Leave the Deer Their Daily Bread!

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deer hand fed bread

If you’re reading this you might be one of those people who enjoys watching deer and would love to feed them something. Bread is a product most people usually have available, so you might be wondering ‘can deer eat bread?’ Let us deer farmers tell you everything you need to know about risks and benefits of feeding deer bread.

(This post was first inspired by the pandemic events, when bread was being scarce.)

Due to the ongoing pandemic and quarantine measures around the world, people have been panicking and panic-shopping.

While our deer care not for the possible shortage of toilet paper, they do object strongly to people hoarding their daily bread.

We could consider baking our own, but then we’d need much more flour than our pantry holds at the moment, and people’ve been cleaning that up as well.

Junkie didn’t take the news lightly:

Other hinds express doubt as to the reason for the sudden abysmal introduction of a gluten-free diet:

deer funny face bread shortage

Hopefully, there will be no run on carrots, their second favorite treat.

Deer love bread in all its shapes and forms, they will even lick bread crumbs of the ground. But that doesn’t mean feeding big amounts of bread to wild animals is fine.

Wondering what other food deer might like to eat?

Read our overview post ‘What do deer eat’.

deer eating toast

Is bread good for deer to eat?

Only under certain conditions, otherwise feeding deer bread can be dangerous for the animals. How come? Well, deer have this digestive system that while highly adaptable to new diets, is also quite slow in doing that. Unless deer are eased into new foods, they can become “toxic”, as in cause all sorts of issues from mild gastrointestinal disorders to acidosis leading to death.

On our farm, we have a chance to control how much of which food is given. No animal gets a bunch of toasts all of a sudden. We don’t just leave a pile and then only a few deer come find the spot and gorge themselves. So our animals get a bit each, and after a few weeks of slow introduction, it’s safe to feed them several toasts a day each. Possibly much more but we don’t have connections with bakeries so that’d be kind of pricey.

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Unfortunately, deer don’t understand that bread can be dangerous for them in big quantities and if given a chance they’d eat it till they explode into the stratosphere))

So while wheat and rye bread both have nutritional value and benefits for deer health, they need to be fed responsibly.

What’s the nutritional content different types of bread per 100g (that’s about 4 pieces of toast)?

Nutrient White Bread Brown Bread Multigrain Bread Calories 265 246 251 Protein 9.4 g 9.3 g 9.2 g Carbohydrates 49.6 g 44.1 g 46.0 g – Sugars 3.2 g 3.6 g 3.3 g – Dietary fiber 2.7 g 6.0 g 6.0 g Fat 3.0 g 2.6 g 3.0 g Sodium 404 mg 383 mg 427 mg Calcium 81 mg 73 mg 79 mg Iron 1.8 mg 1.8 mg 1.7 mg Potassium 129 mg 186 mg 184 mg Vitamin B6 0.1 mg Vitamin E 0.2 mg 0.3 mg 0.3 mg Thiamin (B1) 0.2 mg 0.2 mg 0.2 mg Riboflavin (B2) 0.1 mg 0.1 mg 0.1 mg Niacin (B3) 2.5 mg 2.5 mg 2.4 mg Folate (B9) 75 mcg 57 mcg 54 mcg Phosphorus 123 mg 150 mg 148 mg Magnesium 24 mg 47 mg 46 mg Zinc 1.1 mg 1.2 mg 1.3 mg Copper 0.1 mg 0.1 mg 0.1 mg Manganese 0.4 mg 0.5 mg 0.5 mg

As you can see, bread is packed with beneficial minerals, vitamins and nutrients, but above all it contains a lot of calories. While humans in our era are trying to watch their diet and avoid eating too much high calorie food, deer crave that, it’s very hard to come by in their natural environment and it takes a lot of work to gain healthy weight. Weight is about survival for deer as it helps get through winter. Also aids in moving up and maintaining the pecking order in the herd. No wonder that deer are quickly hooked on this type of food.

deer trying to eat bagels

Should you feed wild deer bread?

Depending on where you live it may be illegal for you to do that.

Winter is a challenging time for deer, and a nature’s way of culling the weaker herd members. (( As heartbreaking as that may be, supplemental feeding of them presents its own set of problems and according to many reputable sources can do more harm than good. Such as:

  • introducing improper food. Corn, bread will be eaten by deer but can kill them. Small amounts are fine, but if one leaves a bunch of it and only one or a couple of animals find it and eat the whole lot they can die from indigestion. With wild deer not approaching it until you leave, you can’t control how much any one of them will consume.
  • by attracting the deer into one spot people cause them to congregate in large groups, and that can lead to increase in communicable disease spread, like CWD (not present in NZ). Everybody knows what social distancing is these days and the merits of it. Well, by promoting concentration of deer people are endangering their health.
  • it’s hardly sustainable long-term, as deer will habituate the feeding spot and eventually hang out there most of the time, stripping any and all vegetation present in the area, destroying trees by eating bark and rubbing antlers on them.

    Where a few 🦌🦌 are today tomorrow can be a hundred 🦌🦌🦌🦌🦌 In deer world ‘the word travels fast’. So more animals will burn their precious fat deposits hoping to come and dine at your sites. If they then arrive to an empty spot or there’s only enough to feed half of them you may have made a bad situation worse;

    Even if you succeed in saving more deer one winter through supplemental feeding, overpopulation of these animals does not benefit them in the end. Since you stop supplement feeding in spring, they’re on their own but in bigger numbers than vegetation in the area can sustain. There will also be detrimental effect on the birds whose habitats deer eat away.

  • concentrating deer near inhabited areas may result in increased traffic accidents;
  • attracting deer near peoples’ property through feeding can also attract predators, like cougars or coyotes. Also, deer can under certain conditions be aggressive themselves and are capable of causing serious injuries to humans;
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If you want to help deer survive winter:

You can do this by creating and maintaining good quality deer habitat and improving food resources that will actually benefit all wildlife.

  • plant mast producing trees and shrubs, and protect those plantings until they are large enough to survive deer browsing;
  • plant evergreen trees for winter thermal cover
  • cut sections of mature forests to create forest openings and increase the amount of woody browse available to deer.

If you can’t resist feeding deer, follow these guidelines:

Disclosure: This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Some of the below links are ‘affiliate links’, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

  • To make sure food is safe prefer tree branches (oak, aspen, crab-apple) over artificial foods, otherwise use deer pellets (Purina Antler Advantage, MONSTERMEAL) or coarsely milled oats;
  • To promote better dispersal of animals feed in several sites;
  • To avoid human/wildlife conflicts feed well away from any roads or peoples houses;
  • Spread the food really well, so numerous deer can have simultaneous access to it without fighting. Stronger bucks will often hoard the best spots for themselves and kick approaching competition. So instead of dumping all in one spot make thin, long lines of food, they can go parallel, as long as there’s enough room between them for animals to stand. The wider you can make the area the better.
  • If you begin feeding in fall, continue until snow melt in spring, as deer can become dependent on you. Prepare to give more feed as more deer will discover and frequent your sites.
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Wondering what other foods deer love to eat? Read ‘What do deer eat’.

hand feeding bread to deer mob

In conclusion, deer absolutely adore bread. It helps them feel satieted sooner and gain weight quicker, but fed improperly it can lead to illness and even death of these animals. If you’re thinking of feeding some bread to your local deer population, make sure you do it responsibly and carefully. Deer can rip benefits from eating bread, it is nutritious, but only if they get used to digesting it in small quantities first.

Merits of feeding deer in the winter is a whole another topic.

Last modified 28 September 2023 at 23:17

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>