Nova Scotia farmer discovers scarecrows work on deer, too

A farmer in Windsor, N.S., has turned an old farming trick into a new way to prevent pests from ruining his orchard.

Windsor farmer's idea saved trees, plus the $10K he would have spent on an electric fence

Phil Daniels figured he had nothing to lose when he turned an old mop and housecoat into a scarecrow to protect his orchard. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

A farmer in Windsor, N.S., has turned an old farming tool into a new way to prevent pests from ruining his orchard.

Phil Daniels is trying to double the size of his crop by growing rows of new apple, plum and pear trees.

But he quickly noticed that many of the new trees weren't growing. Instead, they were a midnight snack for deer who would sneak onto the property.

"They need to eat, too," said a sympathetic Daniels. "They just don't need to kill my baby trees."

The scarecrows on Phil Daniels property now act as guards, as young trees that had been stunted by deer now blossom behind them. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Expensive options

Daniels couldn't afford to ignore the problem, as the deer were eating a good chunk of his future profits.

"I lost about a hundred trees or more," he said.

He thought his only option would be to install an electric fence, but that could cost upwards of $10,000. Also, Daniels's property is a U-pick and he didn't want visitors to accidentally get a shock.

Instead, he decided to try a creative, free solution.

Fun experiment

"I come up with the idea of scarecrows. It keeps critters out of the garden. Crows and other animals don't seem to come around when they see someone that looks like a person."

Daniels hammered together a couple of pieces of wood and stuck them at the end of the rows that were targets for the animals.

Phil Daniels is hoping to double the size of his orchard, so long as the deer stay away. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

He covered them in colourful clothing, from a bright red housecoat to old curtains to flowery shirts. A few of them have mops for hair. He didn't have enough scarecrows for every line of trees, so he tied bright orange ribbons on alternating rows.

The deer disappeared immediately.

"It's made a major difference. I haven't lost any trees to deer since I put up the scarecrows."

Saving thousands

While the old farming tool is most often used for birds, this simple solution has saved Daniels thousands of dollars.

"I've seen a big buck deer clear as many as 50 trees in one night," he said.

"That's $2,000 a year on the cost of a tree alone. Let alone what you're losing on the long haul of what that tree would produce."