Deer Manure as Fertilizer: Safety and Considerations for Your Garden

Introduction to Fertilizing with Deer Manure

The use of manure in gardens is a practice as old as agriculture itself, but using deer droppings as fertilizer might be a less common idea. Deer droppings may be abundant in areas with a significant deer population, leading gardeners to wonder if this natural by-product could be beneficial for plants. This blog post delves into the complexities and considerations surrounding the use of deer manure as a fertilizer.

The Composition of Deer Droppings

Deer droppings are mainly comprised of digested plant material. Unlike cows, which have complex digestive systems that break down materials more thoroughly, deer have a simpler digestive process. The nutrients available in deer droppings can vary widely based on the deer’s diet, season, and location.

Advantages of Using Deer Manure as Fertilizer

There are several potential advantages to using deer manure as a fertilizer. It’s important to recognize these benefits while also weighing them against potential drawbacks.

Nutrient Content

Deer droppings can be a source of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients can support plant growth, although the levels might be lower compared to other types of manure.

Availability and Cost

In regions with a high deer population, deer droppings may be readily available and free. This can make it an attractive option for gardeners looking to save on fertilizer costs.

Concerns and Drawbacks of Deer Manure

While the idea of using deer manure may be appealing, there are also several concerns that gardeners must consider.

Pathogen Risk

One of the main concerns with using deer droppings is the potential presence of pathogens. Deer can be carriers of harmful bacteria like E. coli and other parasites that may be transmitted to humans through contaminated vegetables.

Inconsistency in Nutrient Content

As mentioned earlier, the nutrient content of deer droppings can be highly variable. Without testing the droppings for nutrient content, it’s challenging to know how much benefit the plants will receive.

Potential for Weed Seeds

Deer consume a wide variety of plants, including weeds. The seeds of these plants may pass through the deer’s digestive system intact and end up in the droppings, potentially introducing weeds to the garden.

Best Practices for Utilizing Deer Droppings

If a gardener decides to proceed with using deer droppings as fertilizer, there are best practices to follow to minimize risks.


Composting deer droppings can help eliminate pathogens and weed seeds. A hot composting process that reaches temperatures of 140°F (60°C) or higher can effectively kill most harmful organisms.

Avoiding Use on Edible Plants

If there are concerns about pathogens, using deer droppings on ornamental plants instead of vegetables or fruits can reduce the risk of contamination.

Testing Nutrient Levels

If available, testing the nutrient content of the droppings can provide valuable information to guide fertilization practices.


The decision to use deer droppings as a fertilizer involves careful consideration of both benefits and drawbacks. Understanding the potential nutrient content, along with the risks of pathogens and weed seeds, is crucial. By following best practices like composting, gardeners can mitigate some of the risks. However, the unique circumstances of each garden and gardener’s comfort level with potential risks should guide the decision-making process. Whether viewed as a creative recycling of natural materials or a risk not worth taking, fertilizing with deer manure is an intriguing aspect of garden management that deserves thoughtful exploration.