Bottle Feeding Advice
Whitetail and Muntjac fawns having their bottles...
also pix of the bottles and tops that we use.
We also use regular baby bottles and they work fine....some of our goat kids and deer fawns prefer the baby bottles to these farm nipples.
I actually get quite a few phone calls throughout the year by people with deer that are looking
for advice on bottle feeding them. I try to help when I can, and I thought that here I would list some basic information about bottle feeding deer and what works for us. Please keep in mind that we are not veterinarians, and your veterinarian should always be your first choice on where to get information about your animals.
Sometimes people ask why we bottle feed deer at all.... the reason we bottle feed our deer fawns is to keep them calm and friendly, and for their own safety. Deer are naturally flightly and scared of humans generally, so if you don't want them hitting fences and hurting or possibly even killing themselves, the best thing to do is to bottle feed all offspring. Most deer farmers will tell you that a bottle fed buck is a terrible idea... with no fear of humans they are considered more dangerous than bucks that are not bottlefed. My opinion on this is that ALL BUCKS IN HARD ANTLER ARE DANGEROUS and you have no right to be in their pen during rut or when they have hard antlers.... so it shouldn't matter if they are afraid of humans or if they like humans.... You should NOT be in their pen during rut for any reason!!
Now, about bottle feeding whitetail fawns.....
First of all, we take the fawns early... we usually leave them with their mothers for 24-36 hours. It depends on when they were born, because we always take them at night, around dark, and make no attempt to feed them until the following morning. By leaving them with their mothers at least one full day, we insure that they get the much needed colostrum that only their mother can provide. ( Yes, you can buy powdered colostrum... but it is not as good as having their mother for that crucial time. ) The oldest fawn we have ever taken away was 5 days old... due to special circumstances, and surprisingly these (2) fawns did very well. ( I was afraid they would adamantly refuse the bottle, after having a mother that long.. but they did great ).
We do not bring our fawns into the house, unless special circumstances require it. Deer are outdoor animals and are actually much more comfortable outdoors, even as young fawns. We have a special "baby pen" for our deer fawns. The first pen consists of a nice house that is about
8 X 10 feet. There is a 1/2 door on the house that we can lock so the babies stay inside, but still get some sunshine during the day. There is a small fence around the building, maybe 12 feet long and 10 feet wide. We also have another pen built around the smaller pen for the babies to move into when they are a little older. That pen is maybe 20 X 30. We sometimes need to use both pens to keep the "big babies" separate from the "small babies" if our deer fawns are born a month apart.
For the first few days, we do not usually let them out of the building. They are so busy "being invisible" like nature tells them to... that they really don't seem to mind. From day one we leave fresh water and grain in the pen at all times. By the first week, the fawns are starting to eat some grain, and I always feel better on hot summer days to have water in the pen in case they need it. Deer fawns also need sand or dirt for their digestive tract, so make sure they are in an outdoor pen that gives them access to dirt.
In the morning, we bring out 4 oz. of milk for all the whitetail fawns. The best way (for us) to introduce the bottle is to back the fawn into a corner and sit or squat in front of them, so they have no where to go. I hold the bottle in my right hand and wrap my left arm around their head and put my palm under their mouth. I use the fingers of my left hand to open their mouth and put the bottle in their mouth with my right hand. I usually keep my left hand in place under their jaw even though it isn't doing anything.... they will be less likely to let go of the nipple if you do this. Sometimes the fawns will drink right away (usually about 2 1/2 oz. at first) Sometimes they will drink NOTHING the whole first day.... they will just sit there with the nipple in their mouth and stubbornly ignore it.... If they are stubborn and refuse to eat... we come back out in 4 hours and try again. We do not stress them by coming out every hour and trying to get them to eat a little bit... we make them wait until the next scheduled feeding time. This usually guarantees that they will eat the next time. I have never had a fawn refuse a bottle completely and die out of stubborness... but I have heard of it happening to others.
We feed 5 times a day for the first couple of weeks. We feed at 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, and 10pm.
You want to make sure that you do NOT over feed your deer fawns. Some deer fawns will act like they are ALWAYS hungry... you need to be sure not to give in to the temptation to over feed them. This will cause a very bad case of scours or diarrhea and that can be a killer if you can't stop it. We start out with 4 oz. every 4 hours. We eventually work up slowly to 5oz, then 6oz... etc.. raising it slowly, and after maybe 2 weeks, we cut down to 4 feedings a day - maybe 8 oz. a feeding.... and by the time they are one month old we are down to 3 times a day and feeding 12-14 oz. at a feeding. You can steadily increase your milk amount until they are weanable... or you can leave it at about 14 oz. a feeding and encourage them to eat more grain and drink water too. By 8 weeks we go down to two feedings a day, ( 14-16 oz. ) and eventually around 10-12 weeks they are getting one 16 - 20 oz. bottle a day. ( I have a terrible habit of feeding the fawns as long as they will take a bottle, and I have been guilty of still bringing them a bottle once a day into October. )
Twice a day during the first week or two you need to do "the hiney wipe" on your deer fawn to stimulate them to go to the bathroom. You need to do this until they are going on their own. We do this at the 6am feeding and the 6pm feeding. If you do this at every feeding, you can over stimulate them and cause them to get diarrhea. It is important that they go to the bathroom daily, but not necessarily every time you do the hiney wipe. We use a baby wipe for this purpose... since they are readily available and disposable. If your fawn has diarrhea, the hiney wipe is not needed and will cause it to worsen, so I stop doing it if this is the case.
If you have a stubborn fawn that will not eat, doing the hiney wipe before you feed them will actually stimulate them to want to eat also, so you can try this and see if it helps. If you have a fawn that is not eating for several days....make sure you put your finger in their mouth and make sure their mouth is warm.... if it is cold - DO NOT feed them unless you warm them up first. Any animal that is not eating, can get hypoglycemic and their body temp will begin to drop. The animal will get lethargic and very weak. If you feed a weak, cold fawn, you will kill them. If they do not have a normal body temperature, they can not digest food.... it will actually decompose in their body and they will die. You can warm an animal up easily with a heating pad under them and a towel on top of them to hold the heat in.... make sure they don't get too hot and make sure they can move if they want to... they will know when they are too hot sometimes and will move somewhere else. You CAN feed a cold, weak fawn SUGAR.... any kind of syrup... Karo Syrup on your finger or in a syringe... even maple syrup... something that will get their blood sugar back up and make them feel better to make them want to eat. We have not had to do this on a deer fawn before but we HAVE brought a baby goat back from the edge of death using Karo Syrup more than once. One goat kid was stiff as a board and freezing cold when we found it... we warmed it with towels, a blow dryer and heating pad and fed it karo syrup on our finger until it could sit up and eventually stand and play.... then it wanted to take a bottle and did wonderfully... I have NEVER seen an animal so close to death survive.
If your fawn gets diarrhea, seek the help of your veterinarian... time is of the essence here. Some things that we have used with some success are the following.
Albon - available from your vet and usually used for coccidiosis (if you end up treating with a medication, such as Albon, put it directly into the fawn's mouth with a syringe... not in their bottle, to insure that they get the whole dose. Some fawns will not drink all the milk in a medicated bottle, because it tastes different than it should.
Niamycin - available at farm stores and usually used for e-coli infections
Whole milk mixed with whole cream ( a natural constipator that works very well sometimes ) We mix 1/2 gallon of whole milk with 1/2 pint of cream.
My first choice is the whole milk/cream combination, and then Albon as well - either at the same time or wait a day and see if the whole milk/cream works first. I have seen fawns go from pure watery diarrhea to constipated in 36 hours on whole milk/cream... and then other years I have seen no reaction at all..... so you never know what might work. I have also heard that whole milk and yogurt work as well. I personally have never tried this though, so I can not say if it is a good idea or not, or how effective it might be.
If you are using powdered formula and your fawns get diarrhea, generally you should cut back on the amount of formula in the bottle and use more water. This way you are cutting back on the "milk" they are getting, but still keeping them hydrated. You can try switching to electolytes for 24-48 hours also, and not using milk at all.... I have never found this to work for us because the fawns wont drink the electrolytes by themselves. I have heard from other people that it worked for them though. It is worth a try. You can buy powdered electrolytes ( from a farm store ) and add them to the water that you are making their formula out of... this usually works, because the fawns will still drink it then.
For our bottle fed fawns, we use raw goats milk bought from a dairy goat farm. We used to use powdered lamb replacer bought at a farm store... but the raw goats milk works much better for us. We used to have ALOT more problems with diarrhea in the fawns when we were using powdered formula. For a bottle we use a pop bottle with a nipple bought specially to fit on it. The nipple has a yellow base and a red nipple on it, we buy these in packs of 3 at a farm store. We rinse the bottles after every feeding and throw them away at least once a week and use new ones. We do not worry about "sterilizing" the equipment for bottlefeeding.... because deer live outside, lick each other's hindends constantly and eat dirt..... I don't consider that a major concern.
The information for bottle feeding Muntjac Fawns is very similar
We feed at the same times: 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, and 10pm
We make sure they have access to dirt, grain and fresh water always
We do the hiney wipe twice a day, 6am and 6pm and make sure they go at least one of these times every day.
We use a small bottle called a "puppy nurser" , you can buy them at Wal-Mart stores, pet stores, or at a farm store. (this is for MUNTJACS only , not whitetails..)
We start out with a 2 oz. bottle, the baby usual drinks 1/2 of it the first few days... so 1 oz. per feeding... we eventually work up to 2 full bottles, which is 4 oz. of formula at a time. Usually by the second week, they are up to 4 oz. to 6oz at a feeding. We do not increase this amount... we encourage them to eat grain and drink water between feedings. We drop the amount of feedings down as they get older, by one month they are eating about 3 times a day.
Muntjac fawns FIGHT the bottle much harder than any other kind of deer we have bottle fed.... be prepared for one full day of major struggling...maybe even a few days.... We usually leave our muntjac fawns with the mother only a very short time, sometimes only 20 minutes or so.... . We feed them goat colostrum in a bottle instead of leaving them with their mothers for 1 day or more.
We do this because we figure if they had their mother longer, they would fight the bottle even harder... not sure if this is true or not... but have never wanted to test the theory. They are also VERY small babies and lose body heat quickly... so we figure the sooner they are fed by us the better.
If there is anything else you need to know to get started on bottle feeding, or if you have a question you think I can answer... feel free to call me at 218-839-4503 and I will do my best to help you out.