family of deer in backyard enjoying a spring feed

Full Guide On What To Feed Deer In Backyard

In many cases we are asked questions about how to get rid of deer or how to keep them from coming into your property.  There are numerous reasons why you may want to look at how to keep deer out of your property.  But what if you are trying to attract them?  What if you are hoping to bring deer in to your property?  Maybe you want to watch them out your kitchen window and have your own private nature show.  When you are looking to attract deer many people ask what to feed deer in backyard.  

We will explain why you need to be careful about how you answer this in the article. Furthermore, you should be aware of the ongoing debate by higher education of if feeding deers is bad. Feeding deer has been linked with reducing fat reserves and spreading disease.

Downside Of Feeding Deer In Your Backyard

First, why might you want to avoid attracting deer to your backyard?  Deer carry deer ticks.  Deer ticks are the small, almost invisible ticks which carry Lyme disease and other tick borne pathogens.  If you know anyone who has had to put up with Lyme or any of the other diseases from ticks, you may want to rethink attracting deer to your backyard.  However, if you still want deer in the backyard, you want to consider their grazing patterns.  

Deer may overlook your landscaping plants during the summer and early fall.  However, once they start to feel the pangs of winter hunger, they will eat many plants they otherwise would overlook like arborvitae.  Starvation is one of the leading causes of death for white tailed deer. As a result, they will do anything to keep ahead of the hunger.

Traditionally What To Feed Deer In Backyard Areas?

If you want to help the deer survive the winter you need to first look at the legality of feeding the deer.  In some states, mostly in the south, you can legally feed deer with corn feeders.  These are used by hunters to get deer in the habit of eating in a certain area, then one day the hunter can choose to harvest the deer of their choice.  

The ethics surrounding this method of hunting has caused much disagreement. That has led to many states banning deer feeders all together.  So even if you only want to feed the deer, not hunt them, you can find yourself in legal hot water simply by using a deer feeder.

large male deer showing what to feed deer in backyard with clover and alfalfa nearby

Non-Traditionally What To Feed Deer In Backyard Areas?

If you can’t use a traditional deer feeder, how else could you feed the deer?  One of the best ways to naturally feed deer is by planting fruit trees.  Like other ruminants, deer love apples.  One of the old tricks of a hunter is to set up near abandoned apple orchards in the forest, where the deer always come in late fall to eat the fallen apples before they freeze.

Though this may sound legally dubious, you certainly have the right to plant a tree.  Well, we say that, but check with your homeowners association before planting any trees, as you very well could have species restrictions.  

Other species you can plant which are deer favorites in summer include clover and alfalfa.  If you are looking to plant a shade tree, look at planting a red oak if you can in your environment.  Deer love to eat acorns and the red oak produces the most when compared to the white oak.  For shadier spots where you need leafy perennials, plant hostas.  

Hostas are both deer and rabbit preferred foods. Therefore, if you have a rabbit problem, you may unwittingly attract more rabbits.  Arborvitae is a good tree to plant for deer winter food also, but keep in mind the arborvitae will not look so great, and may not survive if not tall enough to avoid the reach of the deer.  

What & How To Feed Deer In Backyards Summary

Ultimately, when considering what to feed deer in backyard, we suggest deer friendly plantings.  If you are a hunter and live in a place where corn feeders are legal, this is also an option.  Deer are beautiful creatures, and a joy to watch.  Once spring comes around you may get lucky enough to see the spotted faun following it’s mother around.  Just keep in mind the dangers of attracting deer to your children’s play area in the form of deer ticks.