Bamboo Deer Scarers

Japanese Garden Design

View of landscaped garden, with stepping stones and deer scarerTraditionally made from bamboo canes of different sizes, deer scarers are a common sight in Western-style Japanese gardens, being easy and inexpensive to install.

Deer scarers come with ladder stands, single stands and also as freestanding structures that sit on the ground, although they all function in the same way.

Historical Uses

Known in Japanese as 'Shishi-odoshi', this animated water feature was traditionally designed to scare away deer, wild boar, birds and other animals that were causing damage to agricultural crops.

Close-up view of the deer scarer water feature and adjacent 'Oribe' granite lantern

Making Your Water Feature

A simplistic water feature, a deer scarer is actually a type of fountain at heart, being positioned over a reservoir with a very slow pump.

The water is pumped up the bamboo via a hidden tube and then through a water spot or 'Kakehi', onto the balancing bamboo cane, which is pivoted in the centre and rested against a rock or small stand. Each of the individual elements are neatly tied together with black hemp twine, known as 'Shuronawa', using neat cross knots or 'Ura-jumoni-aya'.

As the bamboo fills up with the trickle of water, it gradually starts to tip forwards until it over balances into the water basin below. The heavier end of the cane then quickly falls backwards, making its characteristic 'click clack' knocking noise as the cane hits the basin and then the rock, in theory scaring away the 'deer' and any other creatures that may be eating plants in the garden, or perhaps scaring a heron by your koi pond.

Further image showing the bamboo deer scarer, with its pump and reservoir hidden beneath the pebbles

Choosing the Correct Pump

In order to get your deer scarer water feature working at its optimum speed, it is important to select a pump with a variable output. This will enable you to tweak the water flow to make the bamboo pivot roughly once every ten seconds or so.

Water Flow

If your pond pump does not come with a control and you are finding the water flow a little too strong, you can experiment by drilling holes in the out-pipe that sits in the reservoir. This will reduce the overall flow as required by diverting some of the water pressure away from the pipe feeding the bamboo spout.