What To Feed Deer In Your Backyard: Discover What Diet Works Best!

What to feed deer in your backyard largely depends on the season and the nutritional needs of these graceful creatures. To create a balanced diet, think about incorporating natural sources of food like into their menu. Knowing what to feed deer in your backyard is crucial, but overfeeding them may have negative health effects. So, if you’ve been blessed with deer visiting your backyard, you may be thinking what you might set out to comfort them. Even while it might be fascinating and fun to observe deer, feeding them can be risky. This page covers the dos and don’ts of feeding backyard deer to keep them returning safely.

Content Highlights

What to feed deer in your backyard?

To feed deer in your backyard safely and responsibly, offer nutritionally appropriate foods such as shrubs, leaves, grass, vegetables, and fruits (except corn) during summer, and high-carbohydrate options like acorns, grasses, and shrubs in the fall. Pay attention to roots, buds, and woody twigs throughout the winter. Suitable options include grains, nuts, veggies, and specialty deer diet blends. Avoid eating unhealthy foods like maize, which may cause health issues.

It’s important to understand the possible ecological implications and responsibilities involved with artificial feeding, since many experts advise against it to protect natural ecosystems. Remember that feeding deer should be done in moderation to avoid overfeeding and potential health concerns.

What does a deer eat in the backyard
What does a deer eat in the backyard

Ideal Food Options for Feeding Deer in Your Backyard

Food CategoryRecommended Options
FruitsApples, pears, peaches
NutsAcorns, beechnuts, pecans
VegetablesCarrots, sweet potatoes
GrainsOats, corn (in moderation)
Natural ForageGrasses, leaves, shrubs, browse
LegumesSoybeans, cowpeas (summer)
MineralsCalcium and phosphorus sources

Foods to Avoid When Feeding Deer in Your Backyard

Food CategoryFoods to Avoid
Processed FoodsBread, chips, junk food, sugary sweets
Inappropriate GrainsExcessive corn, high-carb items
Toxic PlantsRhubarb, azaleas, daffodils, iris
Unnatural FoodsMilk, salt, raw sugar

Tips for Feeding Deer Safely in Your Backyard

Safety TipsDescription
Proper Feeding AreaDesignated spot away from structures
Balanced DietOffer a variety of foods for nutrition
Avoid OverfeedingPrevent waste and potential health issues
Water SourceEnsure access to clean water
Respect RegulationsAdhere to local laws and guidelines
Disease AwarenessBe cautious about disease transmission
Responsible CareUnderstand ecological responsibilities

Awareness of Risks in Feeding Deer

It’s crucial to choose the correct foods and feed deer responsibly if you decide to feed them in your backyard. Here are a few advices:

  • Opt for foods that are low in protein and rich in fiber. Deer require fiber to aid with digestion, and an excessive amount of protein might be damaging to their wellbeing.
  • Steer clear of giving processed items to deer, such as chips, bread, and cereal. These meals are unhealthy for deer and may harm their health.
  • Store food away from your house and other buildings in a specified place. This will lessen the likelihood of deer harming your property.
  • Avoid overfeeding deer. In addition to luring predators, overeating may harm deer’s health.

The possible dangers of feeding deer in your garden should also be considered. Diseases that may affect both people and animals can be carried by deer. It’s crucial to fully wash your hands after handling deer food and to stay away from deer feces.

Essentials of Deer Diet and Nutrition

Understanding the nutritional requirements of deer in the wild will be beneficial when choosing what to include in your backyard deer buffet:

  • Deer are ruminants, meaning they have a stomach with four chambers for breaking down fibrous material.
  • A range of leafy greens, woody browse, fruits, nuts, twigs, and other foods are consumed by them.
  • A diet rich in fiber and carbs and low in fat and protein is ideal.
  • Their digestive systems are geared to a steady diet of greens and woody browse.

A sudden change in diet runs the danger of upsetting delicate intestinal microorganisms, which might lead to disease or even death. When selecting meals for your backyard deer, bear this in mind.

Ideal Natural Foods for Deer

Providing food that is consistent with the deer’s normal diet is your best chance. Here are a few fantastic choices:

Type of FoodDescription
FruitsApples, pears, cherries, grapes, berries, persimmons
VegetablesCarrots, peas, lettuce greens, sweet potatoes
GrainsWhole corn, oats, wheat
Nuts and AcornsPecans, walnuts, almonds, beechnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts (no salt)
Twigs and BrowseMaples, oaks, aspens, birch, willow, dogwood, hickory, ash

Pay special attention to local species since local deer can tolerate them. While they are in season, provide fruits and vegetables; in the winter, add grains and nuts as a supplement.

Supplemental Feeds for Deer

Type of FoodDescription
FruitsApples, pears, cherries, grapes, berries, persimmons
VegetablesCarrots, peas, lettuce greens, sweet potatoes
GrainsWhole corn, oats, wheat
Nuts and AcornsPecans, walnuts, almonds, beechnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts (no salt)
Twigs and BrowseMaples, oaks, aspens, birch, willow, dogwood, hickory, ash

Avoid meals that also include animal fat or meat trimmings. Once again, consume little proteins and fats.

Transitioning Deer to New Foods  

The secret to attempting any new meal is to go slowly. The digestive tract of a deer takes some time to adjust to major changes. Here are a few advices:

  • Over 2-3 weeks, progressively introduce new meals.
  • Begin with little quantities, then gradually increase over time.
  • Offer a few of their natural meals as well for a smooth transition.
  • Once completely incorporated, continuously provide new meals.

Any sudden, big inflow of food might overwhelm their digestive system and result in problems. With slow acclimatization, avoid this.

When to Feed Backyard Deer

Timing is also another important factor. Here are some suggestions for feeding times:

  • Fall and Winter: Seasons of natural food shortage, like as the fall and winter, might benefit from supplementary feeding.
  • Spring and Summer: Avoid feeding throughout the spring and summer since natural meals are plentiful. Their diet may be impacted by feeding.
  • Breeding Season: Avoid feeding deer during the fall rut when they are primarily focused on reproducing.
  • Daily: If feeding throughout the winter, provide food at regular intervals.
  • Year-round: Not advised since deer may lose their natural capacity to feed.  

Pay attention to the food sources that are available in your location and the season. Only provide food when it is required to enhance natural diets.

Where and How to Feed Deer

Correct feeding techniques can aid in avoiding issues:

  • To reduce waste, use raised feeders or troughs.
  • To prevent tempting deer, place feeders away from gardens and yards.
  • Provide enough room for several deer to reach feeders simultaneously. 
  • To prevent upsetting deer while they are eating, keep dogs indoors.
  • Refrain from feeding or otherwise approaching deer up close.

Keep in mind that deer are wild creatures and are best left alone unless being watched. Do not promote meek or dependent behavior.

What to feed deer in summer?

It’s crucial to supply deer in your backyard with a diet that is rich in fiber and low in protein throughout the summer. Shrubs, leaves, and grass are safe and healthful dietary sources that suit this profile and provide appropriate nourishment. In addition, you may include fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, and peaches while avoiding maize since it might hurt deer. Plant peas, beans, or lab-lab for increased protein content, while legumes and cereal grains like sorghum provide a mix of protein and carbs. Cowpeas are a practical food plot alternative during the summer. Provide important minerals like calcium and phosphorus to assist the health and growth of deer. It’s important to refrain from overfeeding and to consume meals that correspond to their normal diet.

Deer Food in SummerDescription
Fruits and VegetablesApples, bananas, carrots, grapes, oranges, pears, and sweet potatoes are suitable options during summer.
Nuts and SeedsAcorns, chestnuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are good choices to provide extra nutrition.
GrainsOats and corn can be fed in moderation for supplemental energy but should not be the primary food.
HayHay is a valuable source of fiber and nutrients; ensure it is designed specifically for deer consumption.

What to feed deer in backyard during winter?

It’s essential to give deer with high-carbohydrate and high-fat food sources throughout the winter to aid in their ability to stay warm. Winter browse (woody plant buds and twigs), agricultural crops (corn, soybeans, grains, brassicas), deer food pellets, roots, corn bulbs, and oats are all safe alternatives for backyard deer feeding during this time. Greenery and grass in your garden may also be used as acceptable winter food sources.

Winter Food For DeerDescription
HayHigh in fiber and nutrients, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.
OatsGood source of energy and protein, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.
CornProvides energy but should be fed in moderation to avoid digestive issues.
AcornsNatural high-energy and nutrient-rich food source for deer.
ChestnutsAnother natural high-energy and nutrient-rich food source for deer.
ApplesRich in vitamins and minerals, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.
BananasGood source of potassium and minerals, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.
CarrotsRich in vitamins and minerals, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.
Sweet PotatoesProvide vitamins and minerals, can be placed in a feeder or scattered on the ground.

What is the best thing to feed wild deer?

The ideal things to feed wild deer change depending on the time of year, however throughout the summer it’s crucial to provide them a balanced diet. Acorns, beechnuts, and berries are among the safe and wholesome possibilities, as are shrubs and trees, which are popular all year round. It is advantageous to include fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, and peaches, while legumes and cereal grains like sorghum provide a balance of protein and carbohydrates. Cowpeas are a simple option for summer food plots. In addition, supplying calcium and phosphorus-containing mineral blocks is essential for deer’s health and growth during the summer. It’s important to keep from overfeeding pets and stop giving them things that aren’t part of their regular diet.

What not to feed deer?

Some foods are harmful to deer and should be avoided:

Type of FoodDescription
BreadOffers no nutrition and can cause deadly bloat in deer.
Chips, Donuts, Junk FoodExtremely unhealthy and not suitable for deer consumption.
Hay or AlfalfaToo high in protein for deer digestion and should be avoided.
Dried CornToo high in carbs; should be introduced gradually to prevent issues.
Rhubarb, Azaleas, Daffodils, IrisThese plants are toxic to deer and should not be consumed.

Do your homework before serving any dubious items. When in doubt, stick to the organic meals that deer are used to eating. 

Improving Natural Habitat for Deer  

Change your attention to enhancing the natural environment in your backyard or property rather than relying on feeding for the long run. You may encourage deer to feed organically by doing the following:

  • Create stands of local plants and trees that deer like browsing. Saplings of oak and maple are wonderful selections.
  • Encourage the growth of green forest understory species like clover or violets. These provide good fodder.
  • Create tiny brush piles to promote development of the cover and browsing. Greens will grow on piles of wood and branches.
  • Use little or no pesticides and herbicides. Let the wild plants of nature flourish.
  • Leave fallen branches on the ground and dead trees standing. These serve as sources of nourishment.
  • Keep up forest openings that promote the establishment of nutrient-rich herbaceous plants and woody seedlings. 

While patience is required, habitat improvement benefits deer and other species in the long term. Your land has the potential to develop into an oasis of fresh food and shelter. When deciding how to feed your backyard deer guests, consider the long term.

Smart, Safe Deer Feeding Practices 

The pleasure of watching deer in your backyard may be priceless if it is done safely. Follow these guidelines to make it secure and beneficial for everyone:

• Verify the laws in your state about feeding deer. Many states forbid it or impose tight restrictions. 

• Prevent crowding at feeders to reduce the spread of illness.

• Avoid gathering deer in places where there are more car accidents.

• As winter gives way to spring, gradually stop feeding.

• Never try to hand-feed, pet, or tame a deer.

• When there are deer around, keep an eye on your kids and dogs.

When we treat deer with respect from a distance, they improve our lives. We may maintain healthy backyard herds for many generations by recognizing their requirements and adhering to safe feeding procedures. Welcome the deer while practicing careful supplementary feeding when necessary and mindful habitat management. Enjoy their beauty while also helping the herd.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to feed deer in backyard?

The practice of feeding deer in your garden might cause conflict. Even though it could seem like a kind gesture, it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. In addition to allowing for wildlife observation, feeding deer may help them survive severe seasons when their natural food supplies are sparse. However, it may also result in issues like overcrowding, disease transmission, and the attraction of undesirable creatures like raccoons or coyotes. Follow local laws, provide suitable and balanced food, refrain from overfeeding, and be aware of any possible ecological effects if you want to do it safely and ethically.

What is the best homemade food for deer?

A balanced diet should be the goal of homemade deer food. Acorn nuts and fruits like apples, pears, or peaches are excellent choices. Their diet might also include grains like oats or maize and vegetables like carrots. However, moderation is essential since consuming too much of certain foods, like maize, may cause stomach problems.

What is the best way to feed deer?

Establishing designated feeding places far from your house and other buildings is the best approach to feed deer. Establish a regular feeding schedule and provide a range of suitable meals. Make sure there is access to clean water, and to reduce waste and contamination, use the right feeders or food plots.

Can you feed deer carrots and are carrots OK for deer?

Yes, deer can consume carrots, and carrots are generally considered acceptable for deer. They provide them vital nutrients, such as beta carotene, which strengthens their eyesight, immune system, and skin. To prevent interfering with their normal food intake, carrots must be given occasionally and as part of a balanced diet. Any food, including carrots, should not be consumed in excess and it’s important to provide a varied diet and not only depend on carrots.

What is the cheapest food for deer?

Grain products like maize or oats are often the least expensive food for deer. These additional nutrition solutions could be affordable. However, it’s critical to put the nutritional requirements of deer ahead of money.

Is it harmful to feed deer?

Inappropriate feeding of deer might have negative effects. Overfeeding may have negative health effects, and drawing deer might bring in unwelcome species and interfere with their normal habits. Additionally, the risk of disease transmission makes appropriate feeding practices crucial.

What do farmers feed deer?

Farmers often provide deer with crops including maize, soybeans, wheat, and brassicas as a food source, particularly during the winter when natural fodder is scarce.

Do deer like sugar or salt?

It is better to avoid providing sweets or seasoning their meal with salt since deer are not drawn to either of these.

Do deer consume raw sugar?

Deer should not be fed raw sugar, thus it should be avoided.

Is milk good for deer?

A deer’s digestive system may be harmed by milk, which is not a natural component of their diet. It is preferable not to give them milk.

What are some safe and healthy food options for feeding deer in your backyard?

Nuts, fruits, bushes, veggies, legumes, and mineral blocks are all safe and wholesome alternatives for feeding deer in your garden throughout the summer.

What are the ideal foods for deer to munch on?

Natural forage like grasses, leaves, bushes, and tree browsing are the best meals for deer to eat. These foods often meet their nutritional requirements by being rich in fiber and low in protein.

What foods are harmful to deer?

Bread, processed junk food, and an excessive quantity of maize are all bad for deer. Avoiding these foods may prevent health issues from developing.

When is the best time to feed deer in your backyard?

The optimal time to feed deer in your backyard might vary, but it’s often done in seasons like winter when there are few natural food sources available.

When is the best time to feed deer in your backyard?

In your backyard, it’s important to avoid overfeeding the deer. In order to reduce waste and any health risks, a basic rule is to provide no more than what they can eat in a day.

What are some natural sources of food that deer love?

Deer enjoy a variety of plants, leaves, grasses, and tree browsing as natural sources of food. Deer also like eating other nuts, such as acorns and beechnuts.

What should you avoid feeding deer in your backyard?

Avoid giving deer items like bread, processed junk food, and large quantities of maize that are not a natural component of their diet.

How can you attract deer to your backyard without feeding them?

Create a habitat in your backyard with local plants, trees, and water sources to entice deer without feeding them. Deer may be drawn to your region and provided with natural feed by these factors.

What are some tips for feeding deer in your backyard safely and responsibly?

Use the right food supplies, keep designated feeding sites clear of buildings, and obey local laws when feeding deer in your backyard safely and ethically.

What are the risks and responsibilities of feeding deer in your backyard?

Feeding deer in your backyard comes with duties and hazards, including as the possibility for disease transfer, population growth, attracting predators, and altering natural behavior. To preserve an ecology that is balanced and healthy for animals, many experts advise against artificial feeding. Understanding these dangers and accepting responsibility for any possible ecological effects of feeding deer are crucial.


While feeding deer in your backyard might be enjoyable, it’s crucial to do so responsibly. Deer may be kept healthy and kept from causing damage to your property by feeding them in a defined location and with the correct meals. Knowing what to feed deer in your backyard ensures you are taking the right steps to support their well-being while respecting their natural dietary needs.

Here is a summary of the key points to keep in mind:

  • Opt for foods that are low in protein and rich in fiber.
  • Steer clear of giving processed items to deer, such as chips, bread, and cereal.
  • Good food options for deer include fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains, and hay.
  • Store food away from your house and other buildings in a specified place.
  • Avoid overfeeding deer.
  • After a couple of days, dispose of any remaining food.
James Ellis

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