Learn how to build a good deer fence. Includes a review of different options for deer fencing, with pros and cons for each.
One of the primary reasons we wanted to have a rural vacation home was because we wanted a garden. While we definitely have maximized our ability to grow food in the city, with pots, planter boxes, and a community garden plot, we wanted fruit trees, berry bushes, and a large vegetable patch.
There were three big barriers to gardening on our piece of vacant land: water, soil, and deer fencing.
We’re currently in our 3rd attempt at deer fencing, and we finally seem to have a solution that works! Here’s what we learned about deer fencing.
Deer fencing must-haves
There’s no point in building a lousy deer fence. The deer will get in… every time. Trust me.
Deer are smart, wile, and very determined. And they really like apple trees. We have a poor Liberty apple tree that was stripped of its leaves so many times, that we’ve basically given up on it ever producing fruit.
Here are a few things that you need to do to make sure your fencing is adequate.
- Don’t buy the cheapest fencing options. They just don’t work. It’s a waste of time and money.
- Solid fences (like wood privacy panels or stone) can be 6 feet tall because the deer won’t jump over if they can’t see the other side. Mesh fencing needs to be 8 feet tall to stop the deer from jumping over.
- The fence needs to go right to the ground. If you’re using plastic mesh, then you need some excess slack at the bottom to prevent deer from pushing under.
- When you first install the fence, flag it with bright plastic tape. This makes it more visible and stops your fence from being knocked down by a surprised deer! You can remove the tape after a few months.
- If the fenced area is small enough (like wrapped around a single tree) the deer will just push into the fence until it can get at the leaves on the other side. So I recommend fencing a larger area.
Options for Posts
There are as many options for fence posts as there are for fencing! Here are the pros and cons for each of the options we considered:
If you know exactly where you want your fence to be, then wooden posts are a great option! Since our garden plot is constantly growing and changing size, we didn’t consider wooden posts beyond the initial stage of planning.
- Wooden posts are an attractive solution.
- They’re the best (only) option if you want to use wooden privacy panels.
- Wooden posts are hard to install. You have to dig a hole and set the post with concrete. This means they’re a lot more work than the other options.
- They are also more expensive.
- You need to use treated lumber to make sure your fencing lasts.
We ended up choosing metal fence posts because we are going to be changing the size of our garden as we build up soil and buy more fruit trees. In fact, we’ve already moved our deer fence twice, and it’s great to be able to reuse our posts.
- Quick and easy to install. All you need is a ladder and a post-pounder.
- It can even be installed on rocky ground.
- Posts can be removed and reused.
- Less expensive than wood
- Typical fence posts aren’t the most attractive.
- Existing Structures are free and easy to use. However, unless you have a very small garden, you’ll probably need some posts.
- Bamboo posts and garden stakes aren’t tall enough or strong enough for proper deer fencing. However, they’ll work for fencing a single tree, if your deer aren’t tenacious. (Ours are… they just push those posts over!)
- Rebar is a cheap alternative to metal fence posts. However, you need to make sure it’s coated in rust-proof paint. It also isn’t as stable as metal fence posts, so you’ll want to drive it an extra few feet deep.
Options for fencing
Solid fencing is a good option if you also want privacy with your deer fencing. Usually, they’re made of wood. You can also use metal sheet fencing. Personally, I love the look of Sheldane’s rock wall deer fencing.
- Acts as a privacy barrier.
- Solid fencing is usually quite attractive.
- It only has to be 6 feet tall, as deer won’t jump if they can’t see where they’re going to land.
- Way more expensive than other options.
- It blocks light, so you’ll want to set your vegetable garden away from the side of the fence.
Our first round of deer fencing was made with plastic netting (see above). Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly deer-proof. The deer ripped the thin netting, and they were able to push under and jump over the thicker plastic netting. If you want to use plastic netting, I recommend framing it in wood so that it is solid on the top and bottom.
- The cheapest option.
- Lightweight and reusable.
- It’s not the most deer-proof option. Hungry deer may rip a plastic fence.
- You’ll need to set the posts less than 8 feet apart to prevent sagging in the middle of the fence.
- Hard to find netting that is wide enough. You’ll need more than 7 feet to allow for an excess on the ground to prevent the deer from pushing under the fence.
- If the mesh is really fine, birds may get caught in it.
Wire mesh fencing
In the end, we opted for wire mesh fencing. I think it’s more attractive than plastic fencing, and it’s certainly more deer resistant. We’re still using plastic netting for the door, but eventually, we want to make a wood-framed wire mesh door.
- Really durable and long-lasting.
- You can set the posts up to 12 feet apart as the wire won’t sag in the middle.
- More attractive than plastic fencing.
- It can be taken down and reused.
- More expensive than plastic fencing.
- Less attractive than solid fencing options.
- Chain-linked fences are more expensive than wire mesh. However, it’s a good option if you want a permanent fence.
- Fishing line fences are made by stringing wire between your fence posts, then weaving fishing line through them. It sounds time-consuming, and probably has similar issues to plastic net fencing.
- Electric fencing is expensive to install and is probably more than needed for the average garden.
- I really liked the idea of this knitted fence. I know it’s not really practical, but it’s an inspiring idea!
Looking for advice on how to install wire mesh deer fencing? Here’s an article that I found helpful.
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