Fawns are seldom orphaned. Very often, the mothers are nearby, aware and attentive to a fawn that is seemingly alone. If there is concern a fawn has been left on its own, if it appears cold, weak, thin or injured and its mother does not return in approximately nine hours, it very well could be orphaned. Steps should be taken to ensure its survival. Hand-raising an orphaned fawn requires time, energy and patience. A veterinarian should be consulted to help ensure the fawn’s survival.
Goat milk, which is preferable over cow’s milk, is an excellent substitute for deer milk and can be purchased from a local feed store. Care should be taken to read the instructions fully; the formula must be warm when given to the deer. As the deer gets a little older, solid food can be added to the milk formula, such as baby rice or cereal, mixing it with water until it has a smooth consistency. Bananas, also good provisions for deer particularly because of their appealing sweet taste, can be beaten with a fork until they liquefy or can be pureed in a blender. It is also important to provide fresh clean water at all times.
Feed the fawn at regular intervals to establish a routine. Every four to five hours is a good time span at the beginning. Fawns will quickly become accustomed to the feeding routine and familiarity with the bottles and nipples used in the process. It is also much better to underfeed a young deer; overfeeding may result in digestive problems.
Keep all bottle-fed fawns and their respective feeding apparatus separate at first. Use bottles specifically designed for pets or cross-cut nipples on baby bottles. Deer prefer old-fashioned rubber nipples; however, the hole in the nipple should not be too large. If baby bottles are not available, another option is to place a nipple on pop or water bottles. Drinking too fast can cause digestive problems. Dribble warm milk from the bottle onto the fawn’s lips, and it will quickly take the nipple and drink. The bottles should also be kept high during the feeding process because that is how the young would feed from their mother.
Monitor the fawn’s behavior. Loose stools or diarrhea can bring about dehydration very quickly, endangering the fawn. The genital area needs to be wiped to help stimulate the bowels. If the animals are not kept regular, they will get diarrhea or become constipated, again jeopardizing its survival.
Hygiene is important. Milk is an excellent media for the growth of bacteria so strict cleanliness procedures should be followed. The bedding area must be kept free of urine, spilled food and feces to alleviate disease-producing organisms. Floors should have clean, dry, dust free straw; however, do not use sawdust as this may bring about breathing problems.