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DONKEY CARE and INFORMATION
Donkeys are very much herd animals. They are happiest with at least one other donkey for companionship, and form very close bonds with their friends. They will also bond with other equines, sometimes sheep & goats, but they're happiest with their own kind. Donkeys have more of the gregarious, loving nature of a dog than the manner of a horse. They want to be close to your side, soaking up all the attention possible. They're also very smart and learn things easily - and they don't forget what they've learned. If they trust you and understand what you're trying to have them do, they'll usually try to accommodate and please you. Above all - they need to know they can trust and depend on you - their caretaker.
You should make sure your donkeys have safe, secure fencing that will keep out dogs and other predators. Believe it or not, what you'll need to be most careful of are domesticated dogs. Many times, it is the "pets" that can kill and maim miniature donkeys. They are just not big enough to deter a determined animal.
They will need shelter with a roof and at least three sides to protect them from wind and rain and to give them shade. The shelter needs to be roomy enough so they'll be comfortable and not crowded. If flies or horse flies are a problem in your area, it should be enclosed enough to be fairly dark so they will be able to get in away from the flies. We add a donkey carport - 10-15' roof overhang on our shelters. Usually the donkeys prefer to hang out under the overhang in wet weather, moving further back into the enclosed area when it's cold and windy.
One thing I think is very important to mention - if you notice your donkey is not eating like normal, there is usually something wrong. One thing about donkeys - they LOVE their food, so if they aren't eating with their normal relish, this indicates a problem. It could be something simple that will be gone quickly, but watch them closely and if they are still not eating, and in particular, acting listless - consult your vet immediately.
Pasture grass is good for donkeys as long as it isn't too rich in protein. Our grass is a combination of bermuda and native grasses, so we're lucky in the fact that it's not rich enough to cause weight problems. Since donkeys are desert animals, they can gain weight easily, so keep an eye on their condition and limit their pasture access if you start seeing a weight problem.
Donkeys do love their hay. They will do best with a fairly low protein bermuda and/or native grass hay. We also give bermuda hay in the evenings, along with their pellet feed. Normally they should not have alfalfa hay, which is a high protein hay, but then again, all donkeys are not alike. We hear a lot about giving low protein, but I think you should assess your donkeys and make your own intelligent decisions. A nursing mom that is being pulled down by her foal will probably benefit from a small amount of alfalfa, along with growing foals.
A small amount of a good, nutritious low protein feed can also be added to their diet - particularly for foals and nursing mothers. Donkeys can develop a fat neck roll if they're fed too much. Once this unattractive fat roll accumulates, it's usually there to stay. Again, I can't stress enough - watch the condition of your donkeys and make an intelligent decision on what they require in food. Consult with your vet if you feel you need additional input.
They will need a constant supply of fresh, clean water - they don't like dirty water and shouldn't be expected to drink it. An idea situation is to try and keep your water troughs in a condition that you wouldn't mind drinking out of if necessary. Watch a donkey enjoying the cool, clean water coming straight out of a well when you're filling your troughs, and you'll realize just how much they desire nice, clean, cool water.
Since miniature donkeys are such easy keepers, they usually do best without treats. If you must, carrot slices are usually a favorite. An occasional animal cracker, ginger snap, graham cracker or other low-fat type cookie is not going to hurt them. We don't normally feed treats except on rare occasions. The reason being - other than extra calories, when donkeys start to expect a treat, they can be pushy, nippy and demanding when you don't produce what they expect is their due!
Donkeys will need an equine mineral/salt block and also loose minerals without added protein. Your feed store will probably carry the type mineral that is good for your area of the country. Ask your vet if in doubt.
They will need yearly VEWT (venezuelan, eastern, western encephalitis and tetanus), influenza, West Nile and rabies vaccinations. This list is for our area of Texas, so check with your vet to see if there are any other vaccinations that might be needed for your area of the country.
Donkeys need their hooves trimmed every 2 - 4 months, depending on growth and the type terrain you have. We have lots of rock in our area, so their hooves don't need trimmed quite as often. Your farrier should be knowledgeable of his trade and gentle with your animals. NEVER let a farrier tell you they need to put an animal on the ground to trim hoofs. NEVER let anyone pull on or twist the donkey's ear for control. They can permanently damage delicate nerves. Donkey hooves are trimmed differently than horse hooves, so make sure your farrier is aware of how the hooves should be trimmed.
Very important - Donkeys need to be wormed every 2 - 3 months. Check with your vet for the best schedule of wormers for your area. During the warm months, we use ivermectin or Equimax - during the cooler months we sometimes rotate to another type wormer.
Teeth should be checked by an equine dentist or a qualified vet every year or two if possible. They can develop sharp points on their teeth which can make sores in their mouths, making it difficult to eat. If you know your donkey's habits and usual behavior, you'll notice if there appears to be a problem with their eating and apparent comfort. You might also notice a drop in their weight and condition.
Jennets and Jacks:
Very important!!!! Please have your baby jennets and baby jacks separated by the time they are 5-6 months of age at most. Jacks can be fertile as soon as they're capable of breeding a jennet. Normally they are not fertile before 5 or 6 months of age, but IT DOES HAPPEN. Please, please, please keep this in mind! Jennets can preferably be bred around 3 years of age - 2 years at the VERY youngest. Even at 3 years, a jennet's body is still developing and requires that all her nutrients go toward her development - not towards a fetus.
Please feel free to email or call us if you have questions about donkey care or any other donkey question. We always love to talk about donkeys! I am not an expert by any means, but can at least let you know what works for me. Remember - the best person to check with is usually your vet.
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