Donkey Care and Information
Shelter or Stabling
Donkeys don't need rugs during cold or wet weather but do require an accessible shelter all the year round to provide respite from the hot, cold, windy and wet weather. It is much better for them to be able to shelter as and when they feel the need - and they like to make that decision for themselves.
If it starts to rain donkeys will dive for cover, their coat is not waterproof and they really don't like the wet. However, foals should not be left to decide for themselves whether to get out of the rain or not as they can become cold very quickly and take hours to dry out. If rain is expected it is a good idea to keep young foals inside with their mothers.
Provided your donkey has shelter, overnight stabling is not necessary and they will come and go as they please. However, it is best to stable new foals with their mothers for the first few weeks which allows the mother to relax and not worry about other donkeys getting too close to her foal or attacks from foxes and the like.
Always ensure a supply of fresh, clean water is available to your donkey. When the weather is very cold try to give them warm water. This will also make it available to them longer since it won't freeze as quick as cold water.
The main diet for your donkey is good quality hay and barley straw. Whilst barley straw can be fed quite freely, you should limit hay to avoid your donkey becoming overweight. Overweight donkeys will develop fat deposits around their neck, buttocks, and abdomen. The fat deposit on the neck is known as a 'crest' or 'fat roll' and once developed will stay with the donkey for life - so don't overfeed your donkey!
New or lush grass needs to be limited during spring and summer as this can cause your donkey to become overweight and also cause foundering. Give a little hay and barley straw to divert their attention!
During the winter, when grazing is limited, we supplement our donkeys' diet with an evening feed of cake and pasture mix. Pregnant and nursing jennies, together with their foals, need extra feed to make sure their nutritional needs are taken care of. We give our cake and pasture mix.
It is a good idea to allow your donkey access to a salt block to make sure they get the necessary minerals.
The frequency with which your donkey will need worming depends upon their environment. If you clear manure out of the shelter/stable regularly you will need to worm less often. It is always a good idea to check with your vet for the best advice regarding a worming programme for your donkey.
Hoofs should be checked and picked out daily. They will also need trimming several times a year. Trimming frequency depends upon how quickly the hoofs grow and whether or not they spend time on a dry, hard surface which will wear them down naturally. Please make sure that you find a farrier with experience in trimming donkey's hooves as they sit up higher in the heel than horses.
Donkeys are no different from all other equine in that they need to be protected from flies during fly season. There are several products on the market to control flies and lice - it's best to seek advice from your vet as to which will be most suitable. To prevent your donkey from injuring his/her eyes from rubbing at flies, you can purchase a fly mask. We have fly fringes available in our Tack Barn which will help keep the flies away.
A donkey on its own is a lonely donkey. They are herd animals, and whilst they can be good companions for horses, ponies, and goats, they are happier with another donkey. Donkeys are very sociable and love interaction with humans and lots of attention and fuss. In addition to forming very strong bonds with other donkeys, they do the same with their owners. They are liable to want more attention than you can give - even if you are with them all day there will still be some who want that extra hug or scratch!
Donkeys teeth should be checked annually and more often if the animal appears to be in discomfort.
It is always best to consult with your vet regarding a vaccination programme for your donkey. Standard vaccinations are against Equine Influenza (annually) and Tetanus (every other year).
If your donkey gets injured or is unwell, prompt attention from your vet is the best course of action.
Donkeys absolutely love to be groomed - all that attention coupled with a good scratch from the brush.
In the winter your donkey will need a good coat to help keep him or her warm, so don't groom them so much during this time of year.
During the spring and summer, daily grooming will help to remove their winter coat and so keep them cool.
Minimum Requirements for your Donkey
- A safe enclosure, with shelter, that is well fenced or hedged
- A constant supply of clean, fresh water
- Sufficient quantity of food of good quality and a salt block
- Regular inspection and care of teeth
- Regular treatment of parasites - external and internal
- Regular care and trimming of hoofs
- Vaccination programme and prompt treatment for any ailments
- A confident owner
- Basic training so that they can be handled safely and looked after well
- Ongoing training for mental and physical stimulation
Some information about donkeys
- Donkeys can live for over 50 years and are very strong and intelligent.
- A donkey is stronger than a horse of the same size.
- Donkeys have incredible memories, they can recognise areas and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years ago.
- Donkeys are not easily startled and are very curious.
- Their reputation for stubbornness is due to their highly developed sense of self-preservation. It is difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something which it sees contrary to its own best interest or safety.
- Donkeys will reason and make decisions based on their safety - they are more independent in their thinking than horses.
- Training a donkey entails showing them, by words or actions, that they can trust you to protect them from harm. If we take time to show them they will learn what we want them to do.
- Donkeys are herd animals and don't like being kept on their own although a single donkey will live happily with goats, horses or ponies.
- In a herd the strongest donkey will be chosen to be the leader, even if domesticated. In the wild the lead donkey would ward off an attack by a wolf or other animal to allow the rest of the herd to escape to safety.
- As with monkeys and chimps, donkeys in a herd will groom each other.
The legend of the Donkey's Cross
"Bring me the colt of a donkey," was the Master's request. A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry him to Jerusalem. A week later Jesus was ordered crucified.
The little donkey so loved the Lord that he wanted to help carry the cross. But alas, he was pushed away.
The sad little donkey waited to say goodbye until nearly all had left. As he turned to leave, the shadow of the cross fell upon his shoulders. And there it has remained, a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of God's Creatures.
The legend of how the donkey got his voice
After the Christ Child was born long ago
In a stable that first Christmas night,
An angel warned Joseph to leave Bethlehem and
So the whole family took flight.
Then, as the three of them journeyed to Egypt,
They rested when stars filled the sky.
And while they were sleeping, their donkey's keen ears
Heard King Herod's soldiers nearby.
He tried very hard to get Joseph away,
But donkeys were mute in those days.
Then all of the sudden a miracle happened . . .
He let out some great piercing brays!
The family awakened in time to escape
And hurriedly slipped out of sight.
The donkey was grateful and quite humbled, too,
That God chose to use him that night.
And still, to this day, the loud, piercing bray from a
Donkey so gentle and mild
Reminds us again of that creature's devotion
And love for the dear Holy Child.