Can Deer Eat Hay?

While deer eat almost everything, deer owners are concerned with the cost they need to bear for feeding them. In this case, while the hay is cheaper, can deer eat hay? Well, just to let you know, you deer can die of starvation with a full belly if they keep eating hay! Take a look at the information we’ve collected!

Table of Contents

Do Deer Eat Hay?

Well, if you want a technical answer to your question, YES, a deer can eat hay. But well, they won’t eat hay! We know this is a little confusing. When it comes to their food preference, the name of hay might fall the last.

If you have a deer and you want to feed it, there are tons of other options available. You don’t need to feed them hay. Corn is the most inexpensive food for your deer. So, you can go for that too keeping hay aside!

Do Deer Eat Hay?

Why Can’t Deer Eat Hay?

As we have told you already, deer can eat hay but they won’t- why? Why won’t a deer eat hay? Is hay toxic for deer? Well, the problem is not with hay. Instead, the problem is connected to the digestive system of the deer.

Yes, deer don’t think a lot before eating vegetables and fruits. But when it comes to some specific food, they try to skip them. So, they will eat hay but won’t be able to digest it. Or we can put it easily- the digestive system of a deer cannot digest the coarse food fast.

This is why you see deer eating cherry barks and leaves when they are tender but not when they get tough and strong. Well, can deer eat cherries- take a look here!


Coming back to the digestive system of the deer, yes, they always prefer tender leave and grasses. The fruits they eat and other forbs they have all are tender. Their preferred diets have low cellulose content. And if they eat this food, their digestive system can easily process them.

In short, their digestive system is only capable of processing tender food fast. So, you can easily get that a too-hungry deer can go for hay when no other options are left.

Digestive System and the Season

We got to know that they won’t eat hay or if they do, it’s their last resort. The digestive system works behind it. But another factor that matters is the season. The season plays an important role in the digestive system of a deer.

In the summer, the digestive system of a deer has a good amount of leaf digesting microorganisms. With these, a deer can make smooth digestion.

However, in the winter, the leaf digesting microorganism changes, and eventually, the deer cannot make smooth digestion of coarse food. But even in the summer, you cannot feed all types of hay to your deer.

Note: Feeding Hay

When it comes to feeding hay, you can only feed the deer alfalfa hay in the summer. In the winter, you cannot feed it to the deer. The situation is different for timothy hay. You cannot feed your deer timothy hay in any season.

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Final words

While we have told you that you can feed your deer alfalfa hay in the summer, we still are sticking to the fact that it’s better to avoid hay. As we have told above, there are tons of other fruits and veggies that your deer will eat without any complications.

Try to feed them any other food than the coarse ones; after all, you don’t want your deer to die of starvation with a full belly, right?

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