Deer Pen Plans by Linda Mihatov

Rehabilitators have a variety of preferences for the design and all the variables have been included to help you design a deer pen that best fits your needs.
Deer Pen
Newborns or debilitated young:

  1. Plastic airline crate large enough to allow the fawn to stand with it?s head up and be able to turn around comfortably in the crate. (Crate size can vary by fawn?s size, obviously.) These are easily cleanable.
  2. DO NOT use wire cages! Fawns will get legs through openings and injure themselves.
  3. Home-made wooden crates (with hardware cloth mesh for air circulation) can be used, but are much harder to clean than plastic crates. Size varies by fawn?s size.
  4. Fawns should be moved to outside enclosures as soon as they are stabilized and taking formula readily.
Basic Protected Housing Design

  • “Barn stall” type enclosures that open into a fenced area are ideal, especially for young that require penning up overnight (weather, temperature or predator concerns may require penning.) At the least, a three sided and roofed lean-to is necessary to allow deer an area out of the elements.
  • We built “deer huts” out of 6? high stockade fence, 8? X 8?, with doors at both ends, with a peaked roof. At the top of the stockade, there?s another foot of airspace before the roof begins, to allow for air circulation. Bottle racks are along the sides, so we can hang metal bottle holders (from Jeffers catalog) and get fawns used to being fed without human help. (We also have heavy duty electric cord run out to the deer hut?late night feedings are so much easier with light. Trying to haul out bottles and flashlights, then get mugged by the herd, requires one to be an acrobat!) My husband used the aluminum siding from a swimming pool to roof it?durable and free (we garbage pick a lot!)
  • Bottle Racks are available through Jeffers Livestock (Item number CA-R1)
  • The doors lead into a series of fenced areas of varying sizes, allowing us to control the amount of freedom the herd is given, increasing it as they grow.
Basic Pen Design

  • (Nursery pen area is about 20? X 40? for their initial ventures into the “real” world) This also allows us to rotate which areas they have the run of, so the natural browse can rejuvenate. Our fenced in areas enclose natural forest, with rocks, trees etc. inside it. We use metal fence posts to allow us to literally move the enclosure year to year, with the “hut” being the starting point of the fencing.
  • For young or fairly tame fawns, portable dog runs of 4?X4?X4? (up to about 2 weeks of age?beyond that they need much more space) can suffice for no more than 2 fawns per run.
  • 10?X20?X6?H will handle up to 4 fawns up to 6 weeks old. 30?X50?X6?H for up to 6 fawns from 5-16 weeks old is minimum. Adults: 8?X8?X8? per deer would be the minimum space required. The more space they have, the better (assuming they don?t have injury restrictions.) And if the area can contain trees, bushes, rocks (to help keep hooves trimmed) that?s even better. However, the natural growth will be quickly depleted, so it can?t be considered as a sole food source.
Fencing Types

  • Fence types can vary. All non-solid fencing should have visual flags on/in it, as when deer are running, the often don?t see the wire and will tangle in it. Flexible metal strips for chain link that?s woven between the links is sold at hardware/home centers, or you can weave in strips of sheeting or even drape blankets over the fencing, depending on how you want it to look and how much money you have to spend. I?ve even woven supple branches into fencing and made brush piles along the outside of it (great cover for the rabbits etc.) so they know to “stop” before they hit the wall.
  • Other types of fencing can be used, too. Caution: openings of 4″ X 4″ (or even a little larger) can allow fawns to poke heads through and get stuck, panic, and create serious injury in their attempt to get loose.
  • Caution: for those intending to take in older fawns or adults, if the fence is stretched tightly, and the deer run into or leap into it, more injuries can occur. We?ve found leaving a little slack in it allows for a “spring back” action, minimizing injuries. (And most of the fawns who?ve run with mom for more than a week, and adults, unless they?re head injured, will charge the fence trying to take off.)
Additional Considerations

  • Underwire isn?t necessary to contain deer, but might be considered if you?re in an area with coyotes, wolves or bear.
  • Over head fencing/covering usually isn?t necessary, unless again you live in an area of high predation. Consider using fencing that sticks outward about 1? from the top, at a 45 degree angle. Some enclosures I?ve seen actually used barbed wire (like a human prison!) at the top of fenced enclosures.
  • Enclosures should be double fenced if necessary to keep the public from the herd. In my case, this isn?t needed as my area is isolated from the public.
Category: Rehabilitation Articles