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In some areas the main problem for home fruit growers is, in fact, the race to the ripening fruit among the grower and the wild critters, which may include birds, squirrels, deer, raccoons, roof rats and assorted other hungry fauna. Where this holds true, the best deterrents are barriers.
Trees kept small by summer pruning are easy to cover with bird netting. Some fruit lovers even build a cage, like a good-sized chicken coop or bird aviary, which house their fruit trees. For larger trees, to prevent theft and damage, at least to part of a crop, wrap bird netting or wire screen around several easily accessible limbs.
For constructing a simple deer-proof cage, see Keep Deer Out!
For more about keeping fruit trees small by summer pruning, see Backyard Orchard Culture.