If you’re going to have a donkey, you’ll need to have two. Donkeys are very sociable, and they like to be kept in small herds. If you’re not able to have two donkeys, a donkey will bond with a pony, horse, cow or other creature. Be careful about putting donkeys with animals that are smaller than they are as some donkeys (especially jacks) will aggress.
In any event, if you’re going to have donkeys, you’ll need to have an adequate amount of land to keep them happy. So how much land does a donkey need?
What You'll Learn Today
How Much Space Does A Donkey Need?
Generally speaking, about a half acre per donkey will do; however, this varies depending upon the size of the donkey and the quality of the pasture:
- A tiny miniature donkey may be perfectly happy in your standard sized backyard.
- A medium-sized, standard donkey needs a half an acre.
- A horse-sized mammoth donkey will need an acre.
If pasture is poor, even a large parcel of land won’t have value as a source of forage, but it will have exercise value.
Here is a great video of donkeys going out on pasture.
If you have a couple of standard donkeys on an acre of land, you won’t want to give them full access to the whole acre all of the time. Instead, it’s a good idea to divide your property into two or three grazing paddocks. These should all connect with your donkeys’ shelter area.
This sort of setup allows you to manage your pasture in a way that provides fresh grass at all times. You would simply keep your donkeys in one paddock (open to the shelter area) while the grass in the others has a chance to grow.
Once the donkeys have eaten down all of the grass in their current paddock, close the gate to deny them access to it and open the gate to one of the other paddocks.
Practice Good Housekeeping
In addition to providing your donkeys with ample fresh grass, pasture rotation is also a good way to help keep some pests and parasites under control. Always keep manure picked up and properly composted to help kill off any insect eggs or larvae that might be lurking within.
Can’t Donkeys Live On Open Pasture?
Donkeys need to have shelter from rain, wind, snow and harsh sun. In most situations, a three sided shed provides adequate shelter and place where they can rest. Your donkeys must have access to their shelter, water, salt block and free feed hay at all times.
This is why you will want to set up all of your paddocks so that they open into the shelter area. This makes pasture rotation very easy.
What Can You Do About Poor Pasture?
When you rotate your pasture, you have a good opportunity to improve the resting pasture while the donkeys are grazing on active pasture. When a paddock is on break, inspect it carefully and deal with any weeds that may be taking up space that could be better occupied by grass.
Once you’ve removed weeds, you may want to till the entire area and plant some good grass seed. Bermuda grass and Timothy are excellent choices. Avoid ryegrass.
Always allow resting pasture to be graze-free for a minimum of three months at a time. This not only allows plenty of time for fresh grass to grow, it also ensures that the lifecycle of many parasites that may have made their way into the soil will be disrupted.
It’s important to note that this sort of pasture rotation doesn’t eliminate the need for a good deworming program. It does help manage intestinal parasites in between worm treatments.
What If You Don’t Have Half An Acre Of Pasture Per Donkey?
In all circumstances, you should provide your donkeys free access to fresh, clean grass hay. Use a hay net to present the hay as this will slow your donkeys down, keep them busy and help replicate the experience of grazing.
Adding soaked beet pulp to your donkeys’ diet can also help provide important roughage that ensures good gut health. Beet pulp can make up about 50% of your donkeys’ forage requirements.
Of course, pasture turnout is also valuable as a form of exercise and recreation. If you don’t have a good large turnout area for your donkey, you’ll need to be sure he gets plenty of exercise through riding, pulling a cart, packing (donkeys can carry a significant weight), lunging, or if he’s just a pet going for brisk walks.
Toys (like these here) can also be a great source of exercise!
Frequently Asked Questions
It really depends on the donkey. Generally speaking, jennies are more likely to get along with smaller stock than geldings or jacks. Even so, a male donkey who has been introduced to small stock when he is young, and then gelded early, will probably continue to get along with small stock. An older, settled jack is very likely to kill goats, chickens and ducks (dogs and cats, too!) especially if he thinks that protecting larger stock is his job. Great care and supervision must be in place when introducing a jack to smaller stock, and be aware that instant separation may be necessary.
Donkeys can do very well eating mixed meadow grass, native plants and some shrub and tree leaves. If you have noxious weeds, such as hemlock, you should remove them from your donkey pasture. Generally speaking, though, a donkey who has free access to good hay, as well as pasture, and is generally well fed will avoid toxic weeds.
Any plant in the hemlock family is poisonous to donkeys and other equines. Bracken and ragwort are also toxic. Common hedges, such as yew can also be toxic. Oleander and all members of its family are toxic. It’s important to note that some toxic weeds have a bad taste when they are young, but they sweeten as they age. This may also be the case with weeds that have been pulled and left to dry, or that have been cut, dried and incorporated into hay. It’s always smart to examine hay carefully before buying it and dispose of trimmings and pulled weeds correctly.
There are a number of shrubs, bushes and trees that can add interest to your donkey’s day while safely providing a bit of roughage. Some popular choices include: Bramble bushes, Hackberry, Hawthorn, Mulberry, Apple, Alder, Gorse, Hazel, Ash.
It’s always a good idea to walk your fences every few days looking for and repairing damage. Add looking for toxic plants to that stroll. Walk your pasture monthly looking for hazards and toxic plants. Do a very thorough inspection early in the spring when new plants begin to grow. Remember that birds can bring in all sorts of seeds all year round, so new things can appear without warning.