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Do Deer Eat Crabapples? (Feeding + Field Protection Tips)

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Deer, without a doubt, eat crab apples. Why wouldn’t they? Crabapples are sweet like our apples (there are some bitter varieties) and have an attractive scent, which deer find hard to resist.

Want to know what species of deer eat crabapples, how many crabapples they can eat in a day and the type of crabapples you can grow for deer? Then read on to get answers to all these questions and more.

Mule deer and crab apples

Ready, let us begin

Do deer like to eat Crabapples?

Crabapple trees are fruit trees and deer-like fruits, especially those that aren’t hairy, sour, or have thorns.

Dan storm, a lead scientist and deer researcher at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, conducted a study to determine what type of fruit deer love most.

For the study, Dan used crabapples, mangoes, and tomatoes. He put the different fruits in separate baskets and placed them at different corners in a deer ranch with white-tailed and Elk deer.

Dan would then monitor and see which fruit basket attracted the most deer. After a week of observation, he noted that the deer ate more of the crabapples and mangoes.

They would only eat the tomatoes if the other two fruit baskets were empty. This study clearly shows that deer like crabapples as much as they like to eat regular apples.

Can all species of deer eat crabapples?

There are over forty-three deer species in different parts of the globe. Despite their differences, deer have a similar liking for fruits.

Moreover, there isn’t conclusive evidence stating that a particular species of deer don’t eat crabapples. This is because scientists are still carrying out extensive research on them.

However, we know that deer species present in areas with plenty of crabapples eat the fruit. Moreover, crabapple trees are hardy and can grow almost anywhere.

Thus below is a table showing ten of the largest states in the US; these states have crabapples along with the deer type present in them.

StateType of deer
TexasMule deer, White-tailed deer, sika deer
WyomingWhite-tailed deer, Mule deer
MontanaElk deer, mule deer, White-tailed deer
CaliforniaCalifornia mule deer, Elk deer, Mule deer, Columbian black-tailed deer.
ArizonaElk deer, Mule deer
NevadaMule deer, white-tailed deer
OregonColumbian white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk deer, mule deer
ColoradoMoose deer, Mule deer, Elk deer
New MexicoElk deer, mule deer, white-tailed deer
AlaskaSitka deer, Reindeer, Elk deer, Alaska moose deer

Can deer eat rotten crabapples?

What a deer can or cannot eat largely depends on available options. Yes, scientists have observed deer eating rotten crabapples and other fruits.

However, they noticed that the deer did so mostly when food was scarce. 

Nevertheless, if you present the deer with rotten and ripe crabapples, they will go for the ripe ones. The reason is that ripe crabapples are tastier and more appealing to them.

In Deer Feeding: Do Deer Like To Eat Cabbages?

How many crab apples can deer eat in a day?

Averagely a full-grown adult deer consumes 6% to 8% of its body weight in a day. Even so, this figure largely depends on the amount of food available.

Hence a deer can eat about 1.5%( 100- 150grams) of its weight in crabapples though the amount may increase during summer.

The amount may also reduce when other fruits like mangoes, bananas, or strawberries are within the deer’s reach.

Nutritional benefits of crabapples to deer

Deer need adequate proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water for proper antler and body growth.

Crabapples provide plenty of these required nutrients, as the table below indicates a 100g of crabapples constitute

Vitamin C27%

How to feed crabapples to deer?

Deer can eat crabapples whole; however, that might challenge the fawns.

You can help them out by slicing the apples into small pieces and placing them on the ground or a deer-feeding trough.

Move away once you place the crabapples as your presence may scare the deer away.

Is it safe for humans to eat crabapples?

You can eat crabapples; they provide numerous nutrients such as Vitamin C, vital for immunity.

Crabapples also comprise antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds that help fight chronic diseases.

However, given the small size of crabapples, you will need to consume plenty of crabapples to obtain adequate amounts of these nutrients.

Precautions you need to take

Crabapples are nutritious, but they, too, have their drawbacks.

For instance, their seeds have cyanogenic glycoside, a compound that your body digests and turns into cyanide, a poisonous compound.

Still, you don’t have to worry if you mistakenly eat one or two seeds. You will need to take many of them to get sick.

The same applies to deer, they have a high cyanide tolerance thanks to their hardy stomachs and can thus eat the seeds, and they won’t experience any issues.

However, if you have a crabapple tree nearby and pets such as dogs or cats, you will need to limit their access. Pets may consume many of the seeds and consequently develop health problems.

If you’re worried that deer attacks would not allow your crabapple trees to mature into full-grown profit producers, then here are some measures that you can take.

Please consult the state law as the permits may be required for some or all of these steps and may be prohibited in your area.

How to pick Crabapples to feed deer, and how to plant them?

There are about 900 hundred varieties of crab apples in the market today, and even though crab apples are hardy, not all of them will thrive in your area.

Therefore, you must choose a crabapple species based on three essential factors.

How to plant crabapple for deer

1. The climatic conditions of your area

Crabapples tend to do well in areas that have good soil drainage and adequate water. Hence, you will need to run a soil and humidity check to know the ideal type of crabapple that will thrive in such an environment.

For instance, if you live in the Northern parts, the temperatures get extremely cold during the winter. Thus the crabapples you grow should be able to withstand such an environment.

2. Disease resistance

Some crabapple species are more resilient than others in responding to diseases.

In addition, these diseases appear in varying degrees in different regions. The disorders include Juniper rusts, Fireblight, Apple scab, and powdery mildew.

There are many more apple diseases, but the ones mentioned are the most common. Hence, you need to select a species that will be able to respond well to the diseases most prevalent in your area.

3. Taste and Size of Fruits

Deer like sweet-tasting fruits; in fact, they like anything sweet. Hence tasty crabapple species will attract them more.

Therefore, you need to select a variety of fruits the size of a pound or larger. This is because larger fruits will easily fall off and provide a quick fill compared to the smaller ones.

Below is a list of the tastiest crabapple varieties, which are also hardy and have sizeable fruits you can pick.

  1. Butterball ( Malus Hybrida)
  2. Centenial (Malus Centenial)
  3. Chestnut (Malus Coronaria)
  4. Dolgo (Malus Dolgo)
  5. Hopa (Malus Hopa)
  6. Pink Spires (Malus Pink spires)
  7. Prairie Fire (Malus ioensis)
  8. Red vein (Malus pumil v. Niedzwetkyana)
  9. Rescue (Malus baccata)
  10. Whitney (Malus pumila)
  11. Wickson ( Malus Wickson)


Once you have decided on the types of crabapple variety to grow, then comes the critical part, planting.

A good rule of measure is to grow the crabapples at least 10 to 12 feet apart for the dwarf varieties and 10 to 15 feet apart for the semi-dwarf crab apple species.

You should also provide the plants with all the requirements, water, and fertilizer and check them regularly for pests and diseases.

Remember to protect the crabapples from deer, for they will feast on the young plant and hinder their growth.

You can do so by erecting a fence, about eight feet tall, all around the plantation.

How To Protect Crab Apples From deer?


Fences should surround all the crabapples planting areas and must be specifically designed to prevent the entry of the deer, like taller than 8 inches.

Here is the list of fences that you can install depending on the deer attacks and cost-affordability.

  • 8-10 feet tall high tensile fence, plastic mesh fence, a metal weaved or net fence, vertical electrical fence.
  • Double fences,
  • Electric tape and peanut butter fences may be effective in certain conditions.
  • Burry electronic fence with radio-collared herding dogs.

Fence for each crap apple trees

Instead of fencing the whole planting area, you can install tree shelters, round mesh fences, wire mesh, etc., to cover the specific crab apple tree you want to protect.


Many deer repellent plants, scents, and trees would help keep the deer away mainly because either these plants have a strong aroma categorized under offensive smell. Such plants are yarrow, tansy, artemisia, ranunculus, etc. You can grow these plants near the crab apple trees to resist the deer, though make sure that none of the resistive plants stop the growth of your trees.

Ultrasonic noisemakers

Ultrasonic noisemakers produce a high-pitched sound that the deer can hear but you can’t. These gadgets use the deer’s powerful sense of hearing against them. 


Deer are always on the constant lookout for any form of threat. Therefore, the sounds of chimes will make them avoid moving into the area, as it will seem unsafe.

For wind chimes to be effective, place them all around the plantation.

Grow deer-resistant crops around the Crab apple plants

Deer don’t like plants that emit strong scents, so they won’t go near the crap apples when you plant such crops around them.

However, you need to evenly spread the deer-resistant plants throughout the plantation since deer can avoid them and go straight for the crab apples.

Spray repellents

Deer repellents also use foul smells to keep away the deer. You can make a deer repellent at home by blending 

  • Two eggs
  • Three tablespoons of milk
  • 20grams of cayenne pepper 
  • 4 cups of water.

Then leave the mixture for about fifteen hours. After which, you can spray the mix on your crabapple plants.

Though homemade repellents are pocket friendly and easy to make, they may not be as effective as commercial deer repellents.

Population Control

I am against hunting any animal that is not offensive and destructive. But it becomes highly needed when deer become offensive in nature and either start destroying the farmer’s livelihood or become mad, and there is no other choice left than hunting.

If you think your area has a high population of deer that is destroying your crab apples or any other field, consult with the local governments about your issue and hunting permit. They would tell you which deer to hunt and which to not, as for some people, hunting is crueler than a need-for-situation.

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