So you can enjoy the fruits of your gardening labor—not Bambi
Disney’s adorable cartoon Bambi may come to mind when you think of deer. But once you have two months’ worth of gardening devoured overnight, Bambi starts looking a little less cute. One effective way to keep deer away from your landscaping is to install a deer-proof garden fence. From poly mesh garden fence kits to long-term wooden structures, here are a few of the pros and cons of the most common types of deer fencing.
1. Metal Mesh Fencing
This metal grid material is one of the most popular types of deer fencing. Because it allows deer to see through it, it needs to be higher than a deer can jump. Ideally, the posts are an additional 18 to 24 inches higher than the fence height to account for space to sink the posts and ensure strong anchor points as well as anchoring along the bottom to hold the fencing in place.
Pros of Metal Mesh Deer Fencing
Durable: The metal lasts a long time, especially if coated with polyethylene.
Unobstructed views: You can see through it.
Straightforward to install: A savvy homeowner with the right tools can turn a small deer fence install into a weekend DIY job. It’s often sold as a kit and can be put up temporarily for veggie growing season.
Cons of Metal Mesh Deer Fencing
Costly: Metal mesh, especially the invisible kind, can be expensive. Less expensive types can look clunky and obscure garden views.
2. Poly Deer Fencing
Polypropylene mesh is a grid-like material attached to wooden or metal posts, similar to metal mesh fencing. A popular choice for home garden fencing and deer fencing thanks to both the affordability and ease of installation. Follow the same height guidelines as metal mesh.
Pros of Polypropylene Deer Fencing
Less expensive: It’s more budget-friendly than metal.
DIY-friendly: It’s often sold as a kit including posts, making it reasonably easy to DIY.
Convenient: It’s easy to set up and take down after the growing season.
Looks good: You have unobstructed garden views
Cons of Polypropylene Deer Fencing
Less strength: It’s generally less durable than its metal cousin, and the price rises with its durability. Unless you spring for a polypropylene mesh that has a big breaking load (800 pounds or more), the deer can bash right through it.
Choose the Right Size
Deer meshing should have openings no larger than two inches, or the deer may become trapped or injured.
3. Wood Fencing
Wood fencing can be effective because it obscures the deer’s view— and deer don’t like jumping into an area they can’t see. However, you’ll want this type of fence to have as few gaps as possible to be effective.
Pros of a Wooden Fence
Can be short: Wood fencing needs only to be about 5 feet high to be effective, since deer can’t see through.
Customizable: It’s also a beautiful classic fence style that compliments any outdoor space. You can make it your own with a unique design.
Privacy: It can also add seclusion to your yard.
Cons of a Wooden Fence
Price: It can get costly if you have a large area to fence off.
Poor view: It can obscure your scenery.
Challenging: It requires slightly advance handyperson skills to install (so it’s not an easy DIY).
4. Vinyl Fencing
In terms of deer fencing, vinyl has similar pros and cons to wood, although per square foot, vinyl fencing costs are lower.
Pros of Vinyl Fencing
Unique: Can be customized to your style.
Short: Height needs to be only about 5 feet to deter deer.
Seclusion: Provides privacy.
Budget-friendly: Generally more affordable than wood fencing.
Easy: Upkeep and maintenance are minimal compared to wood.
Cons of Vinyl Fencing
Views: Like most fences, it can cut your view.
Hard to build: It can be more involved than an easy weekend DIY, so may require a pro.
Pro Tip: You can also slant a solid fence at a 45-degree angle, making the fence wider than deer like to jump. Or install two shorter (4 or 5 feet tall) fences, three to five feet apart, making it difficult for deer to leap the span of the two shorter fences.
5. Electric Deer Fencing
Electric deer fencing consists of low wires that emit a mild electrical shock. The idea is to deter deer the way an electric dog fence is supposed to keep a dog from leaving the yard.
Although it may sound like a better solution than building a high fence around your property, electric deer fencing is more like a deterrent.
Many people find installing a series of low wires (2 to 3 feet high) about 3 feet apart to interrupt the deer’s jumping pattern. A more effective way to use electric deer fencing can be to place it around plants you wish to keep deer away from or near common deer paths, rather than trying to keep them out of an entire yard.
Pros of Electric Deer Fencing
Relatively unobtrusive: It can be nearly invisible in the landscaping and keep your views uninterrupted.
Effective: May deter most deer.
Cost-effective: It’s inexpensive compared to putting up a large fence around your property.
Cons of Electric Deer Fencing
Not foolproof: it relies on deer responding to the shock. Some deer will ignore a pain response or adapt to it, rendering it ineffective..
Electricity: This option requires a power source, which may be a challenge.
Not DIYable: It generally requires a local licensed pro to install.
6. Chain Link Fencing
When considering a way to keep deer away, chain link fencing might not be the first thing you think of, but it can be effective as long as it’s tall enough. And before you cringe at the thought of your home looking like a prison yard, keep in mind that there are many styles available now, including non-metal options that have an upgraded look.
Pros of Chain Link Fencing
Price point: Most chain link fencing is fairly affordable.
Good view: It offers mostly unobstructed views.
Flexible: It’s good for sectioning off a part of your yard, such as a vegetable garden.
Cons of Chain Link Fencing
Appearance: Not all homeowners enjoy the look of chain link.
Height: To be effective, it must be 8 feet high.
Hard to build: The posts are typically large metal posts which can look obtrusive and make it more difficult for homeowner DIY install, so you’ll probably want a local fencing contractor.
Pro Tip: To visually trick deer into thinking the fence is higher than it is, avoid using a top rail.
7. Liquid Fencing
Not technically a type of fencing, liquid deer repellent can be applied to garden borders as a deterrent, much like soap can repel bugs and critters in your garden. It contains substances that taste or smell bad to deer.
Pros of Liquid “Fencing”
Simple: It’s very easy to apply.
Convenient: The solution is readily available.
Safe: Harmless to plants, pets, and animals when used per manufacturers’ instructions.
Cons of Liquid “Fencing”
Short-term: Does not offer a long-term solution to keep deer out of a garden. Reapplication is necessary, especially after periods of heavy rain.
Can be ineffective: If a deer is hungry enough, they’ll ignore it and go for the goods.
Creative DIY Deer Fences
There are plenty of garden fencing options, such as iron rail or aluminum fencing, which aren’t commonly used as deer fencing—but certainly can be. You can get creative with materials, combining mesh with wood posts and burying wood or galvanized steel at the bottom of the fencing to keep deer out, too. Remember, the rule of thumb is the more see-through the fencing, the higher it should be. Also, keep in mind that hex fencing, also known as chicken wire, isn’t strong enough to keep deer out. They can knock it down or even chew through the vinyl variety.
A tall green hedge of at least six feet high, well maintained and without holes, can ward off deer, primarily because they interrupt the deer’s sightline. You may need to supplement with wire fencing until your hedge grows thick enough.
The truth is, there is really no such thing as deer-proof plants. Deer will decimate even the prickliest of barberries if they’re hungry enough. However, there are plenty of beautiful deer-resistant plants that they don’t enjoy. These include thistles, wisteria vines, sword ferns, and beautyberries.
Deer are herbivores, and they love vegetable gardens as much as Peter Rabbit. If you don’t want to fence your entire property in, consider creating an attractive raised-bed veggie garden with mesh fencing around it to keep deer out.
You can call a nearby fence installation expert to walk you through the types of fencing available and help you set a budget for your project.
A Note About Fence Height
Hungry deer have surprised even the most tenacious gardener with their agility and determination. Common whitetail deer can jump eight feet high, and mule deer can jump up to 15 feet with a running start. To prevent deer from getting over your fence, you should build one that’s at least 8 feet tall.
Anchor your fencing at the bottom in intervals of 1 to 2 feet to keep deer from wriggling into your garden under the fence. Additionally, you can bury the fence along the main fence line. Just dig a trench between the post holes and cover it up with dirt. Add a layer of gravel to ensure everything stays in place.
Alternative Deer Deterrents
Not every homeowner is able or willing to build a deer-proof fence for their garden. But there are other ways to protect your plants, like using deterrent methods. Deer tend to be frightened away by loud noises or sudden movements. A few non-fence ways to deter deer include:
Dogs that bark (a lot) when deer are around
Motion sensors attached to sprinklers