Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life in a Zoo: The Real Thing - Bottle Feeding a Fawn - Part One

Fawns, like all baby mammals, are very much like human babies. They need to nurse, they need comfort and cuddling, and they need to sleep.  Like human babies, in the first few weeks of life they need to be fed round the clock in two-hour intervals.

The first spring we received an orphaned fawn, we learned a lot about feeding babies.  At night she slept in a dog carrier in our bedroom. The alarm clock would go off every two hours. I mixed her formula and fed her.

At first we had trouble getting her to take the bottle.  I had struggled with her for several hours, trying to get her to nurse, but nothing worked.  Then, as my mother hovered over her, she bumped mom’s chin and suddenly started nursing. She needed to bump an udder in order to stimulate the nursing behavior. 

She suckled voraciously. There was much tail switching, stamping of little hooves, forelegs kneeing me as she inhaled the milk.  All feedings were like that. Sometimes in her eagerness to get the bottle, she would actually snatch it out of my hand. 

At first, she took only a third to a half a bottle of milk per feeding.  As she matured, we increased to a full bottle per feeding, then two bottles.  I learned to keep two bottles ready. She would literally suck one bottle flat before I could pull it out of her mouth and cram the next one in!

When she was about a month, she no longer needed night feedings. Thank goodness!

Along with the feedings, came the “diapering”.  Fawns, like puppies and kittens, cannot relieve themselves without their mother stimulating them by licking their little bottoms. (yecch). I wasn’t about to lick her, so I used a warm wet washcloth.  I would hold a disposable diaper under her to catch the “overflow”.

After about a month, we no longer needed diapering. She continued to nurse until weaning, some time in November.

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