What are Sika Deer? Raising Rosie: Part 1

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We purchased two sika deer last weekend. My fiancée, Tim, and I have always wanted exotic hoof stock, so when the opportunity arose to get them, we jumped at the chance. Rosie is a 6-week-old doe and Bruce is her older brother who is about 2. Since sika deer aren’t very common, I thought I’d share a bit about them and their attributes as additions to our farm.

Sika deer are the smallest members of the elk family and are native to parts of East Asia and Japan. They were first introduced in the United States in 1916. They are one of the few species of deer that maintain the distinctive white spots usually associated with fawns. They can range in color from sandy brown/red to dark mahogany. Most have a distinctive darker dorsal stripe. They also have a tail and a white rump, which they flare when alarmed, much like elk.

Sika deer are medium sized deer that can be from 20 to 43 inches in height at the shoulder. There are different sub-species that can grow to weigh as much as 240 pounds for males (stags), but the Japanese sub-species is smaller and usually grows to 90 to 150 pounds for stags and 65 to 90 pounds for females (hinds). 

Stags grow antlers averaging 11 to 18 inches, and can grow to as much as 30 inches. Hinds do not have antlers, but will have dark bumps on their heads.

For the farmstead, these deer are fairly easy to raise. They do require special fencing since they are agile jumpers. We built ours 8 feet high just to be on the safe side. Sika deer will graze readily, enjoy browse and many weeds, and grow well with many commercially available feeds.

Sika venison is often compared to elk in taste and texture. Their smaller size makes them ideal for small farm use. They are adaptable, intelligent, and relatively docile. Sika are legal to own in my state of Kansas since they are not a native Kansas species. However, if you are interested in raising them, be sure to research the laws in your area first.

Little Rosie is currently our house guest. She has a dog crate in our living room, and is convinced she is a dog. Our dogs have all met her and she loves being in their company.

She follows them around, sucks on their ears, and carries a rope bone around like a puppy. She recently discovered dog food, which has become her favorite treat. The dogs aren’t sure what to think of her, but they all seem to get along just fine. She’s even pretty much house trained, choosing to use her crate as a toilet.

Bruce is learning the ropes at his new home. He is still nervous, but is getting more acclimated. We are excited for the future of our new venture into exotic livestock. Plans are underway to build more deer-safe pens for future additions!