How to Care for a Newborn Deer

Newborn fawns require round-the-clock care.
Newborn fawns require round-the-clock care. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Most of the time if you spot a newborn fawn alone, it hasn't been abandoned. The mother deer has most likely taken off due to your presence and will return to the baby as soon as you leave the area. Leave the fawn alone and check back later to be sure it’s being cared for. Occasionally, though, a fawn may be orphaned or rejected at birth and you can hand-raise it so it will survive. It’s best to place the fawn with an experienced animal rehabilitator. If you must care for the fawn yourself, realize that it will require round-the-clock care for several weeks.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry towel
  • Heat lamp
  • Goat colostrum
  • Goat-milk replacer
  • Baby bottle with rubber nipple
  • Rubber gloves
  • Baby wipes
  • Deer feed
  • Greens or alfalfa hay
  • Cedar shavings

Dry the fawn with a warm towel. Newborn deer are vulnerable to hypothermia and must be dry and warm at all times. Keep the fawn in the house for the first three weeks if the weather is cold. Place the fawn under a heat lamp if it seems lethargic.

Prepare a bed with old blankets if you're keeping the fawn indoors. Place the fawn's bed in an area that's secluded, dark and warm so it will feel protected.

Feed the fawn goat colostrum within the first 12 hours after birth. Colostrum is necessary for the fawn to form the necessary antibodies to disease; it's available at most feed stores. Feed the newborn as much colostrum as it will drink.

Bottle-feed the fawn with goat-milk replacer. Cow-milk replacer isn’t good for deer, but goat-milk replacer provides the necessary nutrients. Use a baby bottle with a cross-cut rubber nipple. Fawns do best with rubber nipples rather than silicone.

Feed the fawn round the clock for the first three weeks. The fawn should be fed 3 oz. of milk replacer seven times around the clock the first week; increase the milk replacer to 3-1/2 oz. for six feedings the second week; increase to 4 oz., fed six times daily, the third week; feed 4 1/2 oz., five times a day, the fourth week; 6 oz., four times a day, week five; 7 oz., three times a day, week six; 7-1/2 oz., three times a day, week seven; 8 oz., three times a day, week eight; 9 oz., twice a day, week nine; 8-1/2 oz., twice a day, week 10; 8 oz., twice a day, week 11; and 7 oz., once a day, week 12. Wean the fawn off milk at week 13.

Manually stimulate the fawn to defecate and urinate at each feeding for the first three weeks by gently massaging its rear end. Wear rubber gloves and use baby wipes to simulate how the mother licks the fawn’s privates to stimulate defecation. Be sure the fawn eliminates both feces and urine several times a day.

Offer the fawn deer-feed grain from the start. Make sure deer feed is available for the fawn to nibble on and let it eat as much as it wants. Provide fresh water in a bowl at all times.

Hand-feed fresh greens or hay to the fawn every day. Fresh-picked alfalfa, clover and dandelions are best, but you can also feed high-quality alfalfa or other legume hay. Offer the fawn as much as it will eat.

Move the fawn to a sheltered pen in a barn or shed after three weeks. The fawn must have protection from the elements and predators in any pen you provide. Pens should have dirt floors, if possible. Cover the floor of the pen with cedar shavings. Remove soiled shavings and replace them with fresh ones daily.

Tips & Warnings

  • A hand-raised deer will be imprinted to humans and will be vulnerable if released, so you'll most likely have to keep it.
  • Bucks are dangerous to humans when they mature and will need to be castrated at six months so they don't develop into sexual maturity.

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