Homemade Deer Repellent

Last updated : 3 August 2015

Deer Repellent made from Baby Formula?

In most of the northern states white tailed deer manage to cause headache to gardeners and their unprotected plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted  a study to evaluate the effectiveness of Homemade Deer Repellents that contain Hydrolyzed Casein.  Like most individuals, I was unaware of Hydrolyzed Casein, let alone where to find it in my home. In layman’s terms Hydrolyzed Casein or HC, is found in some types of baby formula, specifically formulas that are used on colicky babies. In the study, the USDA tested HC’s effectiveness on deterring white tailed deer when applied to foliage the deer would regularly eat.  Surprisingly, the HC was as effective as the name brand deer repellent, Big Game Repellent when applied in controlled situations.

According to the study, baby formula contains about 17% of Hydrolyzed Casein the main ingredient that deters the white tailed deer in the study. The researchers applied Elmer’s Glue in a ratio 3 parts water to 1 part of glue and sprayed the solution on the vegetation. In each trial the deer refused the plants sprayed with the HC solution for the vegetation that was left without a repellent.

Underground Internet Chat Room Revealed As Hidden Source of Cheap Mail Order Plants

I found the study to be very interesting, white tailed deer tend to be lazy eaters looking for food that is easy to access. When deer browse or eat plants and vegetation they tend to look for food that is to their height that would require little to no effort in order to obtain.  Some potential gardeners have been turned away from purchasing new plants because of deer wreaking havoc on their investments.  Although there is no fool proof way to deter deer 100% of the time, the idea presented in the study is another interesting approach to usage of Homemade Deer Repellent.  I asked  Mike McGroarty, for his expertise to be beneficial. Mike says, “the problem with applying these repellents is you don’t know how long the plant is protected.  In my years of ridding deer I have found using green mesh fencing to keep deer out to be the best.  The deer cannot judge the height of the fence because the fence color blends into the background.”

Gardeners have been trying for years to find safe and effective ways to keep deer from rummaging in their gardens. It is discouraging to invest time and money into a garden only to return to it the next day to find it has been ransacked by hungry deer. After speaking with Mike, I think in my own garden, I would follow his experience. So although the idea of Baby Formula, more specifically Hydrolyzed Casein, as yet another Homemade Deer Repellent does appeal to me; I’m going to follow the recommendation of Mike McGroarty and purchase the green mesh fencing to protect my garden.

Wholesale nurseries who stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars to plants from deer damage have tried every concoction available and suggested, including arming their nurseries with mean, barking dogs.  The dogs helped, but they can only cover so much area.  According to most nurseryman, a really high fence is the only dependable way to discourage hungry deer.

There’s Big Money in Small Plants.  Really, there is!


Happy Gardening!


  1. Gordon Dewar says

    This year I placed the branches of the rose bushes that I had cut back for the winter on top of the bulbs that I had planted and so far the squarrels have not dared to dig them up because of thorns

  2. peter says

    Any ideas to deter possums,here in Melbourne Australia they eat the skin off lemons,roses
    and many other fruits and vegetables, we don’t have trouble with deers though.

  3. Terry says

    I have found that purchasing a product called “Deer No No” works best for us. We have lots of norfolk and white pine that we started a few years ago from seedlings. I purchase and put it on the trees (usually 2 per 5-6′ spread) and it works for about a year.

  4. VK says

    I have an even bigger problem with squirrels. These critters eat everything I try to grow – vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers etc. and, of course, apples. I have tried various deterrents,including double fencing. Nothing deters them. I would appreciate any help in this regard.

  5. james says

    I too have deer problems I am thinking of putting out a motion detector that is wireless. The receiver makes a beeping sound when it is set off. I don’t know it this will work but I think the noise will scare off the deer. has anyone tried this. Let me know if you have.

  6. Charlie says

    Am a landscaper with customers here in central Virgnia. We have a consistent, fairly difficult deer problem here (White tailed deer). I like the idea of fencing to help protect valuable ornamentals but feel it would be unsightly around most homes. Have tried everything I have seen here and the deer are still winning. Watch out for some of the commercial deer spray products – as per label instructions on certain ornamentals like Arborvitae – it will defoliate them where you spray!

  7. Joy says

    The mono filament fishing line works great for me. I use electric fence poles and make corrals around my young fruit trees. They don’t see the line and I think it spooks them.

  8. Jack says

    Recycled Miller Lite!

    The deer here are really heavy! Ive tried many concoctions but none were as effective as fermented urine, works like a charm! I keep several (1 gallon) milk jugs in different areas of my 1-1/2 acre garden for easy collection during the gardening season. It’s important though, to start BEFORE the deer begin visiting daily.

    Last years sweet potato vines were mowed to the dirt by mid sept., (without the urine). This seasons crop wasn’t touched.

  9. Robert says

    have trouble with deer & rabbits mostly in winter. use a mix of water, soap, & a litle hot sauce the hoter the better.. works on bird feeders allso..shou;ld work on other roadants as well…

  10. Teresa says

    Ihave tried everything but the one that works for me. Is take 1/2 cup of milk, 1 bottle of cayenne pepper, 1oz of plain glycerin soap and 4 oz of garlic powder and two raw eggs. Pour in a water jug, cap, shake really hard , and leave in the hot sun hot temperatures for a good 48 hours then holding your nose tightly spray around all plants . Its good till it gets wash off and believe me it works. they dislike it, the rabbits dislike it, even the grasshoppers dislike it. You will dislike it too but you get to eat the fruits of your labor so tough luck! Use it anyhow! ha!

  11. says

    We live in the Blue Ridge Mountains and regularly have herds of deer passing through our old apple orchard. They used to regularly destroy our landscape materials, browsing what they liked and tearing up what they didn’t. A neighbor introduced us to http://www.repels.net which costs less than $1.90 per gallon and lasts for 90 days between applications. This stuff really works and sticks to plants thru all weather. It prevents browing, tree horning and girdling by rabbits. It doesn’t harm our pets and doesn’t clog our sprayer. We now grow hostas, day lillies and are able to protect our azaleas and evergreens throught the winter.

  12. QB says

    I had three wolves and after I brushed them I would have about 1.5 – 2 gallons of wolf hair. I spread it around and never saw a single deer in my yard and my area is just full of them everywhere. It worked for 15 years until the last one passed on. Now I use large jingle bells strung around the gardens – but if a deer is running and hits one of the strings they get caught up and I find a jingle jumble. All in all they work very well and are colorful.

  13. Vern Brumbaugh says

    I use this mixture:
    1 Gal water
    two raw eggs
    two cups whole milk
    2 tablespoons chili pepper
    Mix and let it ferment in the sun till it smells bad
    Spray on plant.
    This works for me

  14. T Graham says

    I have about 100 Rhododendrons of every type on a acre and a half on a mountain top in W. Massachusetts. The deer problem has become extreme and fencing is not an alternative. The granite prevents use of post hole diggers and falling limbs destroy fencing on a regular basis. I have successfully used a concoction of Liquid fence and Wilt Pruf to protect the plants. Recipe: 2 gallons water, 6 cups of Wilt Pruf, 2.5 cups of Liquid Fence for winter use. The Wilt Pruf acts as a long lasting sticker. I am under 5 feet and a backpack sprayer is too heavy at my age. So I use a rolling battery powered sprayer which can not be used to respray the liquid fence monthly in the winter (snow on the ground). I spray in November and the protection last until late Spring. The deer eat broadleaf evergreens only during the winter. I spray from ground to about 5 feet, leaving the tops of the plants unsprayed since the deer can not readily reach that high. It is not cheap, but better than any other alternative. I am considering spraying using half as much Wilt Pruf (non winter ratio as provided on the Wilt Pruf label) in the late Spring to protect perennials and annuals.

  15. Jen says

    my experience is fencing, noise or having dogs. Noise: I actually put a speaker that the wire ran from the house to my garden and would turn it on at night on a talk radio show. It actually seem to work pretty good! And the best way to keep them away for sure: dogs! ohhh and i heard running fishing line around like a fence at their chest height really flips them out! (?)

  16. Bill says

    Plantskyd deer repellent is a long lasting product that really works the powder you mix with water will last for 3 months and does not smell. RTU will smell for 24 hours. Just be careful when you spray it. It does stain if not washed off.
    Petite Gardens says it’s the best long lasting product to protect your plants.
    It works.

  17. Bruce Kenny says

    Hi L. B. I was told about that fence trick by a friend whose cousins do that in northern Michigan. Just as you say about the deer getting faked out; Perhaps about crashing into to the second fence. The folk in Michigan go about 4 feet apart and 4 feet high. I myself am thinking of doing that with a fence I can attach trellis’s to and create a windbreak and partially walled main garden.
    Cheers Bruce

  18. Karen says

    Here in NW New Jersey we have given up. Thousands of dollars in plants as well as repellant’s (both commercial and home made) and eventually the deer have won. Fencing over 4 feet is not allowed. I have easily 40 deer at any given time during the day on a very small property….so sad!

  19. Ed MacAulay says

    The commercial lowbush blueberry producers in Nova Scotia string up one strand of plastic twine type electric fence. Then before turning the fencer on, they walk all along the twine dragging a glove or rag soaked in peanut butter. A pound of p butter last for a few hundred feet.

    If the deer come up to an electric fence, they just jump over it. With the peanut butter, they stop to sniff it, get a shock and take off.

    • Pam11 says

      Great idea using peanut-butter!! Hmmm…Once bitten, twice shy… Associate the peanut-butter smell with pain…. I’ll have to try that… :)

  20. Dorothy says

    Everybody has plenty of Walmart plastic bags. Put string up around the garden and tie plastic bags on it. Deer stay away from it. That’s what we do in Georgia.

  21. Dana harness says

    rabbit around here we have a lot of deer and now we got elk the dogs keep the deer and rabbit on the run but the elk just look at then like yell right you just bark all you want to

  22. Danelle says

    How clever!! Thank you, Mike for this article, and for explaining about Elmer’s glue not harming the plants. And thanks to Cheri, for explaining exactly how the Elmer’s glue was used. I had never thought to use diluted glue to adhere powdered applications to the leaves and stems of plants. What a great idea! I wonder if adding the powder to the glue/water ratio would alter the effectiveness of the applications or if that would only clog my sprayer.
    Thanks again for your emails, I look forward to them.

  23. Hank Hajduk says

    to ANNA DRAPER, and others

    DO NOT USE “clumping kitty litter” in a garden. It’s like tar, and may not break down. My wife put some out around a Dogwood, and when I tried to dig into the soil around it, I hit a very hard tar/Taffy-like substance, very hard to break up. It was the clumping kitty litter.
    For the same reason, do not carry this in your car during the winter, for traction on slippery ice. Use the NON-clumping litter instead.

    Also, If anyone is pregnant, they should not be working with Used kitty litter in the house or outside in garden soil that has Used kitty litter in it. It’s an EXTREMELY SERIOUS health risk,

    Google “used kitty litter” and “pregnant” for explanations.

    Hank Hajduk
    Riverview, MI

  24. Andrew says

    I unexpectedly found that used coffee ground is an effective deer repellant. One day, I threw my spent coffee ground in my garden where deer frequently visits. Surprisingly, they never came back. When I am in a coffee shop, I ask for the spent coffee ground and sprinkle them around my plants. It’s effective.

  25. Bill Kissam says

    I have used all the concoctions. The best that I have found is Milorganite (recycled human waste) is the best. It not only deters the deer but is a fertilizer as well. One note, it does have a smell when wetted or you are close to it and washes away. I have used it for barriers around the yard and deer never touched my impatients or other tender plants…now that is a fete!!Bill

  26. Donald E. Cox says

    Years ago Weyerhaeuser used raw egg mixed in water and sprayed on newly planted pine trees to keep deer away. Don’t know exact formula. Don

  27. Jamie Shafer says

    Found at walterreeves.com

    Insects / Animals > Deer – Repel with Baby Formula

    In a strange but promising study published last year in the journal HortScience, Bruce Kimball and others at the National Wildlife Research Center reported that white-tailed deer were consistently turned off by food sprayed with highly concentrated hydrolyzed casein (also called HC) an easier-to-digest form of the main protein in cow’s milk.

    Kimball says his deer-browsing research, usually focused on large-scale reforestation and agriculture, can be adapted to home gardens by using powdered formula made for colicky babies.

    Available online or at drugstores, the formula usually lists HC concentrations of 17 percent on the label. And at about $25 for 16 ounces, it costs less than many deer repellent products, he says.

    Look for Enfamil Pregestimil, Nutramigen, or Similac Alimentum.

    Retail sources of HC (concentrated baby formula powders) are not as effective as pure hydrolyzed protein, but do offer browse protection when alternative sources of deer food are available nearby.

    Mix 2 teaspoons of Elmer’s glue in a gallon of water and spray it on your plants, then sprinkle the powdered formula over that with a grated-cheese shaker.

    Hope this helps!

    • Judy says

      This sounds good! The only thing that I wonder about, is that infant formulas, at least most of them, have GMO soy.., so be careful what formula you pick… Thanks for your information…

  28. Saul says

    All potential repellents are just that: “repellents”.

    It still depends on the deer. What works for some may not work on others.

    The only real barrier that will keep deer out is a very tall fence.

    • says

      Saul, you’re right. When the deer have a choice as to what they can eat today some repellents work just fine. But during a harsh winter when the snow is deep the deer have limited options and as their need to eat increases they are less resistant to repellents. When they are really hungry only a high fence will do the trick.

    • Judy says

      I have used marigolds and garlic and it is a great deterrant , but, does not seem to deter the many quail in my gardens or yards… Any suggestions.

  29. Phil says

    My Aunt was a hair stylist for years and had a large garden her whole life. She used to put the cut hair around the perimeter of the garden and it kept out the deer and the rabbits too.

  30. Bob says

    I use a mixture of dried blood meal in a water base to keep deer from eating my ap[ples and apple trees. It works like magic !!! They will forage under the trees but don’t bother anything else. I might add that I drill 4 opposing holes near the top of small plastic pill bottles and hang with yarn from tree branches. This method truely does work for me.

  31. Ted isco says

    I have found that the deer thatraid my garden and fruit trees go realwell with potatos,carrots and brown gravy ,my biggest problem are crows ,tey eat my black berrys,blue berrys and strawberrys just before harvest and they also lan in my fruit and nut trees on the tin branches and breakthem off ,I can’t afford enough ammo to gerid of all of them

  32. Doyle Darnall says

    I gave up on “sprayes” to retard deer’s and went to the green fence from my blueberries. I have had zero problems for over 2 years. It seems to be holding the animals out except the “bird problem.”

    Doyle Darnall……..North Iowa

  33. steve says

    I had a bad problem earlier this year and a freind told me to hang ivory soap in stockings wherever you have the problem.. they stayed away, once we did this..saved my rozes and garden and apple trees….zero problem!!!!

  34. L. B. says

    We have 2 mesh fences running parallel to each other around the garden. The inner one is about 6 feet high (vinyl mesh). The outer one is about 4 feet – happens to be wire mesh because that’s what we had but could be any material. There is a space of about 3 feet between the fences. The deer don’t jump them, even though they could make the height. They can’t judge the distance and can’t get close enough to the taller of the 2. Has worked very nicely for years.

  35. Kuerno says

    What I have seen used for the big mule-deer here in Utah are Human Hair, Hanging Soap usually Zest in panty hose on the plant and used kitty-litter in and around the plant base – not sure if they would think it was a cougar or what.

    The only one I have seen work for sure are dogs.

    • Anna Draper says

      clumping or non-clumping kitty litter? I have 7 cats who go out during the day and “do their business” around the yard. I’ve thought about dumping the contents of the litter pans around the perimeter of the yard to hopefully deter the deer – like you say, perhaps to think there’s a mountain lion.

      • Mark Fredrick Cleveland, MEDINA,Ohio says

        I have used kitty litter: the cheap clay type,for twenty years now, that I dump like a mulch around my fruit trees, especially apples. The deer get a scent and must think it mountain lion, and leave the trees and area alone!By the time I get some around all my trees, it’s time to start over at tree one.Maybe two doses a year, and in winter, continue dumping it on top of thwe snow base. It will work it’s way down by spring or the next melt!

  36. Robert Jones says

    Two strings of electric fence wire (not barbed), one knee high and one chest high will keep the deer away. They will graze up to it, raise their head and sense the other wire but will not jump over it. I used it several years in up state NY with good success.

    • Anna Draper says

      How far apart should the T-posts be? I’ve just moved to a place with a good sized amount of land where I can garden but the deer have already nearly demolished my potted plants up near the house. I live in N. CA and we have mule deer.

    • Anonymous says

      I have 1 electric fence around my vegetable garden and 1 around my small orchard. I use the 2 inch wide white poly tape,wire imbedded, works great, fence about 3 feet off the ground. Solar power fence charger. A very light breeze will cause the tape to move and this,I believe also helps. I think 1 jolt to the nose does it.

  37. BobN says

    I, too, am curious exactly what Elmer’s Glue, the ratio of 3-to-1 with water, has to do with baby formula? Although I do agree with the green fencing. I had 3 ft green fence and since it was around a raised garden, I used some bird netting over the top — no critters or birds but the bugs got thru to pollonate. A 2 wire electric fence kept the sweetcorn protected, as well as the 7 ft deer fence. With a wooded thicket only 10 ft from the garden, wildlife abounds. Hot pepper, cayenne, etc only seems to make the food spicier for the raccoons and they have Fiesta night.

    • Karen says

      It didnt work for me. I am an avid gardener of garden crops, flowers and fruit trees. My home backs up to a wild life refuge so I have at least 3 heards of 5-10 deer come through my property each night. I have hung hair (human and dog) and soap on all fruit trees…It did nothing. I have sprayed human urine around them and nothing.

    • David says

      I used plastic grocery bags of hair from the barber shop. The bags were about half full and tied loosely at the top, and a slit was made in the bottom (to let the odor waft out I suppose). I placed the bags chest-high about every 9 ft on posts. This kept the deer out until late in the harvest and then I had to put up netting on the remaining side of the garden that wasn’t fenced. I’ve tried old socks with hotel bar soap. This worked for awhile but eventually I had to spray the socks with Liquid Fence. Milorganite laid down heavy around the perimeter and on paths has worked well for some of my neighbors. The deer are thick here, and when they’re hungry they’ll eat pepper, tomato, and even potato plants. I guess their mothers didn’t teach them that potato plants are poisonous.

      • GEOD says

        Having several barbers in the family ,I have tried this also.It seems they get accustomed to it tho. Dried blood(deer blood) mixed with the hair seems to have a more lasting effect for me. Its easy to make your own dried blood if you’re a deer hunter. Personally I think that the deer have become very comfortable around people-almost domesticated tho, and they will get used to just about anything over time. So mix it up

  38. RussE says

    So what’s with the reference to Elmer’s glue and what does it have to do with the baby formula?
    Very confusing article.

    • Anne Neumann says

      The diluted Elmer’s glue helps the powdered formula stick to leaves so it’s not washed off as quickly by rain.

      Lots of things are said to repel deer: human hair, Irish Spring soap, and various commercial sprays. They may all work for a while, but you have to alternate them every 3 months or so. Then the deer don’t get accustomed to them.

      Something that worked very well for a friend of mine is chicken-wire fencing laid flat on the ground on the pathways where the deer enter your garden. If you lay it flat on top of your lawn, you may even find you can mow over it.

      Deer avoid it for fear of trapping their hooves in the wire mesh. Give it a try!

    • Rowdy says

      Casein is a product found in milk and was in some of the early glues. Today several glues have no animal products in them. I think the above referenced study used Elmer’s glue and another place where casein can be found is in formula. The paragraph needed a couple of more sentences to connect the two.

      • says

        Rowdy, I think in the is reference the Elmer’s glue is being used a sticker to get the spray to stick to the plants for a longer period of time. Eventually the glue will was away and won’t harm the plants.

    • kathleen says

      Casein is extracted from milk and that is what is used to make glue . It is also used as a binder for water color.
      This is why they claim ordinary milk is actually bad for you ; whereas goats milk does not have casein in it so it is good for you

      • mariian beilharz says

        I have an allergy to casein and break out with multiple canker sores whenever I drink/eat too much milk or cheese. I raised dairy goats for 15 years and drank their milk and made cheese without any ill effects.

        • says

          I’ve heard of this. I was in a health food store and ended up buying a product called “Goatein” (protein powder from goat’s milk) because I was having stomach trouble and the owner suggested I might have a milk allergy. Unfortunately it didn’t fix the problem, but I found out a lot of really interesting information about goat’s milk and the benefits of it along the way!

          Sorry…I know it’s a little off topic…

    • says

      Arlene, I don’t honestly know about chipmunks and squirrels. If you wrap your flower bulbs in steel wool when you plant them that will discourage them from eating them.

      • Melanie says

        Mike, I have a question about mold (white) that keeps appearing in my houseplants and I don’t know how to get rid of it, but I can’t find where to ask this, so I snuck in here.. sincerely, Melanie C

        • says

          Melanie, I’m not much with house plants, but mold always means things are moist and often too moist. If this is in the soil in the pot, I’d loosen the soil so it gets some air. Maybe the potting mix isn’t draining well enough. If it’s on the plant then you’d have treat them with some kind of fungicide. Maybe somebody else will have better info.

        • GEOD says

          Melainie,yes it usually means over watering.I have found covering the soil with about 1/2″ of sand(I use play box sand) helps eradicate it.It also wipes out “fungus gnats” which some people mistake for fruit flies.The sand stops the life cycle of the gnats because they can lay eggs around the roots, and it also seems to prevent the moisture from sitting on top-where it can mold/fungus/etc

    • Norbert says

      Yes I have to say liquid fence well. I tried alots of stuff , pigs blut, hair soap . However the liquid fence seems to be most consistant one but still have to rotate. In the end its all about easy and safety. Don’t use mothball ever but espesially if you have pets

      • says

        Norbert, I’m curious, what’s in the Liquid Fence that makes it work so good? Rotten eggs? I’ve heard that products that contain eggs or rotten eggs work well because the smell reminds a deer of a dying carcass. Others claim that old tires smell the same way and work as effectively.

    • Stephanie says

      I use liquid fence and it works! I am unusual as I love having the deer in my yard and deer using my yard as a safe haven. I just didn’t want them to eat my “special” plants. The liquid fence works, stays pretty well in rain and the odor goes away to humans in an hour or so but still keeps the deer away. First time I used it I thought “no wonder the deer stay away, I won’t be able to be in my own yard much less cut a flower and bring it in” BUT.. After an hour or so I couldn’t smell it and I have a sensitive nose. Deer walked up, took a whiff and walked away even a week or more after one application. I think at first you should use it more often but eventually once a month works. Liquid fence is GREAT stuff . I get the concentrate and it lasts me a year because I’m selective with it. There are other deer repellents that customers say worked well but they use a sound frequency that keeps deer from even coming in the area. Like I said, I want the deer around but don’t want them to eat certain plants.

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