer hang out around my house?

Yes! Not only will deer set up a feeding area near your backyard, they will most likely set up a living area too. A deer living area includes their favorite bedding spot(s) and a resting area.

3: Will I have to worry about deer damaging my landscape and walkway?

Yes! Not only will deer damage landscaping, they can also cause property damage by rubbing on fences or chewing on your home.

4: Will deer make their way into my backyard pool?

Yes! Not only is this a possibility, it is more than likely to happen. Many homeowners experience wild animal intrusions on a regular basis.

5: Will deer and other wildlife become more aggressive as a result of coming to my backyard for food?

Yes! An unbalanced diet for wildlife changes their behavior. They become more aggressive as a result of a wild animal being too close to humans.

6: Will I need to be concerned about my family and/or pets when the deer come to my backyard?

Yes! When deer become aggressive, they lose their natural fear and can become aggressive towards family and/or pets.

7: Will deer come to my backyard in the middle of the night?

Absolutely! Deer will come to your backyard as early as dusk and as late as dawn. Most deer sightings occur in the very early morning hours of the day.

8: Will I have to block off my backyard when I’m at home?

Yes! You will not be able to enjoy your backyard until it is time for you to start removing the feed. You will want to remove it at night time, which can be challenging to do.

9: Will there be times of the year when it’s not possible for me to leave the deer feeder out for deer to eat from?

Benefits of Encouraging Deer to Come to Your Yard

Although it may seem strange to encourage deer to come to your yard, there are several benefits! For one, deer are great for fertilizing your plants. They also carry ticks at a lower rate than other animals. The ticks that they do carry carry less illness and disease than the ticks carried by other animals.

Another wonderful benefit of having deer around is that they consume lots of harmful insects and bugs. They will eat slugs, Japanese beetles, rabbits, mice, wasps, moths, and many other insects that can make your yard hurt and kill your plants.

Additionally, deer are a wonderful part of the ecosystem. In most cases, they help to regulate the population of other animals. They also promote a healthy habitat by using all of the food that the plants provide.

Finally, in many states, there are laws in place to protect and encourage deer populations. These laws will typically dictate how many deer a landowner can have.

How to Encourage Deer to Come to Your Yard

When attracting deer to your yard, the most important thing that you can do is make sure that they feel safe. If you make them feel afraid and threatened, they will be a lot less likely to hang around and use your yard as an additional habitat.

They also don’t like to have their peace interrupted. If you start feeding them every day, they will eventually get used to expecting food and could get upset if you don’t hand-feed them. So you need to stay away from hand-feeding whenever possible.

To encourage deer to visit your yard, you should plant more plants that provide lots of food. Since deer like to eat plants that are lower to the ground, they will be able to eat everything they want without getting too big.

There are quite a few plants that deer like to eat and which can be left unattended. There are also other plants that deer are allowed to eat, but which should be removed from some places.

Another way to attract deer is to find small openings and gaps in your fence or decorations that you can patch up. That way, if you want to improve your habitat for the deer, you will be able to make sure that they can get in and out and use the area.

Disadvantages of Deer on Your Property

As much as you may enjoy the deer in your backyard or roaming through your neighborhood, there are a lot of negative aspects to maintaining a deer population. Deer damage more than 1 billion dollars of timber every year in the US alone. The biggest reason for this is the deer’s need for large quantities of food.

If you have more than a few deer in your area, you will likely notice that unlike coyotes or birds, these creatures actually eat all the food that is provided year after year. While this is great for the deer, it is not so great for your garden or landscaping. And if you have ever had a doe or two with fawns in your back yard, you know just how destructive one deer can be.

A doe with one or two fawns can wreak havoc on your garden and landscaping. Their need for food is so great that the physical chewing equal to about 20 acres of open field.

This need for food is also the reason that a doe will often attack a person or pet unwarned. The doe is desperate for food, and as a source of food, you can become a target. Deer have been known to attack people for many reasons, ranging from being startled from the presence of a person to illnesses, injuries and starvation.

Other animals around your yard, like dogs, may often become unintended snacks for a hungry deer. Since an animal’s smell, the size of a very much depends on its species, a deer will often not see these small creatures as prey. Often, deer will get very sick from ingesting dog and cat food.

If you want to enjoy brightly colored flowers, shrubs and trees in your flower beds, a deer is often a necessary ingredient. Since deer are herbivorous animals, if they are around, they will eat any plants within your garden or landscaping.

Deer also enjoy eating your plants because their taste buds only allow them to enjoy the most potent of flavors. Deer will generally prefer broccoli over a less pungent vegetable, and they will find many grasses boring if they have access to cooking herbs.

Another issue you may have with deer is ticks. If you have ever heard of the Lyme disease, you know just how horrible and prevalent this horrible illness can be. Deer often carry the ticks that carry this disease, and they often bite people and pets just like any other flea or tick.

How to Attract Deer

There are a few different ways to attract a deer to your property, but one of the best is to plant a deer friendly garden. If you’re not an avid gardener, you probably won’t have a problem planting some fenced in garden beds. This will give a safe space for the deer to eat and enjoy the area around your home. If you want to plant a deer garden, there are a few things that you will want to consider. This way you can pick the best plants for attracting deer.

What Deer Like

Deer like just about anything, so it’s hard to narrow it down, but they are often attracted to things with a more sour flavor. Fruit, such as blackberries, elderberries and raspberries, can also be a hit. Watermelon and pumpkin are also a big hit with deer, and these plants are great for attracting deer with their sweet scent and flavor.

What Deer Don’t Like

Just like we don’t like eating Brussels sprouts, deer don’t care for them either. You can tell what deer like and don’t like because every time a deer sticks their tongue out, you can tell if they like what they are eating or not.

Plant Variety

Even though deer enjoy fruit plants, they also love to eat some of the protein rich plants. Corn, sunflowers, soybeans, peas and certain flowers are also great deer plants. Make sure you plant enough variety, however, so you don’t have all of your plants eaten in one night.

Plant Fence

Plants are great, but you can also plant a fence around your garden for extra security. This will ensure that your garden is protected, and there will be less chance to be eaten by animals or birds. While you don’t want to have the deer inside your home or wandering all over your lawn, they are still beautiful creatures, and you want to have them around.

What Do Deer Eat?

Deer are herbivores, so they eat a diet that’s high in plants that are rich in nutrients and low in protein. This makes them great for enjoying plant based diets that provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

Plants That Deer Eat

Your yard is a much more pleasant place to be when it’s full of deer, and there’s a little more to it than just feeding them.

Native plants are the focal point of deer’s diet, so try incorporating some native plants into your landscaping. Native plants are better equipped to handle the weather, especially the high heat that summers in Texas bring. Plus, native plants don’t emit any strong odors to keep deer away, which is important because deer like some strong scents.

Plus, native plants come in a wide variety, and can supply the nutrients deer need to thrive in your backyard. Some examples of native plants are clover, cedar, yucca, sumac, juniper, and all species of oak.

If you’d like to attract deer, but don’t want the messy spots left behind, consider using deer repellants. These products will make your yard undesirable to deer, which will ultimately keep them away. Deer Repellants can be used effectively year round; however, consistent use during peak deer activity is highly recommended for the most effective results.

What Deer Eat

The fact is that deer will eat anything. The deer nutrition facts can be different for various parts of the country, especially for states like Texas where the climate is more extreme. Here in Texas, deer have a limited growing period due to the hot weather, so the only watering hole they have is manmade ones.

Most of the time, it is up to us to decide what deer to eat in our yards because it is our property. In most cases, deer will eat grass and vegetation that is edible and doesn’t mess up the look of the yard.

This is a win-win because it allows you to plant native plants that deer eat, and deer get a place to live. At the same time, it’s a lose-lose because though deer will eat just about anything, you may not feel happy about your entire yard looking like a deer would eat it.

To avoid this from being a worry, work with your landscaper to plan a landscaped yard that won’t look too wild after the deer have been eating at it for a while.

Planning Your Deer Landscaping

If you have deer in your backyard, you definitely want to take the time to make it feel more like home. Because, let’s face it, no one wants to hang out in an environment that feels like it’s hostile and unwelcoming.

Which is all the more reason you should consider adding deer landscaping to your backyard.

What do deer like? Well, that can vary depending on where they’re from. Deer will migrate down south during winter, traveling in groups. They’ll travel with their cousins, relatives, and friends. They’ll try to get together with their best friends for the winter to make it an easier experience for them.

This is because a lot of times the winters will vary during that time. If you live in a southern region, you’re going to have much different winters than someone who lives in the up north region. And obviously, they’re going to have different needs.

So when it comes to planning your deer landscaping, it’s very important that you get the right plants for the right region.

There are three types of deer found in the United States, and they are the mule deer, white-tail deer, and the black-tail deer. These are the three most abundant species of deer found in the U.S. and spread out in almost every region.

And although they have different names depending on the region they live in, they pretty much look the same from Southern California to Maine.

The first thing you’ll need to decide is what type of deer you’re going to purchase for your backyard. If you’ve never purchased a deer before, we’ve got you covered.

Check out our article How Do You Buy a Deer? We’ve got a couple pointers on making sure you get the right one for your location, and we’ll also tell you two common deer myths so you don’t get duped into buying a fake!

If you’ve got your eye on a pair of deer, consider the two ways you can introduce them to your backyard.

Providing Other Food for Deer

A geothermal heat pump may be an ideal space heating and cooling solution for your home because it works with nature. Geothermal systems take advantage of the earth's constant temperature to either capture and store heat or produce cool air(2). There is no burning of fossil fuels and no air pollution(3). In the Northern Hemisphere, geothermal heat pumps typically provide heat in the winter and produce cool air in the summer. Geothermal heat pumps may have two separate units, one to heat and the other to cool, or they may have combined heating and cooling capabilities(2). For heating, hot water is used as a heat source, for cooling, a liquid coolant such as freon is used(2). The choice of heat source and coolant depends on the temperature of the earth, the geographical location of the home and the home's heating and cooling needs (2). Here at Save On Energy, we have a great tool to help you calculate the cost of your geothermal system installation.

Economical, More Efficient

A geothermal heat pump uses half the amount of energy of a similar technology air conditioner or furnace, and they are twenty times more energy-efficient than conventional fossil fuel-burning systems (4). They can also lower your annual heating and cooling bills by 30 to 60 percent(5). A geothermal heat pump's efficiency helps you save both money and energy(2).

To get a better understanding of how geothermal works and how much it may cost you to install a geothermal heat pump in your home, take a look at the following video. Sandi Rozek , a consultant and energy specialist, provides an explanation for those who are interested in geothermal.

Reduce the Need for Oil or Gas

The production of electricity is one of the ways geothermal energy benefits our lives. In order to use or sell electricity, the state government enforces regulations and standards to ensure the safety of the public.

More than 15,000 Miles of Drilled Holes in the US

There are approximately 15,000 geothermal wells in the United States (Water To Energy), and adding more will enrich America and the environment. Geothermal energy production will…

Other Things That Deer Need

While deer love to eat, they need more than food in your backyard to thrive. Indeed, you need to pay close attention to your local deer laws (or lack thereof) and make sure that you’re doing what’s best for the deer in your area.

Although feeding deer is technically illegal in most of the U.S., you can find exceptions in states like Wisconsin where deer feeding actually helps control the deer population.

Just remember to do it responsibly and to follow guidelines like those from the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin, and you should be able to meet the requirements for feeding deer without being fined. If you need more information, the Wisconsin DNR’s page on deer feeding provides all the information you need. Check it out here.

What to Feed Deer in Your Backyard

When it comes to feeding deer in your backyard, that mainly means food. Specifically, deer love to munch on corn, made from corn meal. Just lay out a few ears and some corn meal outdoors, and you’ll be all set.

You can either buy some actual ears of corn and grind them down to corn meal, or you can substitute the corn for bread or stale French bread. When you grind down the bread, I’d recommend you don’t call it corn meal, because that will sound a bit strange.

If you have a hard time finding deer food around your area, then you can try any of the following food products:

Hanging Corn Feeder

Most folks know that deer like corn, and to a lesser extent wheat, rye, and oats. Lots of people want to feed deer, but the question comes up: How do you do it without wasting it? Deer are VERY good at raiding gardens, garbage cans, and pretty much anything that’s left out at night.

They’re especially sneaky at raiding feeders which might be why many feeder manufacturers make their feeders using deer resistance in mind.

Your other option is to make your own deer proof bird feeder from a large plastic jug.

Tips for Encouraging Deer on Your Land

You might not know if you have deer on your land unless you see one, smell the evidence of a traveling deer, or hear them. If you have deer on your land and want them to stick around, try to be aware of their activity and giving them sources of food. Deer are also a source of natural beauty, so if you want your land to be a home for wildlife, deer are a great start!

Tips for Keeping Deer off of Your Property

Before you try to get a hold of deer, be sure to prevent them from coming onto your property in the first place. If you have a lush, green, and natural lawn with tall trees, you’re attracting deer to your property even if you don’t realize it.

Deer need food and water, and they also need a place to hide. They get all of these needs met by your yard, so they’ll happily move in, eat your plants, and make themselves comfortable. One way to make sure your property is less inviting is to build a 6” high fence that follows the shape of your property.

What Do Deer like to Eat?

Deer enjoy eating plants, seeds, meat, fruits, and many other things. Thankfully, all of these deer needs are easy to find on the internet (and if you’re in the US, you’re legally required to make sure your plants aren’t poisonous to humans or animals before planting).

Strawberries and cranberries are two of the most popular fruits that deer eat. Some common plants include any type of fern, clover, and Michaelmas daisies.

What Are Deer Pellets – and What to Do with Them

In the winter, deer make pellets that look like little piles of grass and hay. They do this to digest their food that is hard to chew and can’t be digested. These hard bits of food are chewed and then swallowed, and then they come out in the form of a pellet.

There are also deer pellets in the summer too. Only, they don’t look like saw dust and are often green in the form of a circle.

Final Thoughts

Surrounded by a natural world filled with a wide variety of creatures, when it comes to feeding a variety of wildlife in your backyard, it’s hard not to try. While feeding just one thing may seem like a good thing, after a while, the animals will learn their routine and become more confident in approaching your yard.

After seeing how feeding wildlife can be a double-edged sword, you can decide if you want to encourage squirrels and deer in your yard. If you want to feed squirrels (legally!) then you can easily buy squirrel feeders at your local hardware store or department store. If you want to feed deer, you can buy deer food at a local gardening shop or farm store.

If you want to embrace nature, but you find yourself looking for excuses not to feed wildlife, take comfort in knowing that enjoying nature is all about letting them be, but encouraging them to be comfortable to stay. By placing food and water out in your yard, and establishing an area where they are able to stay for a while, you will find that they will be attracted to you from afar, and have little reason to leave.

How to Build a Backyard Shuffleboard Court

As long as the winter season is approaching, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write about building a new deck. Specifically, I want to share how you can build an outdoor shuffleboard court.

After considering numerous deck options, I decided to build an outdoor shuffleboard court. Although this project turned out to be surprisingly easy to build, here’s the breakdown for the steps involved:

  • Materials
  • Prep work
  • Assemble deck
  • Install cedar sleeve
  • Install shuffleboard siding
  • Install shuffleboard rail
  • Install lights
  • Plumb game lines
  • Ground the lights
  • Test out electric system
  • Level the court
  • Apply finish

BONUS: Final Tips for Outdoor Deck Building

Materials: For this project, you will need the following materials:

  • Deck lumber (cedar and pine)
  • Laminated shuffleboard siding and mesh
  • 8 mil plastic sheeting
  • Liquid nails/plastic adhesion promoter
  • LED landscape lighting