Baby deer are such beautiful and gentle animals that have won over the hearts of many. If you are intending to adopt an orphaned fawn, first & foremost you have to know about their diet.
So, what does baby deer eat? A fawn’s food varies according to its specific age. A fawn under 3 months old only consumes its mother milk. After that, it can digest solid food including leaves, grass, corn, alfalfa, lichens, and others of herbivorous animals’ diet.
Below, I will explain more details about how often, how much, how to feed, and what to feed wild baby deer. I will also let you know what to do when seeing an abandoned-like fawn before adopting it.
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What does baby deer eat in the wild?
Wide baby deer under 12 weeks of age can only consume their mother’s milk. If the fawn has lost its mother or you are raising it on your farm, you can feed it with goat milk or a milk substitute. These are safe alternatives.
Baby deer won’t eat any solid food until they reach at least 3 months of age. This is when they start the weaning period. Giving them solid food sooner than 3 months might upset their immature digestive system.
Please remember don’t feed them with cow’s milk. It is just not safe for baby deer to consume as it can cause massive gastrointestinal issues. So, never!
Growing up, mature deer eat leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens & other fungi. A basic meal of herbivorous animals.
How often do baby deer eat?
Eight times a day is the feeding intensity that is suitable for baby deer.
Fawns depend on the source of food provided by the mother or owner to live. They are very susceptible to dehydration, illness, and even death if not adequately fed. So, provide them enough water, and give more when it is hot.
Even when baby fawns drink milk from their mothers, water is necessary to help them avoid dehydration. And a balanced diet always needs water.
How much should a baby deer eat?
Baby deer get hungry very quickly. So you can bottle-feed young deer as much milk as they want.
You can also refer to the following rule of the food amount to give by the fawn’s weight. Specifically, the daily amount of food should account for 10 to 20% of the fawn’s body weight.
For example, if the fawn is 5 lbs (80 ounces), this amount shouldn’t be less than 8 ounces and more than 16 ounces per day. You can divide it into 5 times a day, with 1.6-3.2 ounces per portion, or more often with smaller portions.
As long as the rule of 10-20% is obtained, the fawn will grow healthily as you wish. This is also true for bottle-fed fawns.
How to feed baby deer?
When bottle-feeding the baby deer with milk replacer, strictly follow the manufacturer’s instruction of water mixing ratio. Don’t forget to warm it to body temperature before giving.
For the first time feeding, you can drib some liquid on the fawn’s lip. This is to gain the fawn’s trust in you, letting it finish the milk quickly.
A wild deer often extend up high when eating. This is just an instinct of the deer family. If you love to preserve what is called “natural”, hold the milk bottle high as much as the fawn can reach up.
After every 10 days, reduce the feeding times, precisely about 3 times a day if the deer is 20 days old, twice a day when it is 30 days old, and once a day when 40 days or older.
This routine helps the deer grow up and stimulates the animal’s instinct to find food for itself. As long as you make sure it consumes 10-20% of its body weight per day, feel free to drop the times of feeding.
When to wean the baby deer?
You can wean the deer at its 12th-15th week of age. This number isn’t one-size-fits-all but depends on the development of each deer.
Some can start weaning as early as 60 days, which is fine as bottle-feeding is time-consuming and pricey. Many people choose to bottle-feed the fawn longer to make it more familiar to humans.
So, it’s all up to you to decide when the fawn should be weaned.
1. Stimulate the fawn to urinate/defecate if needed
During the first few weeks, the fawn might have difficulties in urinating or defecating as it has no experience of doing so.
You can help it get over the problems by stimulating while feeding. Use mittens and baby wipes to ensure hygiene, for both you and the fawn.
Please change the tools between different animals to avoid spreading the disease from one to another.
2. Uncleaned tools cause scour, not the milk replacer
If you follow the right formula specifically designed for baby deer, milk replacer can’t cause scour to your fawn. Diarrhea happens when the animal is infected with bacteria or viruses, i.e E. coli, Rota, Salmonella, etc.
If you clean and care for the tools used, hardly does scour happen. If it still does, then something is just not right. You should check and adjust accordingly. The problem might be from the water or the mineral content.
3. Feed them milk from healthy does
If you feed the fawn goat milk, make sure the doe doesn’t have any diseases. A doe infected with Caseous Lymphadenitis, Johne’s Disease will spread the disease to your fawn.
Some people choose to raise fawns on cow milk. If it isn’t broken, just let it be. But as I know, goat milk has the most similar content on fat, protein, sugar to deer milk. So it gives better development and is the safest choice for the baby deer.
4. Utmost important: Only feed the “truly abandoned” fawn
What do you usually do if you see a baby deer left alone? Most of us will often approach petting, feeding, or adopting fawn as common sense. But don’t do that again unless you want the baby deer to be abandoned by the mother!
Why is this so weird?
In wide life, mother deer leave their babies in a safe area and go searching for food. At this stage, young deer are scentless, which is to hide them from predators.
If you touch or feed a fawn, even just a slight touch, it might become scented with the human smell, which makes the mother deer feel strange, and inherently, abandons her baby.
When you see a baby deer alone, don’t immediately think it is an orphan. Leave it there, and come back again after at least 6 hours. If it is still standing there and showing signs of shaking, then you can intervene or call trained people for help.
Remember not to touch any baby deer standing alone unless it is in critical situations such as an accident.
Related questions about Baby Deer feed
1. When do fawns start eating grass?
Fawns can try tasting a bit of green grass as early as 2-3 weeks of age. At this stage, milk is still the main source of nutrients for the baby deer to develop, and introducing grass is merely to help it gradually adapt to a new type of food.
2. Can baby deer eat carrots?
As a herbivore, deer will certainly enjoy vegetables and fruits. Carrot is no exception. This tuber has a rich, delicious taste and provides a large number of nutrients and vitamins for the fawn’s growth.
3. Can baby deer eat lettuce?
Lettuce, cabbage, or any leafy green attract baby deer. Fawn can eat these vegetables as a supplement or a snack. Don’t serve lettuce as the primary food source for your fawn as this veggie is rich in water but very little in nutritional value.
4. Can baby deer eat fruit?
Fruits are like dreamy treats to baby deer. They love and be able to eat many kinds of fruit like apples, bananas, berries, oranges, pears, strawberries, watermelons, etc.
Fruits, albeit delicious and attractive, have almost no value in protein or fiber for deer. Hence, avoid giving the fawn only fruits as the main diet. A well-balanced diet for fawns should contain a wide variety of vegetables and fruits.
5. Do baby deer eat corn?
Pure corn, barley, or wheat might contain too much starch. If eating that food only, the baby deer might quickly suffer a digestive problem.
If you want to add corn into the fawn’s diet, it’s better to mix with cereal grains such as oats. For a balanced serving, a ratio of 1:1 or even 1:4 corn:oats is worth trying.
6. Do baby deer eat fish?
Deer are herbivores, so consuming fish is nearly impossible.
In the past, some reports concluded deer were omnivores since people had caught deer eating birds, fish, or dead rabbits.
However, biologists have explained this weird action only occurs when the deer lacks minerals (phosphorus, calcium, salt, etc), mainly because of food shortage.
As you read this line, I guess you no longer wonder “what do baby deer eat?”. Under-3-month-old fawns consume milk while the older eat plants and fruits.
My final words for you are: please don’t touch any deer if you are not sure it is an orphaned fawn. With a wild fawn, love is just watching!