What to feed baby deer fawn

What Do Fawns Eat? - AZ Animals

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The word fawn refers to more than just a color, or a behavior; it’s also what we call a baby deer. Members of the Cervidae family—which includes elk, moose, reindeer (caribou), red deer, roe deer, white-tailed deer, key deer, fallow deer, and mule deer, among others—are known as fawns until they reach one year of age. Fawns are characterized by their long spindly legs, oversized ears, tan bodies, and white spots.

Here, we’ll learn more about what fawns eat, how they transition from mother’s milk to greens, and how long it takes them to mature. Then, we’ll explore the ways that wildlife rescue organizations feed and rehabilitate these small deer.

The Fawn’s Favorite Foods

Fawns eat milk for the first several months of life, gradually weaning onto grasses, leaves, and twigs.


Fawns eat exclusively mother’s milk for the first two weeks of life. They are herbivores, and once weaned will eat primarily leaves, twigs, and other greens.

Fawns weigh between 4-8 pounds at birth. By drinking only mother’s milk, which is rich in fat, sugar, and protein, they double in weight in the first two weeks of life. After one month they will have tripled their birth weight. Once they’re a couple of weeks old, they start nibbling on tender grasses and new shoots, but just enough to get their ruminant, four part stomach started.

A Complete List of Foods that Fawns Eat: 

  • Mother’s milk
  • Grasses
  • Leaves
  • Twigs
  • Sedges
  • Forbs
  • Shrubs 
  • Trees 
  • Young roots and tubers
  • Berries
  • Fruit
  • Lichen & fungi (in the winter)

What Do Wild Fawns Eat?

Wild fawns are completely dependent on their mothers for the first several weeks of life. The mother feeds the fawn around eight times a day, allowing it to nurse until it’s had its fill.  

Fawns eat a lot of milk; between 10-20% of their body weight every day. When the mother is not feeding the fawn, she leaves it in an area with thick, low to the ground growth, where the fawn hides until the mother returns.

Wild fawns are nearly odorless, and since they don’t move or make a sound while the mother is gone, they are very hard for predators to find. They have to be; until the fawn is about a month old, it isn’t able to run from predators.

Fawns rely so much on this undetectability that they actually can’t expel waste, the smell of which would give away their location, without stimulation. The fawn won’t urinate or defecate until either they, or the mother, licks their genital region to stimulate the processes. The mother then immediately eats the waste, further ensuring that her fawn will remain undetectable by predators and survive to adulthood.

Surviving Through the Winter

Fawns eat young grasses and shoots as early as two weeks of age.

©iStock. com/nearandfar

Fawns are normally born in the spring months between April and June. The earlier they are born, the better chance they have at surviving through the next winter. At just three weeks old they start venturing out with their mother to nibble on tender grasses. They gradually replace more and more of the milk in their diet with greens like twigs, leaves, and young shoots. By the time they are 3-4 months old they are almost fully weaned.

Fawns won’t stop ‘nursing’ from their mother’s just because they’re weaned though; they have been observed ‘nursing’ well into their first winter, long after the mother has stopped providing milk. Scientists think this behavior may act as a bonding agent between the mother and fawn, or it may simply be a way for the weaned fawn to derive comfort. 

What Do Captive Fawns Eat?

Many people find lone fawns, seemingly abandoned or motherless, and mistakenly ‘rescue’ them. As we’ve learned, these fawns are almost certainly not far from their mothers, and should be left alone unless they are visibly injured or distressed. Regardless, many wildlife rescue organizations exist that know how to care for fawns, and eventually rehabilitate them to the wild.

Fawns have very high nutritional needs, and if the wildlife organization cannot immediately return them to their mother, it’s up to them to meet these needs. Captive fawns eat either goat milk or a milk substitute. Dairy milk is not recommended as the fawns have a hard time digesting it.

But caretakers often take the fawn’s nutrition a step further by feeding them fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Fawns are fond of sweet things like fruit, and will happily eat bananas, strawberries, berries, oranges, pears, watermelons, and apples. They can also be fed vegetables like carrots, and starches like corn, barley, and wheat.

Though these foods make excellent treats for fawns, their primary food for the first 3-4 months of life should be milk. As they begin eating more solids, they should be fed on a mix of grasses, forbs, and shoots, in addition to their treats, in order to meet all of their nutritional requirements.

Do Fawns Need to Drink Water?

Fawns eat forbs, including wild thistle, during the spring and summer, and lichens and fungi in the winter.


Though the moisture content of mother’s milk is very high, fawns still have to drink water. This is the case for both wild and captive fawns. In northern climates, where the air turns cold and the leaves fall from the trees, weaned fawns survive largely on lichen and fungi. They get some moisture from these foods, but have also been observed eating snow to get all the water they need.

The Featured Image

© iStock.com/JNevitt

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About the Author

Brandi Allred

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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Wildlife First Aid - How to Feed Baby Deer (Fawns)

Baby fawns go through two containers of milk a day. All goat milk or a fawn replacement milk should be used.  Some Walmart stores carry goat milk; Tractor Supply stores carry a wildlife replacement milk that will include fawns on the back label.

A newborn fawn is the size of two Chihuahuas. It's important to add seven drops of lactate as well to the formula. If you have a young fawn, do not add anything solid.

When they are the size of the deer in the photos below, add some solid food to the formula such as baby rice or baby cereal. Mix it well with water until it has a pudding-like consistency. Deer love sweet tastes, and bananas are always a good source of sweetness. For older deer, you can add a banana, but be sure to beat it with a fork until it liquefies. You can put it into a blender or use a mixer and stir it up -- but make sure the banana seeds don't clog the nipple.

The hole in this nipple is too large!

Also, be sure that the hole in the nipple is not too large so the liquid cannot be drunk too quickly. If they drink too fast, they will give themselves a stomachache along with having digestive problems.

Before feeding, heat up the formula. You don't want to feed deer cold formula. Then give it to the deer before everybody else eats it. (Ingrid said that as one of her cats was sampling the formula to be sure it was just right.)

Use a funnel to pour the mixture into baby bottles (two per fawn per feeding). There should be two feedings a day. Be sure to heat the liquid. It must be given very warm.

When feeding, keep the bottles high because that's how they would eat from the mother as she stands up

They go through it quickly.

You can pull and push back and forth as you feed, because that's what the mother does.

Also take a warm wet cloth and wipe the genital area to help stimulate the bowels. If they are not kept regular, they will get diarrhea or become constipated.

The deer in the photo are not that young, more like two months old. By the way, these guys are not related.

If they're older, you can chop up carrots or apples and just stick the pieces in their mouth. When deer go from formula to other foods, it's a big move.


Unless you actually see a dead doe, leave the fawn alone.  Fawns are rarely orphaned. The mother will often run if you approach, and return to the fawn after you leave; the fawn can't run, and will typically freeze and try not to be seen.

Be sure to contact an animal rehabilitator promptly if you are dealing with a young fawn, because they imprint quickly, and once imprinted, are problematic to release into the wild.

Wildlife Watch / Rehabilitator Hotline:

( 877-945-3435 )


The R.O.C.K. column is each issue of the Wildlife Watch Binocular.

Back to First Aid Index


Nursing of young ungulates

Nursing of red deer (red deer) in artificial conditions

I must say right away that my personal experience in this area is not very great - we (so far) raised only one baby red deer to its feet. But at the very beginning we faced a huge problem - we could not find information anywhere that would help us out. Actually, that's why I came up with the idea to write a short guide for those who still have to enter in the search engines "how to feed a red deer cub." nine0005

First you need to determine the age of the animal. Our Yashik came to us through second hands, so only a veterinarian could reliably determine his age - 6-7 days. So, how does a red deer cub look like at a week of age:

Height at the withers: 64 cm

It still does not stand very well on its legs, they are slightly curved with the letter X. Often “cries”.

Teeth: back (if I may say so) not yet, front 8 (now Yasha is already 2 months old, but the front is gone), they are all below. 2 in the center are very large and funny :o) the rest are quite small. nine0005

Weight: 10-12 kg (but this is taking into account that he was fed incorrectly all his first week)

By the way, it will be useful to understand who is in front of you - red deer or spotted deer. They are often confused. The red deer is larger (against our 65 at the withers - 45-50 in the sika deer, weight approx. 4-6 kg). The head is large, the ears are elongated. I would compare them with the length of the nose from the tip to the eyes. The deer has a neat muzzle with VERY large round ears. Now as for the coloring. It should be noted that everyone has spots. In deer, they are located along the ridge and will come off after the first molt in October, while in spotted deer they are all over the body and will remain for life. nine0005

In red deer the spot under the tail is yellow and small, dimly outlined. In a deer, on the contrary, it is white, wider and strikingly different in color from the general background.

And now the most important thing - about feeding. Or is it more correct to say feeding .

Golden rule: don't overfeed. Feeding and deer and deer is a fractional milk supply. We gave cow's milk (necessarily boiled!) With the addition of water and infant formula "Malyutka 1" (one - that is, from birth). nine0005

Mixture: 1 liter of milk, 8 measuring spoons of formula, 0.5 liters of water. For the first 2 weeks, you need to feed 8-10 times a day, 100 g of the resulting mixture. It is better to use a bottle with a simple (not the most expensive) elongated nipple. By the way, because of the structure of the jaws, the deer did not recognize the Aventa's nipple so respected by the mothers. Of course, it is better to warm up to 36-38 degrees. You can check the temperature in the same way as for children - a drop on the bend of the elbow.

After the second week, give about 150 ml of water during the day between feedings. Once a day, we gave lightly salted (1 teaspoon without top per liter of boiled water). Now we feed 8 times a day, 250 ml each. nine0005

At the age of three weeks, a red deer was drunk with a five-day course of the Vetom-2 probiotic (I won’t say why exactly “2”, but that’s how we were determined in the veterinary clinic). Dilute one sachet in 200 ml of water, divide in half and give twice a day one hour after feeding (so you will need 5 sachets)

Month. At this age, you can transfer from a baby bottle to a cow bottle (for feeding calves - sold in veterinary stores). No, of course, you can continue to drink from a small one, but it will be tiring - you need to fill it several times for one meal or have 4 at once. At the same time, we began to feed Yashechka with Kormilak whole milk substitute. Its cost in Primorsky Krai ranges from 1900 to 2400 for a 25 kg bag. This amount is enough for about 2 months. The first days we add kormilak to cow's milk, but we cancel the infant formula (i.e. it turns out 1 liter of milk + 0.75 ml of water + 100 g of kormilak), then (well, say, on the fifth day) we give pure kormilak, i.e. . at the rate of 1:9, as written on the package. I weighed a plastic container on a culinary scale, it turned out to be 200 gr, i.e. almost 2 liters of water. At the age of one to two months, his daily intake increased from 2.5 to 4 liters of formula per day, and the frequency of feeding decreased from 6 to 4 times. nine0005

Grass . I wondered for a long time when to start feeding with grass. But everything turned out to be easier - Yashichek himself reached for the raspberries. And off we go. Most of all he liked dandelions, grapes, raspberries. Then come beets, ash leaves, currants. And he also loves berries terribly: o) Honeysuckle, strawberries, currants, raspberries, irga - everything goes with a bang. At the same time, the apples directly spits out. You can give pureed vegetables as a substitute for grass.

Faeces. Normally, he is like a goat - balls. Our pet had diarrhea at first. Wrong food - diarrhea, did not boil the bottle - diarrhea, overfed - diarrhea again. What to do. Give less food and carefully monitor the sterility of dishes.

Dehydration On the second day of life at my house, the veterinarian diagnosed us - Yashka refused to eat, could hardly stand on his feet. He was given a dropper in the neck (do not do it without a specialist!) with saline through a butterfly 4-ku, 200 ml + half a bottle of glucose. He almost immediately got to his feet, but it was impossible to feed, it was possible to give saline in the evening and replace one meal with it the next day. In general, having a doctor in the family, on the second day we were ready to repeat the drip on our own, but, fortunately, it was not necessary. In order to prevent, see above, drink salted water daily. nine0005

Arrangement places. Here, of course, the more the better. Yasha had to live in an open chicken pen, 3x8. The size, frankly, is not great. Net height 3.5 meters. It is necessary to make a small canopy, 1.1-1.2 m high, with a roof and without one wall - so that it can enter freely, cover the floor with hay, which needs to be changed regularly (because they defecate, most often, under themselves).

General recommendations. The life of these small, defenseless creatures is in your hands. Therefore, it is important to decide what will happen to them when they are ready to exist on their own: do you intend to give it to the zoo / zoo / safari park or plan to release it into wildlife. The permissible frequency of contact with the animal depends on this. If he is destined for the fate of a wild beast, then do not allow strangers to approach him, i.e. he should know only those 1-2 people who care about him. But you need to remember that even with this option, it is vital for him, no matter how pathetic it may sound, closeness and warmth, a sense of security - when you feed him, do not be lazy to stroke and talk - he will soon begin to recognize your voice. If you are not going to let go into the wild, then you need to hug the first 3-4 weeks as often as possible - you yourself will see how it calms him down. nine0005

The joys of a strengthened deer: the spotted inhabitant of the forest arranged "races" in the clearing


October 19, 2020

All cubs of animals are unusually active - a young inhabitant of the "Lazorevsky Reserve" in Primorye arranged real "races" in the middle of a forest clearing. The little deer enjoys life and frolics around his mother. nine0089
The mother allows the strengthened cub to rush along the still green grass, but she herself behaves warily. There are reasons for this, says Alexander Myslenkov, Deputy Director for Science of the Joint Directorate of the Lazovsky Reserve and the Call of the Tiger National Park.

“Sika deer lives in the Call of the Tiger National Park, but there are more red deer. In the reserve it is the other way around. Here is the highest density of sika deer in Primorye, and, accordingly, a very high density of tigers, since sika deer is the main prey for tigers in the Lazovsky district,” the expert explained. nine0089
Sika deer cubs appear in mid-May.

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