Hand Raising White-Tailed Fawns

There are many reasons for wanting to hand raise a fawn, it may be part of a set of triplets, the mother may have abandon it, or you may want to have an animal that is desensitized to human contact. Regardless of how or why, the methods to which you will care for this “baby” are the same.

Tools

First off you will need the tools of the trade.You must have a bottle and a nipple which will be suitable for the fawns’ size. Human baby bottles and pop bottles with lambs nipple have both been used with success. Good practice suggests to sterilize the bottle and nipple between feedings. It will take some coaxing at first to get the little one to take the nipple, but eventually they will become hungry and accept the bottle. It may help to gently press the nipple against the roof of the fawns’ mouth to release some of the liquid. Thus giving a little taste to the fawn. Usually, once they realize this is where the food is coming from they don’t hesitate to take the nipple.

If you are pulling the fawn off the doe, or if you have a doe that refuses her baby, you will need to find some form of colostrum replacer. Colostrum is mother’s first milk. This milk is full of antibodies and will help to protect the fawn from disease for the first few weeks of its life. Different forms of colostrum are available, although I am unsure if there is an actual replica of doe’s colostrum. Dairy farmers do tend to keep some frozen to resell. This form of colostrum is acceptable. There is also a synthetic form of colostrum you can purchase from your vet or feed store. You simply mix with water as per directions and feed through the bottle. Colostrum ideally should be fed for the first 24 hours of the fawns life.

Next, you must also decide on a milk replacer. There are several formulas out that have been developed for this purpose. Your local veterinarian or feed store should be able to help you decide. Be sure to mix the formula according to directions on the package. Otherwise, you could end up with diarrhea or constipation, not to mention the fawn would not be receiving the proper vitamin and mineral levels.

Feeding times will vary with different animals and different replacers. Here is a chart for reference only. Make sure to read the package label from the mix you are using.

Week Amount (oz) Times Daily Total
Week 1 3 7 630 mL
Week 2 3.5 6 660 mL
Week 3 4 6 720 mL
Week 4 4.5 5 725 mL
Week 5 6 4 740 mL
Week 6 7 3 750 mL
Week 7 7.5 3 720 mL
Week 8 7 3 690 mL
Week 9 9 2 650 mL
Week 10 8.5 2 600 mL
Week 11 8 2 520 mL
Week 12 7 1 225 mL

 

Shelter

Next you will have to decide if you are going to be bringing this little bundle into your home or if you are building a sheltered pen for it. This pen should have adequate room for the fawn to run and play. An area for them to sleep in that is protected from the elements is a must. This enclosure should also be predator proofed extremely well, as he/she will be a great target for coyotes. I suggest laying mesh wire around the perimeter and tying snow fence onto the existing fence. Another way would be to keep the fawn locked up in a barn or shed, at least at night. Another consideration when you are building the pen is food supply. Is there a variety of grasses etc. for the fawn to nibble on when it is ready? Otherwise you will be hand picking their diet for some time.

I found the easiest thing was to keep my newborn in the house for the first 2-3 weeks. However, once the fawn hits about 3 weeks old, they can become a major pain. Baby will develop a incessant curiosity for things such as bathroom tissue, ashtrays, etc. and can quickly make a tremendous mess. Mine even decided to try bathing with me, that is until she figured out there was water in the tub….. ouch! Those hooves are sharp.

While the fawn is in the house, you can try to designate an area for it to sleep. They prefer somewhere dark and warm, somewhere they can feel safely “hidden”. I didn’t do this and Angel picked her own spot – behind the television. It did not bother her that this was a very noisy place, or that I continually scolded her as I feared she would get tangled up in the cords (although she never did).

Refuse

What goes in must come out. If you are bringing a newborn into your home, you will have to have a litter box. Regular unscented kitty litter is preferred. For the litter box, a “Rubber-maid” container served its purpose for me. It is best to feed the fawn right in this container as it will associate food with “piddling”. This way you will not have to worry about the carpet and the furniture so much.

When feeding your fawn, use one hand to hold the bottle and the other to apply a damp, warm cloth to their bottom. Gently press and move the cloth around to simulate the doe licking the bottom. The fawn will automatically start to relieve itself. Make sure that you get both bowel movements as well as urine. Otherwise, the fawn can become toxic in a short period of time. As the fawn gets older, you will notice that these movements become less frequent, this is nothing to worry about. After several weeks your fawn will learn to “piddle” on their own without the use of a cloth.

Solids

At about 1 week of age you can place small amounts of grasses, pellets and uncontaminated dirt in the pen. They will start to nibble on this when they feel ready. As the fawn gets older they will consume more. When feeding pellets be careful to not feed more than about 8 oz. per day. As baby gets used to eating solids you will notice a decline in milk intake, however they should still be getting most of the nutrients from the bottle until about 12 weeks of age.

Vitamins

One thing I have found is that many farmers are giving the fawn a shot of Vitamins A, D, & E along with a small dose of selenium and 8-way vaccine. This is something I recommend you discuss with your veterinarian. Dosage and age of fawn varies from farm to farm, also feeding programs vary. These points should all be brought to your vet’s attention.

Weaning

This is another area that varies greatly. Some say the wean after 12 weeks while other farms tend to keep the fawns on 1-2 feedings per day until October or November. Possibly the best thing to do is stick to your own instincts.

Temperament

Some fawns will snuggle right up to almost anyone, while others may only take to the caregiver. Many fawns after returning to the herd will abandon the de-sensitization process and yet others will consistently be your best friend. I am not sure as to why or how this changes, it just seems to be their own personalities.

In closing, I want to wish anyone who undertakes hand raising a fawn the best of luck. Please do not take this job lightly, it is time consuming and will tie you down. Once you have begun the process, there is no turning back. Remember, you are playing with nature and nature does not always supply answers. Keep in mind that if you are successful, there is no better reward.

 

Source: Lisa Mueller – I have only hand raised one fawn from birth, her name was “Angel”. She was the first fawn born on our farm, and also one of triplets which the doe had abandoned. Unfortunately she never lived past September. For this reason, I decided to further research the subject of hand raising and attempt to determine the reason for her death. In conclusion I have found that we may never know exactly what caused her death, or if it could have been prevented, or that maybe her mother knew better than I.