Deer Fence Height for Yard and Garden Fences
If you’re wondering what’s the best deer fence height you’re not alone. It’s one of the commonest deer fence questions asked. And with good reason. Make a fence too short and the deer go over it, too tall and the costs skyrocket. And frankly, looking around the web is not much help. That’s because the advice is confusing and materials are sold for deer fences of many different heights. Some crouch as low as 6 feet, while others soar past 8. In fact the 6-footers do fairly well; but they are unpopular, because people think that the deer will leap over them (they often won’t); and the really tall ones (over 8 feet) are also rare because they are really expensive to ship, install, and maintain. Therefore, most of the barrier deer fences installed today have heights of 7 to 8 feet.
A Questionable Consensus
Surprisingly, perusal of non-commercial articles on the subject of deer fence height reveals an informal consensus: that you need an 8-foot fence to reliably keep out deer. How that consensus arose isn’t clear, but the conclusion deserves examination. Careful experiments done by the USDA back around 2010 (VerCauteren et al.) revealed that nearly all in a group of 22 herded (panicked) wild-caught white-tailed deer could be made to jump a 5-foot 11-inch (1.8-meter) fence, but that hardly any (one in each of two trials) could be made to jump a 6-foot 11-inch (2.1-meter) fence. The inescapable conclusion: a 7-foot fence is sufficient to keep out panicked white-tailed deer nearly all the time.
The fact that a few deer in these tests could leap a 6-foot 11-inch fence seems reason enough to build an 8-foot fence to protect a yard or garden. But we’re forgetting something. The wild-caught white-tailed deer in these deer fence height experiments were being herded toward the fence. So they were panicked. Perhaps not so panicked as a deer being chased by a mountain lion, but panicked nonetheless. And potential yard and garden fence-builders don’t want to know how high a panicked deer will jump. They want to know how high a calm but hungry deer will jump to get to browse.
Deer and Human Behavior
You can sense the difference by probing your own feelings. Suppose you and I were at a cocktail party on a third-story balcony. A waiter comes up and says “There are some really terrific hors d’oeuvres down on the ground floor. Why don’t you jump over the balcony and get some?” We’d think he was crazy. But of course, if the apartment behind us were a sea of flames we’d do it in a heartbeat.
Regarding deer fence height, Nature has programmed deer very much that way. Deer don’t like jumping high. They’re not really sure of how they’ll land, and a deer with a broken leg has poor survival chances.
For this reason, calm deer will virtually never jump a 7-foot fence. And that means, to those seeking the right height for a polypropylene or metal hexagrid deer fence, that any fence between 7 and 8 feet tall is a good choice.
The Cost-Effective 7-foot Deer Fence Height
Experience has borne this out. When we went into business around 2000 we featured “anti-jumping insurance,” gear that would allow people to raise the effective height of their 7-foot deer fences. We got a lot of people interested, but we told them (since the gear could be attached after the fact) to wait and call us back if the gear were needed. Guess what? In over 10 years nobody every called.
So today we recommend 7-foot fences. We do sell 8-footers. We have 8-foot kits, and we have all the gear needed to make 8-footers for those seeking that option. But we recognize that they are more expensive than 7-footers, and also that they must have an extender wire at the top or else sacrifice the bottom fold. So we tend to prefer 7-footers.
The Short 6-foot Deer Fence Height
Some residential communities have ordinances prohibiting fences over 6 feet tall, leading to occasional requests for 6-foot fences. Experience has shown that such residential yard or garden fences will keep out deer most of the time.
That doesn’t mean the results are perfect. If you want complete exclusion of the deer with a 6-foot fence keep the 6-foot height but make the posts longer and slant them outward at a 45 degree angle. That works; but it’s harder to install, takes up space, and looks odd, especially since it’s hard to drive all the support posts into the ground at the same angle. It’s also much more vulnerable to damage from snow loads and falling tree limbs and more time-consuming to install.
Another more practical alternative to keeping deer fence height low, one not so vulnerable to the weather, is to install two fences 4 to 5 feet tall spaced 4 to 5 feet apart. We have no data indicating 100 per cent reliability, but to all accounts these paired fences are effective. Again, they take up space and cost a good deal. But they probably work at least as well as a single 6-foot fence.