How To Care For A Donkey: A Simple Guide

Whether you have a donkey or are considering acquiring one, it’s important to know exactly what these friendly, sturdy little equines need in the way of care. In this article, we provide smart, sensible tips to help you take good care of your donkey. Read on to learn more on how to care for a donkey.

What Is A Donkeys Temperament Like?

what is a donkeys temperament like

Donkeys are naturally easy-going and kind tempered, but of course, like any other animal if they have been abused, they can become wary and cranky. Luckily, because donkeys are very smart, they can learn to trust again if you’re able to convince your donkey that you are trustworthy.

Consistency is the most important tool in trust building with your donkey. Establish a regular, daily routine of catching, feeding and grooming. Always perform these tasks with a calm and quiet demeanor. Doing the same thing at the same time every day will prove to your donkey that you are trustworthy.

How To Groom A Donkey

How Do You Train A Donkey?

Intelligence is one trait that all donkeys have in common, along with good sense. Although they are long had a reputation for being stubborn, the fact is that while horses obey, donkeys tend to decide.

That’s why, whenever you’re dealing with a donkey, you’ll need to exhibit good sense yourself and behave in a consistent, sensible and intelligent manner.

Use training techniques that help create a bond with your donkey and build trust. Remember that donkeys are smart, sensible and like to decide for themselves. For this reason, your training/trust building exercises should focus on working together as partners.

The kind of training shown in this video helps build trust and communication and gain cooperation. All of these are very important in working with any equine, especially donkeys.

Donkeys are far better at learning by observing than are horses. When you work with your donkey and demonstrate what you want (as shown here) you will find that your donkey understands and wants to work with you.

Training Donkeys: Groundwork, Condition And Muscle Training Tips

Meet Your Donkey Where He Is

Before you begin working with your donkey, take time to observe and evaluate him and understand what he already knows. That way, you can meet him where he is and move forward together.

Building on your donkey’s current knowledge and giving him time to think through new tasks is a recipe for success. If you find that the task you’re working on seems to be too complicated or unfamiliar for your donkey to master, take a step back and do something that he already knows how to do.

Think of ways to connect your donkey’s current abilities with the new skills you wish him to learn. Always reward success with a positive attitude, petting and scratching and appropriate breaks.

Avoid rewarding your donkey with food treats because this is very likely to spoil him in turn him into a brat.

Smart Donkeys Need Activity!

Because donkeys are quite a bit smarter than horses, they also become bored much more easily. It’s a good idea to keep toys available for your donkey at all times. You may already have some items on hand that your donkey will enjoy pushing around and tossing into the air. Good homemade toys include:

  • Rubber feed pans
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Hula hoops
  • Beach balls

There are also lots of commercially available equine toys, such as Jolly Balls, which donkeys enjoy.

A Donkey Alone Is No Donkey At All!

donkeys are sociable animals

Donkeys are sociable animals and make very good companions for other equines. A donkey is happiest with another donkey, but they will quickly bond with horses, mules, cattle, goats and other critters. This is why donkeys are often thought of as traditional companions for high strung animals, such as racehorses. A single donkey also makes a good guardian for a herd of animals such as sheep, goats or cattle.

Take care when introducing your donkey to any companion. It always takes a little time to establish a pecking order, and some donkeys do have an innate dislike for some smaller animals, such as dogs, cats, sheep and goats.

Keep a close eye on the potential friends, and keep them separated when you can’t supervise until it is absolutely clear that everyone will get along.

A Donkey Needs Less Space Than Other Equines

Ideally, an acre per animal is a good rule when keeping equines; however, donkeys can get by with quite a bit less space as long as they are getting regular exercise and have free access to a good, mixed grass hay.

It’s also important to provide your donkey with effective shelter. Remember that donkeys originally hail from very warm climates, so they don’t tolerate cold well, and they do not like to stand in the rain.

In a very cold climate, your donkey will need a stall or a four-sided shelter with a door. In moderate to warm climates, a three-sided shed is fine.

Be sure to keep a filled, net bag of mixed grass hay available at all times, along with fresh water and a mineral block.

What Do Donkeys Eat?

what do donkeys eat

In the wild, donkeys are browsers and enjoy grass, bushes, berries, fallen fruit the edible parts of cactus and a number of other different types of vegetation that they may find in their native environment.

Donkeys can do quite well on pasture alone, as long as the grass is not excessively rich and lush. If you have a pasture that is made up of a mixture of native grasses, bushes and edible trees, you may not need to feed your donkey.

If you have a mono-crop, fertilized field of Bermuda grass or some other rich grass, you should give your donkey regular turnout times and limit the amount of grazing available to him. Too much rich, lush grass can make your donkey fat and cause a number of different health problems.

It’s important to understand that donkeys thrive on a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein. Although you might be tempted to give your donkey rich, fertilized hay and sweet feed, this would be a very bad idea. Donkeys who eat an excessively rich diet tend to get fat very easily and develop all sorts of health problems including laminitis.

Instead, it’s a good idea to free feed a locally sourced, mixed grass, unfertilized hay. If you’re unable to find a local hay supplier, you may have to buy hay by the bale from your local feed store.

Avoid very rich hay, such as fertilized Bermuda and any alfalfa. If feeding very rich Bermuda grass hay, you may need to soak it in cold water for half an hour before presenting it. This will remove excessive amounts of protein and sugar, which could make your donkey very sick.

Don’t feed alfalfa hay at all. It is only suitable for very hot blooded horses who are worked hard (e.g. thoroughbred racehorses). Alfalfa hay is a major culprit in causing problems with laminitis.

A good, local mixed grass hay can be kept in front of your donkeys at all times in a hay net. Hay nets slow down rate of consumption, reduce waste and give your donkeys something to do to keep them occupied.

If feeding a rich, fertilized Bermuda hay, measure it carefully. Generally speaking, a standard donkey will want a couple of flakes of hay a day.

Donkeys don’t typically need much (or any) grain, but a 50-50 mixture of soaked beet pulp and crimped oats is a nice, simple choice for donkeys needing to put on a little weight. Confer with your vet to determine how much grain your donkey should have.

If you must change your donkey’s feeding routine, do it gradually over a two-week period of time. This will give your donkey’s digestive system time to adjust.

Always feed fresh, clean hay and feed. Never accept any moldy foodstuffs. Always keep ample fresh water available, and set up a salt/mineral lick in a sheltered area, off the ground.

How To Feed And Take Care Of A Donkey

Donkey, A Beast Of Burden

The amount a donkey can carry varies depending on the size of the donkey, the weather conditions, the equipment being used and the terrain to be covered. Naturally, smaller donkeys are better able to carry smaller loads and smaller riders, and larger donkeys can carry heavier loads and larger riders.

Generally speaking, a healthy, well cared for donkey can carry between twenty and twenty-five percent of its body weight. This means that typically, a miniature donkey might be able to carry a small pack or a small child.

A standard donkey could comfortably carry a pack that an average adult could lift or handle. A standard donkey is a good-sized mount for an average sized woman or small man.

A mammoth donkey is as big as a horse and quite a bit stronger. A mammoth is a good choice for carrying heavy packs (within reason). A mammoth donkey is also suitable as a mount for a larger man or woman whose weight does not exceed 25% of the weight of the animal.

How To Ride A Donkey

What Kind of Veterinary Care Does a Donkey Need?

Your donkey will need to be seen at least once a year for a thorough examination, worming and update of vaccinations. If your donkey has a health condition that needs monitoring, such as laminitis, hyperlipidemia or pregnancy, you’ll naturally need to have the vet out more often.

If you acquire a jenny, or if your jenny gets out and goes visiting with a jack or a stallion, you’ll need to have the vet come out to determine whether or not she is pregnant.

A donkey pregnancy can last as long as fourteen months, and you’ll need to have your vet visit two or three times to make sure that all is well.

Pregnant Donkeyrobics

Schedule Regular Hoof Trimming

Donkey hooves are similar to horse hooves, but they are not exactly the same. It’s important to find a farrier who understands the structure and composition of donkey hooves. Improper trimming can cause lameness.

A donkey will seldom, if ever, need shoes. It’s best to look for a donkey farrier who knows how to do a good barefoot trim. If you will be riding on pavement or extremely rough terrain, you may wish to invest in a set of sturdy rubber hoof boots.

Why You Need A Donkey Farrier

The presenter of this video feeds alfalfa to bribe her donkeys into being haltered. Do not feed donkeys alfalfa. It is far too rich and can cause donkeys to founder.

Furthermore, don’t set yourself up for haltering challenges. Establish a regular, everyday schedule of feeding that includes haltering and grooming. If your donkeys are used to this, you will never have a problem with catching and handling your donkeys.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

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