How to Build a Deer Fence

Three Parts:Planning Your Deer FenceBuilding the Deer FenceUsing Other Deer Deterrents

Wild deer can cause a problem for gardeners by destroying plants and trees. This can be difficult to prevent as deer tend to browse for food overnight. One effective preventative method is to build a deer fence - this forms a physical barrier which prevents the deer from entering your garden and causing damage. Fortunately, deer fences are fairly simple to erect.

Part 1
Planning Your Deer Fence

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    Understand the need for a deer fence. Deer can cause serious damage in a garden, not all of it reparable. They’ll strip bark from trees as well as eat plants and foliage.
    • Deer also have a tendency to attack in groups, increasing the amount of damage to your garden. As they tend to visit overnight, it’s hard to be vigilant against them all the time.
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    • A permanent barrier, such as a deer fence, is the best strategy against deer attack in the long run.
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    Learn to identify deer damage in your garden. Deer tend to browse between dusk and dawn so it isn't always possible to see what’s causing damage in the garden. However, deer often leave a few telltale signs behind them.
    • If you find that damage has occurred overnight, particularly to shoots, flower buds, and foliage, then it may be deer causing it.
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    • You may also see tree bark that’s been eaten or damaged by deer rubbing their antlers against it.
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    Make sure your fence is too tall for deer to jump over. Depending on the variety of deer you have in your garden, your fence needs to be high enough that deer can’t jump over it. A height of 7 feet (2.1 m) should repel most types of deer.
    • Deer will also lift wire and squeeze under fences so the fence needs to fit close against the ground to prevent the deer from getting in underneath it.
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    Use close-meshed wire or solid wood panels for your fence. Deer are good at squeezing between wires or fence posts so a mesh fence is better suited than one made of wire or barbed wire strands.
    • The maximum mesh size should be 8 x 6 in for most deer. However, if you are trying to keep out small muntjac deer you will need a maximum mesh size of 3 x 3 in.
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    • Solid wood panel fencing also works well against deer, as the animals can’t see what is beyond the fence and will avoid jumping over it for fear there may be danger.
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    Avoid using electric fences or hedges to deter deer. Electric fences don't tend to work effectively as a deterrent against deer. Hedges won’t do much good either as deer can push through them – or they’ll eat the hedge!

Part 2
Building the Deer Fence

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    Consider building a temporary deer fence while your plants are most vulnerable. Some gardeners choose to use a temporary barrier against deer just when their plants are at their most vulnerable. This fence can easily be taken down once the threat to the plants has passed.
    • Drive some temporary stakes (some people use electrical conduit pipes) deeply into the ground no more than 6–7 feet (1.8–2.1 m) apart and wrap or tie your temporary fencing material to it.
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    • Some gardeners use fishing wire at a minimum spacing of 10cm between rows, or bird netting. This means there is little or no visual barrier which is nice for humans but will also mean deer can see your plants, which may mean the fence is less effective.
    • Temporary fences tend to be flimsy so you may have less success with this approach in windy conditions. Check your fence regularly to make sure it isn’t damaged.
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    Make a permanent deer fence if deer are a continuous problem. You are likely to have more success with a sturdy, permanent barrier against deer, particularly if deer eating your plants is a continuous problem. However, it’s always advisable to consult with neighbors before erecting a high permanent fence.
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    Prepare the area. Clip back any branches and remove any plants that will be in the way before you begin, lest you tread on them while erecting the fence.
    • Start by marking out where the fence will go using rods or canes and some string or chalk.
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    • You’ll need to calculate how wide your fence panels are plus the width of your posts to determine where to dig holes for your fence posts.
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    Choose a method of securing the fence posts. One way of securing the fence posts is to drive metal fence post boxes straight into the ground. However, in stony ground you’ll probably find it hard to drive these in straight.
    • As a result, you may prefer to dig a hole for the post first, then secure the post with concrete or fencing mix such as Postcrete. The hole needs to be about 3 times as wide as the post and half as deep as the post is tall (usually around 3.5 feet deep.)
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    • You may like to put about 6 inches of gravel at the base of the hole for drainage, and consider pre-soaking wooden fence posts overnight in wood preserver to extend their life.
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    Follow the correct method for using concrete. If you decide to go down the concrete route, first insert your fence pole and check it using a spirit level to ensure it is straight. Remember to use temporary support posts to hold it in place while the concrete hardens.
    • Attach the panels of the fence before concreting. You’ll find fencing clips make a neater job than driving nails in.
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    • To concrete, you’ll probably find it easiest to use a fencing post mix that is mixed up in the hole. It's important to read the instructions, but generally you just need to fill the hole with water most of the way up, then add the powder and stir it up with a stick.
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    Consider adding a second row of fencing. In areas where there are many deer, you may find it helpful to have a second row of fencing several feet outside the main fence. This is because deer perceive depth poorly and double fencing seems to disorient them.
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    Add the finishing touches to your deer fence. Tying ribbons or streamers to the fence may help the deer to perceive the barrier and realize how tall it is. This may prevent damage to the fence as the deer will avoid trying to penetrate it.
    • You may also find digging a ditch outside the fence will also help its effectiveness against deer.
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    • Ideally, a deer fence should be angled away from the garden at about 30-45 degrees to the ground, however this is quite hard to achieve.
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Part 3
Using Other Deer Deterrents

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    Try to plant some deer-resistant plants.There aren't really any truly deer-resistant plants, as deer will tend to eat anything if they get hungry enough. However, as a general rule they will avoid eating thorny plants or ones with fuzzy or leathery leaves.
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    Use chemical deer repellents. If your deer aren’t very regular visitors, or are new to your garden, you can deter them using chemical deer repellents.
    • These products are based on strong smells or bad tastes such the brand ‘Deeroff’ which smells like rotten eggs and garlic and performs well in tests.
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    • The manufacturers recommend re-applying the repellent every quarter year.
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    Make use of electronic devices or guard dogs. Deer can also be deterred by electronic devices which emit noises they dislike. Unfortunately, the deer can get used to the sound over time, so these devices will gradually become less effective.
    • Deer will also be scared off by the presence of dogs, so consider stationing your dog in a kennel near your garden overnight.
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    Protect trees and shrubs using specialized deer guards. Trees can be protected against deer browsing for their bark by placing deer guards on their trunks. Most work by preventing the deer from getting close enough to the tree to damage it. Others encase the tree or shrub in a nylon case.
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    Use household products to repel deer. Some gardeners will strongly recommend using grated Ivory or Irish Spring soap to repel the deer. It’s best to put the soap into little mesh or hessian bags and hang from the trees and shrubs.
    • Other people have had success by beating an egg with about 2 liters (0.5 US gal) of water and spraying this on bushes in the garden.
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    • Remember you’ll need to reapply this regularly, especially if it rains.
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