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RBC I Driving to work I marvel at the number of deer inside the Meeker town limits, which is largely due to their safety and the readily available food supply. Deer are browsers, meaning they walk by and nibble at a plant. If they like the taste they can nibble a lot. So what can we do to make them go nibble in someone else’s yard down the street? The only permanent solutions are to build a fence or only landscape with plants deer will not prefer.
Whatever measure you take, I recommend rotating different treatments, because deer habituate quickly. For heavy deer pressure, only a fence will work.
In short-term repellent solutions, putrefied (old or rotten) eggs, hair, hot peppers, garlic and soap are popular ingredients. As with all products, there is no universally successful remedy.
The recipes that follow are simple. Users report success with each one of them at some times, under certain circumstances. According to users’ reports, the whole egg repellent may be the most effective of the homemade recipes. (By the way, coyote urine and blood meal, two popular homemade deterrents, rarely work for deer.)
n Whole Egg Repellent (best): Mix two whole eggs and one or two cups water in a blender. I like to add a teaspoon of garlic and two tablespoons of Tabasco or one or two hot peppers to the mix. Strain, then add this mixture to a gallon of water and spray on plants. The sulfurous smell given off by the putrefied egg mimics the smell of rotting meat, giving deer the impression there is a predator in the vicinity. The smell also mimics the scent of urine from a predator.
n Hot Pepper Repellent (fair): Personally, I have seen deer eat this mix with no effect while it seems to work on others. Wear goggles and gloves and keep the mix from your eyes and skin. Put four to six hot peppers (red cayenne, jalapeno or habanera) through a food processor with enough water to liquefy the peppers. Strain the liquid to remove seeds and solids. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil, one squirt of paper glue and two drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Mix one part of this concentrate in five parts water, shake well, and apply with a sprayer. Reapply after rain or snow or when new growth appears.
n Soap, Hair Repellent (marginal): Put bars of fragrant soap in a nylon stocking or similar mesh holder. Tie the holders to small trees or shrubs. This is an area repellent; one bag protects about one square yard. Hair bags are alsoarea repellents that you hang from trees. Human hair is most commonly used, but some people report success with dog hair as well. Hang hair bags three feet apart.
These products work best when the deer population is low. There are other sources of food for the deer, and your neighbors are not using repellents. If you apply these products before deer start to feed in your garden, the deer may go elsewhere to feed. Once they start browsing, it will be harder to get them away from your garden.
There are dozens of commercial products on the market, with new ones appearing all the time. Most have some combination of egg and hot peppers as a base.
Bill Ekstrom is the Rio Blanco County agent for the CSU Extension Office.