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How to Feed Deer

Four Methods:Feeding Deer the Proper FoodKnowing When to Feed DeerFeeding Deer in Proper LocationsImproving Deer's Natural Habitat

Whether you just want to feed deer that frequent your property, or you want to join a small-scale preserve, there are certain steps to follow to successfully pursue this objective. Do your research and take precautions before feeding the deer in your area.

Method 1
Feeding Deer the Proper Food

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    Introduce deer to a new diet slowly. It takes deer take 2-4 weeks to adjust to a new diet, so start feeding them gradually. Slowly introducing new types of food into a deer's diet will help their digestive system learn to process it. Deer typically eat woody vegetation that is found in forests, so feeding them foods that are rich in fats and carbohydrates can be extremely harmful.
    • Begin introducing new foods by combining supplemental foods with deer's natural diet. Start by including a small amount of the new food, and gradually incorporate more and more, ultimately replacing their natural diet. In winter, their natural food supply will decrease significantly (if not completely), so it is recommended to begin this transition before winter hits.[1]
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    Purchase formulated deer food mixes. These mixes can typically be found at feed mills or pet supply stores. Deer feed mixes are usually a mix of alfalfa, oats, soybeans, molasses and several vitamins and minerals. This type of food is easiest for deer to digest, which is what makes it ideal for supplemental feeding.[2]
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    Feed deer the right foods if you cannot find formulated deer mixture. You must be careful when feeding deer supplemental foods, as they have a sensitive digestive system. If formulated deer food mixtures are unavailable, oats are the next best supplemental food for deer. Oats provide deer with a healthy mixture of fiber and carbohydrates without disrupting their digestive system.[3]
    • A wide variety of fruits and vegetables – including apples, grapes, cherries, pears, carrots, and snap peas – are eaten in nature by deer. Therefore, it is safe to feed deer these fruits.
    • Acorns are another safe food source.[4]
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    Do not feed deer a corn diet. A deer's digestive system is complex, and corn happens to be one of the worst types of food for them. Unfortunately, many deer end up extremely sick or dead because animal lovers believe that corn is good for deer. When deer are offered a sudden supply of corn, they aren't able to adjust to the high carbohydrate diet, and they end up dying.[5]
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    Cut down tree branches to feed deer. In nature, deer eat twigs and other natural forest vegetation. To provide them with more of their natural food source, cut down branches that are out of their reach. This is one of the safest and most natural ways to keep deer fed throughout the year.[6]

Method 2
Knowing When to Feed Deer

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    Feed deer during the winter months. Since deer's natural food source is made up from woody vegetation, it becomes harder for them to find food during the winter. This is the reason many people choose to feed deer. If you decide to feed deer during the winter months, be careful to feed them the proper types of food and slowly introduce it into their diets.
    • Begin introducing food slowly so that it does not harm the deer. Begin combine supplemental food with their natural diet of woody vegetation. This combination of new food into their natural diet will provide a smooth transition for their digestive tracks.
    • Set up feeders or troughs in your yard. Set the feeders or troughs up as far away from your home as possible.
    • If you have the means, you can keep your feeders or troughs full at all times. If not, you should stick to a set feeding time. The deer will become accustomed to eating your food, so try to keep the feeding on a regular schedule. Early morning or sunset are good times for feeding.
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    Offer supplemental food to deer year round. Many people choose to supply deer with food only during the winter months, as this is when their natural food sources are the most scarce. But if you have the means, consider providing supplemental food to your deer year round. This will allow deer to adapt to the supplemental food so that it doesn't shock their system. This will also teach dear to combine their supplemental and natural food sources.[7]
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    Do not suddenly stop feeding deer. When deer are fed by humans, they can easily become dependent and stop foraging for food naturally. If you feed deer and then suddenly stop (even if you've simply run out of food temporarily), the deer may go hungry or start bothering you for more food.
    • You should slowly wean deer off of supplemental food so that they can begin foraging for food on their own again. Take the food away slowly and not all at once.[8]

Method 3
Feeding Deer in Proper Locations

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    Make sure it is legal to feed wild animals in your jurisdiction. Feeding wildlife is often regulated by local laws and wildlife commissions, and the laws vary from state to state. Some states allow feeding between certain dates and prohibit it between other dates. Check online to find out your local laws. Some states also have laws that dictate how much you are allowed to feed deer.[9]
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    Find a location where deer will come for feeding. Many local wildlife organizations set up feeding sites for deer – these are public places that deer come to feed. You can bring food to these sites to help feed deer without taking on the responsibility of feeding deer in your backyard. These organizations typically know the proper times to feed deer and the proper amount of food to put out at one time.[10]
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    Feed deer on your property. If you plan to feed deer on your property, make sure you're feeding them the proper food, and not giving them too much of it. Set up feeders or troughs as far as possible from your home so that the deer don't come near your house.
    • Each deer should eat no more than 3-4 pounds of food per day.[11]
    • Try not to interact with the deer, as this can make them less fearful of humans, and more likely to become prey.

Method 4
Improving Deer's Natural Habitat

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    Consider planting trees to feed deer. This is a more natural way to feed deer and will reduce the amount of daily maintenance your feeding project will require. You'll also be helping the environment! Apple trees, maple trees, and aspen trees all make great food for deer, so consider planting some of those trees on your property.[12]
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    Get involved with your local wildlife agency. Getting involved with your local wildlife agency will allow you to help deer and other local wildlife the best way possible. Dealing with professionals is a great way to make a difference and actually help animals, long term.[13]
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    Allow hunters on hunt-able land. If you live on hunt-able land, allow hunters to use your land during hunting season. Many rural areas are overpopulated with deer, which is why they face food shortages. Hunting keeps deer populations in balance with their available habitat, and minimizes the negative impacts on deer habitat, farmers, residents, and motorists.


  • Training deer to lose their fear of humans can expose them to danger.
  • Deer often carry deer ticks that cause Lyme disease! Always check yourself thoroughly for ticks after visiting an area deer frequent.
  • Encouraging deer to feed near your home can cause them to damage your landscape or garden.
  • Feeding deer can be detrimental to their natural instincts and can create unnatural and harmful environments. Talk to your local wildlife organization before deciding to feed deer.

Article Info

Categories: Wildlife