Every month at my day job, I field calls and questions from people inquiring about what they can and can’t feed wild deer. Typically, these questions originate from deer lovers who are interested in feeding the local deer population in their backyard. One such question that comes up occasionally is: can deer eat bread?
Then the next set of follow-up questions usually involves inquiries about the amount of bread whitetails can eat and whether or not they can safely eat white bread.
– Feeding deer bread can have negative consequences on their health, including lactic acid build-up in their bloodstream and digestive issues.
– Bread lacks the necessary nutritional value for deer’s optimal health.
– Healthier alternatives to feeding deer bread include offering feeds that resemble their natural diet, such as grass, leaves, and twigs.
– Proper feeding practices, including a balanced and appropriate diet, can promote deer population and health while minimizing the spread of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease.
Will Deer Eat Bread?
First, it’s important to clarify that bread is not part of a deer’s natural diet in the wild, so it’s not a food source that they encounter organically.
That being said, nearly every deer species in North America can and will eat almost any type of bread if the opportunity arises. Not only will they eat bread, but deer will also consume every bit of bread available to them. So, if you put a loaf of white bread out for the whitetails behind your house, there’s a 99% chance they will eat the entire loaf.
Deer lack the understanding that bread is potentially dangerous for them, so they will eat it until they get their fill. In addition to deer, several other wild animal species, like turkeys and squirrels, will also eat bread if it’s available.
Nutritional Value of Bread
The table below contains data about the average nutritional value of a single slice of bread.
Nutritional Values for 1 Slice of Bread
Data sourced from Nutritionix
As you can see from the data, carbohydrates make up the largest group of values across white, brown, and multigrain breads.
Risks of Feeding Bread
Although deer can eat bread, it comes with some risks, including the following:
Excessive consumption of bread by deer can lead to the accumulation of lactic acid in their bloodstream and disrupt their digestive systems, potentially resulting in significant health issues.
While a slice or two of bread may not harm a wild deer, feeding them excessive amounts can be problematic. Bread is not nutrient-dense, and deer will continue eating it until it is gone. This can lead to overfeeding and the development of lactic acidosis.
Low Nutrient Content
In addition to the potential digestive issues, most all bread types (white, multigrain, etc.) provide very little of the necessary nutrients that deer require.
The primary nutrient value is carbohydrates, which are beneficial in small amounts, but problematic in large quantities.
Exposure to Communicable Diseases
Feeding whitetail deer any type of food has other potential risks, including exposing the animals to highly contagious infectious diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease. Deer are herd-based animals that will gather around a food source.
If you put bread out for the deer in your backyard, they may indirectly expose themselves to diseases when they congregate to eat the bread.
While one or two slices of bread won’t hurt a deer, bread is not considered a safe food item for deer on a long-term basis.
There’s also the need to check the local regulations in your area to ensure that it’s legal to feed deer any type of food. Some states have extremely strict rules about the supplemental feeding of whitetails, while other states will only allow naturally grown products (fruits or vegetables) to be fed to deer.
It’s important to be crystal clear on the rules and regulations in your state, area, or region to ensure that you can legally provide food to whitetail deer.
Healthier Alternatives for Whitetails
One potential option to consider as a healthier alternative for providing nutrition to deer is to offer them feed that closely resembles their natural diet or feed that is produced specifically for deer.
Providing a food source that mimics these natural sources ensures that deer receive the necessary nutrients for their overall health and well-being. This can be accomplished by using specially formulated deer feeds designed to meet their dietary needs.
Here are a few of my favorites that I routinely suggest instead of bread:
Backyard Seeds for Deer – 20 Pound Bag
I’m a big fan of this Backyard Seeds brand as they offer a nice mixture of:
This product offers goof whitetail nutrition at reasonable pricing, and is a better option that just straight deer corn (although deer corn tends to be cheaper). My parents feed the deer in their backyard using this Backyard Seeds and the deer love it.
Croixdale Wildlife Delight Deer Feed
This is another deer feed that performs well for backyard feedings. The 50 pound bag costs more than than Backyard Seeds pack I mentioned above, but it last much longer. This deer feed is made of corn, oats, alfalfa, and molasses, and comes in a convenient pellet form.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions associated with feeding deer bread:
Is it OK to feed deer bread?
Technically, deer can eat a small amount of bread, so a slice or two won’t hurt a whitetail. However, any amount more than that can potentially cause digestive issues. There are far better food sources for deer compared to any type of bread.
Is it safe to feed bread to deer in small quantities as a treat occasionally?
I wouldn’t specifically classify bread as a safe food for deer, but a slice here or there most likely won’t do any harm. However, I certainly wouldn’t make it a regular food item for whitetail deer.
Can lactic acid build-up from excessive bread consumption in deer be fatal?
That lactic acid build-up is a condition called lactic acidosis, and it can have long-term effects, including death. So, feeding deer enough bread to trigger lactic acidosis can be fatal.
What are some specific alternatives to feeding deer bread that are both healthy and attracts deer?
Deer feed alternatives that are both healthy and attract deer include native plants, such as acorns, clover, apples, and protein-rich grains, like soybeans and alfalfa. These options provide essential nutrients and mimic their natural diet.
Do deer like to eat bread?
I have yet to discover a deer species that won’t eat bread. The issue is the potential health problems that can arise from feeding whitetails that specific food source.
How much bread can deer eat?
Technically, deer can eat small amounts of bread as part of a supplemental feeding program, but it should not be the primary source of nutrition.
Is bread good for deer?
Bread is not a natural part of a deer’s diet and is not a good food source for several reasons. Just a few of those reasons include:
- It does not provide the necessary nutrients they need to thrive.
- It can cause potentially fatal digestive distress in hooved animals.
- It can play a role in the spread of communicable deer illnesses.
Should I feed wild deer bread in my backyard?
I don’t recommend feeding wild deer bread due to the potential risks. Especially considering the easy availability of manufactured food sources that are much healthier for deer.