Do Deer Eat Sunflower Seeds?

A deer’s natural diet mainly consists of grasses, green plants, young conifer buds, acorns, and deciduous leaves. In the winter, when grass is scarce, deer feed heavily on bark from trees and shrubs, and deer teeth marks can be seen easily on peeled tree trunks.

Deer are not picky about food and if Sunflowers are found on the road in the absence of better nutrition, they would likely not hesitate to reach for them. Sunflower leaves would be more appealing to them than Sunflower heads, but chances are they would graze on either.

Although deer do eat Sunflowers, they do not benefit from them, especially not the seeds. In large amounts, Sunflower seeds can be fatal to deer, since they are unable to properly digest Sunflower husks.

Do Deer Like Sunflower Seeds?

It’s no secret that deer love Sunflowers. They eat the flowers and leaves of this plant, leaving the stem intact, because it is high in protein. In the absence of better alternatives, it’s not uncommon for them to go after seeds. Another reason why deer enjoy Sunflowers is their high phosphorus content. It’s possible that a deer has eaten your Sunflower leaves even if the stem is still intact.

Are Sunflowers Dangerous for Deer?

Sunflower seeds
The simple answer is yes, Sunflower seeds can be dangerous for deer. Here’s why: Sunflower seeds are high in fat and calories, and deer rely on a diet that is low in fat and calories. 

Let’s examine their stomach system in order to understand what happens. As a ruminant mammal, a deer’s digestion is largely dependent on the microbes in its digestive system. As their diet changes across the seasons, these microbes change too and may not be able to break down high fiber content in the coming months. 

If a deer consumes an excessive amount of food without the right microbes for digestion, such as Sunflower seeds, it causes a rapid change in their stomach chemistry, killing off the existing microbes and resulting in complications including, sometimes, death.

What Do Deer Eat in the Wild?

The diet of a deer consists of grasses, leaves, acorns, and nuts. The diet of a healthy deer includes a variety of different foods. In order to survive, a deer must consume between 6 and 8 percent of its body weight in green foliage to stay healthy. That’s up to 12 pounds of food a day for a 150 pound deer.

It is well known to foresters and woodland owners that too much browsing by deer can kill or limit the growth of tree seedlings. In the long run, deer populations have a profound impact on a woodland’s appearance and feel. By observing which tree seedlings are growing in your woods and which have been browsed, you can figure out which trees a deer eats. 

How Do You Know if a Deer Has Been Eating Your Sunflowers?

Some common indications of a deer bite are listed below. A recent deer dinner party is highly likely if one or more of these signs match your garden situation:

  • Ripping and uneven tearing: Deer do not nibble. Their preferred method is to chew on whole leaves or flowers. 
  • Deer tracks: You will almost always see tracks if a deer has been in your garden because deer are not discreet.
  • Untouched stem: Deer usually eat the leaves of a Sunflower, but leave the stem intact. If your Sunflower’s stem looks untouched, but its leaves have disappeared, it may have been eaten by deer.
  • Lack of pattern: Deer eat plants in a scattered manner. They don’t nibble in any specific pattern. Sometimes, however, they will eat the entire plant.
  • Deer droppings: They look like marbles and are easy to spot. 

How to Keep Deer Away From Your Garden Plants?

deer eating plants

  • Scatter human hair around outdoor plants. The scent of human hair is effective in preventing deer from entering your garden. Spread the hair like mulch across your garden beds.
  • Apply a deer-repellant spray to outdoor plants. When used regularly, spray deterrents can help keep deer away from your plants. There are dozens of commercially available deer-repellent products, most of which repel deer by releasing a foul smell and a terrible taste. Alternatively, you can make your own homemade spray repellant. The combination of eggs, hot sauce, garlic, and clove oil has proven to be effective.
  • Place a bar soap near outdoor plants. It has been reported that the scent of bar soap interferes with deer’s sense of smell. Select a brand with a strong fragrance, and hang the bars from trees or large shrubs.
  • Choose deer-resistant outdoor plants. Even though hungry deer will eat pretty much anything, they tend to avoid prickly or fuzzy foliage. Plants with strong fragrances and aromas are also not their preferred choice.

What Is Eating Your Sunflowers?


Common sunflower-eating insects include caterpillars, worms, beetles, locusts, and aphids. 

In the event of an insect attack, leaves will usually have small holes at the edges or scattered throughout. Insects in small quantities are not a threat, but if there are many, they can destroy an entire garden.

Plants must be carefully observed and controlled, because an infestation is easier to solve if it is caught early. Insects will also lay eggs on the leaves of a Sunflower, so removing them as soon as possible is essential because if left untreated, the problem can become more serious once the eggs have hatched.


Birds eat mainly ripe Sunflower seeds. Birds that eat Sunflower seeds include finches, sparrows, nuthatches, and titmice.


Sunflowers are often damaged by squirrels because they climb up to the head of the stalk and their weight causes the stalk to break.

During the winter, they collect seeds for storage, but sometimes will also eat the seeds right on the spot. They will leave the husks behind and eat the seeds.

Rats and Mice


Due to their agility, these rodents can climb easily to the head of the Sunflower. If you notice damage to your Sunflowers, a clue that rats or mice are the culprit is the black pellets they leave behind.

Snails and Slugs

These molluscs target young Sunflowers and leave behind transparent trails of slime that make it easy to trace their feasting rampage. They indent and puncture the Sunflower, mostly in its leaves.

Painted Lady Butterflies

The Painted Lady Butterfly is the only insect that uses Sunflowers as a host plant. Other pollinators do not harm Sunflowers, and instead focus on collecting pollen. Larvae hatch from the eggs of the Painted Lady Butterfly, and the Sunflower serves as a source of food for the larvae.


Deer love Sunflowers, especially their flowers and leaves, but in the absence of better alternatives, it’s not uncommon for them to go after Sunflower seeds due to their high protein and phosphorus content. 

However, in large amounts, Sunflower seeds can be fatal to deer, since they are unable to digest Sunflower seed husks. There are different methods you can try using to prevent deer from eating your Sunflowers, including scattering human hair around your plants, applying deer-repellent spray on your plants, or hanging bars of soap in your garden to deter them.