8 Ways to Keep Deer Away from Your Bird Feeders! (2023)
What’s eating all my birdseed?
Today, you will learn EIGHT ways to keep deer away from bird feeders!
And the BEST part is that none of these tips harm deer. 🙂
#1. Take Down Your Feeders Every Night!
Deer are nocturnal, and most of them only visit feeders under the cover of darkness. One way to solve a deer problem is to bring your bird feeders inside each evening. Assuming that your bird food and feeders are in a secure location, the deer won’t have anything to eat, except maybe for a little seed that fell on the ground.
The only drawback to this strategy is that it’s labor-intensive. Every evening before dark, you need to bring your feeders inside and then take them back out every morning.
This strategy is only recommended for the most dedicated and disciplined bird-feeding enthusiasts.
You can also try taking down the feeders for a short period to encourage the deer to move on. After about a week, you should notice fewer deer tracks! Just know that deer are very smart and persistent, and they’ll eventually come back.
#2. Keep the Ground Clean!
To help keep deer away from bird feeders, you have to take steps to make sure bird food doesn’t accumulate on the ground.
To prevent food on the ground, pay close attention to your feeders.
Most birds, in general, are messy eaters and will poke through and throw birdseed around, looking for the food they want to eat. You’re going to need bird feeders that don’t allow birds to do this! Hopper feeders or trays might be bad options, since birds can sit on a platform and have plenty of room to throw food around, leading to some ending up on the ground.
I’d look for feeders where birds have to reach inside to grab a piece of food.
One feeder that would be a good choice is the Absolute II.
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The seed is enclosed in the food reservoir and has a metal lip that prevents food from spilling out.
Another way to prevent food from ending up on the ground is to install a tray underneath the feeders.
Many tube feeders have trays that attach to the bottom. You could also construct some sort of dish or bin that catches fallen seed.
Here are two different sized trays, which both fit on the Aspect tube feeders above:
- 8.5 inch Seed Tray (pictured above)
- 12-inch seed tray. This larger option is the best for larger birds, such as Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, or Northern Cardinals.
You could also try only using shelled sunflower seed.
As far as bird food goes, sunflower kernels are the most popular. Almost every bird that comes to feeders loves the stuff. In fact, when birds are looking through a birdseed mix, it’s typically the sunflower they are searching for.
If you only use shelled sunflower, there won’t be anything for the birds to search through, which means they’re less likely to throw seeds to the ground. As another benefit, you’ll avoid a mess of shells on the ground, since you’re buying the sunflower seed already shelled.
If any sunflower kernels do fall to the ground, they should be quickly gobbled up by ground-feeding birds or a small mammal, before a deer would ever find it!
Put out less food for your birds!
Lastly, if you are still having problems with food falling to the ground, you should put out less birdseed. My recommendation is to only put out enough food that the birds will be able to eat it all during the day! By the time night comes, the deer won’t have anything left to eat.
#3. Hang Your Feeders High To Stop Deer!
To keep deer away from your feeders, the easiest way to go is up! Believe it or not, they can reach about seven feet up on their hind legs.
Don’t believe me? Check out the video below. Unfortunately, the feeders are not high enough, and the deer can get their nose and tongue high enough to get some food!
Keeping your feeders eight or more feet from the ground should deter all but the tallest deer. Another advantage to placing your bird feeders high is that you’ll have a better view of your feathered visitors!
Now, implementing this is a bit trickier. First, if the feeders are too high for a deer to reach, then they are probably too high for you.
How will you go about refilling them?
One idea is to have a long pole near your feeding station, which can be used to take down and put up the feeders. Another solution is to develop some sort of pulley system that easily adjusts the heights of the feeders.
Once you figure out how to maintain your high feeders, the next question you need to answer is:
What will the feeders hang from?
Even though they are too high to reach, a deer may just knock over a typical pole that hangs bird feeders! Here are a few ideas on how and where to suspend your feeders.
A. Suspend a wire or line between two high points.
- This could be some combination of trees, decks, houses, sheds, etc.
B. Hang feeders from tree branches.
- Make sure the feeder is far enough from the trunk that the deer can’t stand up on its hind legs to get to the seeds!
#4. Use Seeds Deer Don’t Like.
Just like with squirrels and starlings, you’ll be less likely to attract deer if you offer seeds they don’t like.
Unfortunately, deer aren’t picky. They are herbivores and they’ll eat pretty much any seed or plant available. Out of all the typical foods used in bird feeders, there are only a few I could think of that a deer (probably) won’t mess with.
Also commonly called “thistle,” Nyjer seed is a tiny, black seed that grows in Ethiopia or India. Nyjer seed is not actually related to thistle, so you don’t have to worry about it developing into an annoying weed. Goldfinches are known to love feeding on this food.
Deer are not incredibly fond of eating Nyjer seed. I think it’s just too small for them to bother with!
This small, hard white seed has a bitter taste. It won’t be a favorite food for a deer, and even squirrels don’t eat it much. Cardinals, grosbeaks, finches (House and Purple), titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and doves all enjoy eating safflower, though.
#5. Try Hot Pepper Birdseed To Deter Deer!
Do you enjoy having habanero peppers all over your food? Or does your face grimace just thinking about the heat you would experience?
The reason that we feel the heat of spicy foods is because of something called capsaicin, which is the active ingredient found in chili peppers that makes them hot and irritating to eat. But here’s the crazy thing:
Only mammals feel the effects of capsaicin! Birds are not affected.
And just like us, deer are mammals. In addition, a deer’s sense of smell and taste is MUCH better than a human’s. I’ve never been able to ask a deer what eating hot chili peppers tastes like, but my guess is that the effects are compounded even more than what humans feel.
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Hot pepper birdseed is coated in spicy capsaicin oil. This does the exact same thing a chili pepper would, meaning deer are likely to leave these seeds alone!
#6. Use Scent to Keep Deer Away.
Like most mammals, deer have a keen sense of smell, and many different scents put them off.
Deer will instinctively avoid things that smell like humans, which includes heavy scents and perfumes. Hanging something with a strong artificial scent near your feeders can be a good way to deter these mammals!
- Stuff a bar of scented soap or a perfume-sprayed handkerchief into a nylon stocking, and hang it on or near your feeders.
Make sure to replace your scented item regularly to keep the smell strong enough!
Just like with artificial scents, deer are aware of human smells and will avoid them in most cases.
- Take some hair from your hairbrush, put it in a nylon stocking, and hang it on your feeder.
- Take an unwashed t-shirt and make strips of fabric, and tie them to your bird feeding station.
Try landscaping with smelly plants like chives, onion, and lavender, which deer will avoid. If you have a lot of deer, one plant to avoid is hostas – they’re a favorite snack of my neighborhood herd!
You can also buy a product specifically designed to keep deer away from your yard. You spray the repellent directly on the areas you want the deer to avoid. It’s a long-lasting formula that doesn’t need to be re-applied often. The best part is that it’s harmless to wildlife and made of ingredients that can be used directly on plants!
#7. Landscape with Plants Deer Avoid
Deer are herbivores and can do severe damage to most gardens. But, there are some plants that deer don’t like to eat, and some they actively avoid!
Use these prickly shrubs as a border planting to keep deer away from your feeders.
- Rose bushes
In addition to barrier plants, you can also choose flowers and shrubs that aren’t appetizing. For example, lupine, columbine, and marigolds are all beautiful bloomers that deer ignore. Rosemary and other herbs are too strongly flavored. Below are a few other plants deer aren’t interested in!
- lily of the valley
- lamb’s ear
#8. Motion-activated sounds or lights.
My recommendation is to place an alarm on your feeder pole, or a tree nearby a few feet off the ground. This way, a deer will surely be tall enough to set it off, but every passing opossum or skunk won’t trip it.
Trust me, these sonic alarms are extremely loud and should scare away a deer. At the very least, you will hear it and be able to make some noise from your house to encourage the deer to move on. The alarm below is one such example!
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What’s nice is that this alarm is solar-powered, so you never run have to worry about batteries! There are also different settings so that you can customize the alarm for your specific need. For example, it can be set to ONLY go off at night, so every time you walk by during the day, the alarm doesn’t sound. If you want something quieter, you can also program the product to use flashing lights instead of playing a loud sound.
How do you keep deer away from your bird feeders?
Let us know in the comments!
The deer here love safflower for some reason.
Additional FYI… from an Animal sanctuary get droppings from the tigar’s pen, usually free. Place in hanging sock or around shrubs. The sent is new to the deer and it works.
Typo… scent in lieu of sent…!