Do Deer Eat Onions? Are Onions Deer-Proof Vegetables?

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Deer are graceful, charming creatures, but you may not notice their beauty the moment they invade your open garden. While there’s little that the voracious varmint won’t touch on; you can enjoy your agronomy peacefully by carefully choosing plants they dislike. While there aren’t any completely resistant plants when this ungulate’s food sources are low, do deer eat onions?

Onions, especially the root bulbs, aren’t a favorite food for deer due to their potent smell. Not only does the offensive onion aroma irritate the deer’s senses, but it also acts as a signal jammer for the shifty eater. Since deer browse on plant leaves, it’s also difficult for them to pull up the root vegetables.

It’s not easy to eliminate deer from trampling on or damaging onions even though they don’t eat them. Continue with this article to explore your options for optimizing your onion harvest against the buck, doe, and fawn invaders.

Do Animals like Deer Eat Onions?

Growing onions, among other vegetables, is a satisfying experience. These bulbs are easy to grow, sturdy, and not selective about the soil they grow in. They are also a favorite of various animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, and moles. Even snakes, rats, and birds like chickens find the onion plant delectable. However, the strong aroma turns deer and other herbivores off.

Onions, the scientific name Allium cepa, act as a natural deer repellent to keep the ungulate off your other plants that they like. The entire allium family is too intense for this pest’s consumption, including leeks, chives, shallots, and garlic. The bulb’s strong aroma interferes with a deer’s alertness of scent, masking the smells of any predator nearby.

When you plant onions with other aromatic spices like thyme, garlic, or honeybush, this odor combination is enough to confuse deer. You can see how the pests enter your garden through giveaways like hoof prints, dropping, or partially eaten plants. Onions planted along this pathway and between crops that the varmint prefers will help repel them and protect your vegetables.

Are Onions Deer-Proof Vegetables?

While unpalatable to deer in times of plenty, onions aren’t completely resistant to the ungulate. Being a ruminant, this animal can digest various plant materials using fermentation. As such, an onion won’t kill these pests, and when hungry, their tastes adapt to the point that little can deter them. A deer fawn, for instance, may take a bite out of your bulbs only to spit out the noxious bunions, and you’ll remain with the damage.

Deer are unpredictable when hungry, and they’ll munch on the most unpalatable fare in times of famine. When their favorite plants aren’t available, this varmint will turn to onion plants for the leaves, essentially damaging the underground bulbs. Young nursery shoots and seedlings are especially delicious to the animal when it’s famished.

When a herd’s population is high, water and food become scarce, leading deer to graze on any edible plant. A third of this animal’s water requirement comes from consuming plants, and during drought, the ungulate will eat anything to avoid becoming dehydrated.

The upside is that when desperate, deer will find their fill of wild ornaments or plants before they can raid your onion garden. Forays are usually nocturnal, so avoid planting any fruits or vegetables that the ungulate favors.

Also Read: Do Deer Eat Hydrangeas? Here is All You Need to Know about Deer and Hydrangeas

How To Grow Onions to Deter Deer from Your Vegetable Garden

Deer can be destructive pests when they’ve found ingress into your vegetable patch, and gardeners are often driven to plant species that the critters hate. Onion bulbs, which grow in layers, are extensions of the plant’s leaves. If your plant is leafy, the more layered and big, your onions are.

Onions are grown from seeds, transplants, or sets, stored onion seedlings from the previous season. Seeding takes longer, and you may have to put your nursery indoors in areas where the season is short. On the other hand, sets are started in mid or late July, after which they should be dug up before the frost sets in and then air-dried for winter storage.

Choose an area with proper drainage and full sunlight to seed, approximately eight to 12 weeks before the frost disappears. Cover your onion seeds with ½ inch of soil and water until it’s time to transplant. You can also buy sets, but they should be marble-sized and firm, not mushy when you squeeze them gently.

Plant sets or transplant onion seedlings when temperatures hit 50° Fahrenheit and select a location that receives six or seven hours of sun daily. Plant sets four inches apart and two inches deep to give the bulbs room to grow. You can also propagate grown transplants for the cultivar, which store longer than sets and are large enough to stand independently.

How Else Can You Protect Your Onion Crop from Deer?

Like most other animals, deer are likely to turn their rumps at an onion meal. Some animals as I’ve mentioned above get poisoned by eating onions, including dogs and cats. Evolution has given this bulb a harsh taste and an acrid smell, but that’s sometimes not enough to deter starving herbivores.

More severe deer defenses are needed when their taste for your onions keeps improving. These include;

Barriers and Fences

Perimeter fences, barriers, obstructions, and repellants will be secondary deterrents to keep the ungulates from your onion patch. A hedge of up to six feet high will help as although they can easily jump it, but not if they can’t see where they’ll land.

Motion, Sound, and Scent Traps

Scent-based or motion-sensitive traps will be effective when your onion crop is in the leafing stage. I have tried weaving a monofilament tape or fishing line around my onions, which startles deer when they attempt nibbling. Hanging bars of fragrant soap on plants or stakes around your onion patch will also work against the sharp-nosed Bambi.

Since this works only temporarily until the varmint gets used to the smell, you can concoct a homemade repellent utilizing a mixture of eggs, chilies, and water.

The Inhumane and Downright Bizarre

Electric fencing has been proven to keep deer out of gardens, and you can also employ individual plant netting if your crop isn’t on a significant acreage. I’ve also heard that human hair repels deer, but you may have to experiment with this method. Visit your local barbershop and collect handfuls of hair which you’ll place in open-mesh bags. Hang these hair bags 20 to 30 inches above the ground near your onion crops.

A fiercely territorial dog works to keep the varmint off your onion garden. However, it’s another story trying to deter the canine from feasting on your crop.

If all that doesn’t work and the hoofed invaders continue in large numbers, check your state laws for hunting restrictions and permits for homeowners. With a special harvest permit, it’s possible to hunt deer during certain periods of the year.

Related: Do Deer Eat Pepper Plants? (Not all of them, but..)


While deer eat onions or the top plant, it’s not at the top of their foraging menu. These animals are called unconscious nibblers, meaning they’ll eat almost anything when they’re hungry enough. The pests may visit one time and not touch your bulbs, while another foray will see their appetite for the strong-smelling vegetables change.

You can also consider more deer-resistant defenses like fences, repellants, and jolts of electricity in fencing or netting. Whatever measure you’ll take, your struggle against these determined ruminants for your onions is certainly a work in progress. 

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