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What you should know before you buy a Miniature Donkey

My family has had horses since I (Savannah) was 4 years old. Although horses and donkeys have their similarities... there are some things that make them very different. When we bought our first donkey, Murphy, in 2018... there were still many things that we did not know about miniature donkeys or even just donkeys in general. Here is some information about donkey care, training, and behavior that is good to know before purchasing a miniature donkey.

*Some of this is based off of how we run our farm here at Southern Asspitality. Depending on your region, some of these answers may vary. 

PASTURE TIME AND FEEDING

Donkeys are known as desert animals. They would spend their days walking and eating shrubs. Because of this, their bodies easily store the nutrients that they need. If they are given access to too much of a high-quality hay or rich grass... they can easily become overweight and develop metabolic issues. One of the health issues that it can lead to, for example, is laminitis. However, on our property here in Tennessee, we have a lot of fescue grass and clover. It is low quality compared to some other regions. We personally keep our donkeys pastured, with shelters, in approximately half acre fields (some larger). We also feed our donkeys about half a flake of mixed grass hay each, in the morning and evening. Although we are able to do this on our property, not everyone will be able to. Each donkey is an individual and some can gain weight easier than others. You have to monitor each of your donkeys and pay attention to their needs. Some donkeys will require minimum to no turn out time on pasture and will have to reside on a dry lot.

 

For foals, we personally feed Purina Strategy, from the time that they are old enough to eat until around the age of 2. We recommend that our clients feed Strategy or something that is similar in nutrition. It helps give growing foals the nutrients that they need. However, once they're closer to maturity, we do not feed it anymore because it can eventually cause them to become overweight.

We also feed our donkeys Vermont Blend Loose Minerals, so that they can receive what we lack in our soil.

Routine Care

Here is where you will find a lot of similarities between horses and donkeys. 

Dental Care:

Donkeys' teeth should be checked, either by a Veterinarian or an Equine Dentist, at least annually. Overtime, because of the way they grind their food, equines will develop sharp points or "hooks." A Veterinarian or Equine Dentist will use files (manual or electric) to file down the sharp points. They will also check the health of an equine's mouth and make sure that there are not any health issues that need to be monitored/managed.

Vaccinations:

Donkeys require yearly vaccinations. They receive the same dosage as a horse, which is 1cc. Speak to your local veterinarian about what vaccinations they recommend for your region.

Coggins:

To transport any equine, a negative coggins is required. To test for coggins, a veterinarian will draw blood and send it to a lab. A negative coggins certificate is valid for a year. Not only is it required for transportation, but most shows will also require one. We personally have our donkeys tested and sold with negative coggins that is up to date.

Deworming:

It is important to occasionally deworm your donkeys. It is now being suggested that you take a fecal sample to your vet, before deworming. Talk to your vet and ask what protocol they recommend.

Hoof Trimming:

Donkeys require their hooves to be trimmed approximately every 6-12 weeks... 12 being on the longer side. We find that our donkeys are all on different schedules... but it is important to not wait too long for your donkeys' hooves to be trimmed. If you prolong the amount of time between hoof trims, you can make them more susceptible to issues like White Line Disease, Thrush, etc.

 

 

Health Issues

Here are some health issues that you might find in donkeys, provided by the American Donkey Association. Some of these issues are what only breeders will experience but many can be universal. Click the "Health Issues" in bold to view.

Shelter

Due to different climates, each area will have their different requirements. However, the most common shelter for miniature donkeys is a 3-sided run-in shed. We personally have 3-sided run-in sheds with either half or a third of the front being closed... allowing for 1 or 2 "doorways." The main purpose is for them to have a wind break. Making sure that your entrances are facing away from typical wind patterns is important.

TRAINING

One of the most common sayings that you will hear about donkeys is that "donkeys are stubborn." We are happy to share that is far from the truth. Donkeys are extremely intelligent, but they are also cautious. When it comes to training, a relationship between you and your donkey must first be built. They must trust you. Once that relationship is built and they understand that what you are asking of them is okay, they will do anything for you.

You cannot force a donkey to do something that they are not comfortable doing. If you try to force them or are too harsh, and they get scared and they will remember that moment. It will take a lot of time for them to work past that. The best key to training donkeys is to take your time and be very patient. One day, everything will click, and you will be shocked by what all you will accomplish with them.

Companionship

Donkeys are animals that prefer their own kind. Here, at Southern Asspitality, we require that our donkeys go to a home with another donkey... or at least another equine (only depending on the individual donkey). Some donkeys, like our jennet Loretta, do not prefer to be with donkeys. She is an oddball and chooses to spend her time with our miniature horse gelding. However, that is extremely unusual. Most donkeys prefer another donkey companion.

The reason why we require another donkey companion for our donkeys (besides the few exceptions) is because a single donkey, even if they are will other equines, can become depressed and/or develop behavioral issues. The most preferred pairs are a jennet with another jennet or a gelding with another gelding. However, depending on the individuals, some gelding and jennet pairs do fantastic together.

The reason why it is recommended to have a gelding with another gelding is because geldings can play much rougher than jennets. Donkeys bite each other's necks and legs and will take each other to the ground. Many first-time donkey owners mistake it for fighting... but this is how they love to play. However, like I said above, the geldings can play rougher than the jennets and can really irritate them. But you will occasionally find a jennet who likes to get down and dirty with the geldings or a gelding who is more kicked back and likes to just hang out with the girls.

Something else that isn't uncommon, especially if a jack was gelded at an older age, is that donkey geldings will sometimes go through the motions of breeding. But once again, this type of behavior all depends on an individual basis.

Social Life with People

As I said in the introduction... we have had horses since around 2005. Something we have noticed is how much more social donkeys are compared to horses. If a horse is eating and you go into their stall, they most likely will finish their food and then come say hi. With the donkeys, don't be surprised if they leave their food and make a point to come and see you.

Our horses are our family and are very loving... but their dynamic with people is very different from our donkeys. Occasionally our horses will go out of their way to greet us, but our entire herd of donkeys crave attention from people. Especially when they are given a proper start in knowing that people are good, they seek for people to acknowledge them and want to please. They are extremely social and, the more you work with them, the better they are. Donkeys want to be around people and are not necessarily the kind of animal that you just throw out in the field... like many sadly do.

DONKEYS (ESPECIALLY MINIS) SHOULD NOT BE LIVESTOCK GUARDIANS

It is true that you will hear MANY people recommend donkeys as livestock guardians. One reason why donkeys of any size do not make good livestock guardians is because of how cautious they are of new things. If they see something new that might possibly be a threat to them, they could try to kill it. For people who raise sheep, goats, cows, etc... it isn't uncommon for donkeys to be great with their herd until they start having their babies and the donkeys will kill their babies being born. 

As mentioned above, donkeys can play pretty rough. Because of this, a donkey might not intentionally try to kill smaller livestock but accidentally injure or kill them when trying to play. 

Another reason why donkeys should not be livestock guardians is because they do not have protective instincts. They are prey animals... just like the animals that they are supposed to "protect." They will protect their own young, but they will not go out of their way to "save" other livestock.

With that being said, it has also been known that many donkeys have been killed by predators or even stray dogs. Some of these donkeys have even been beloved show donkeys. You can only do your best to protect the ones that you own, but you should not buy a donkey with the intentions of using one as a guardian.

If you are looking for a livestock guardian, look into Livestock Guardian Dog Breeds. They have been bred specifically to be a part of a herd and to want to protect them. They are your best option.

There is so much about this breed that make them the amazing animals that they are. We are constantly educating people about all that there is to know about them. This was a very brief description about some of the things that you should know before you purchase a donkey. If you have any questions about donkeys, feel free to reach out and ask. We are happy to help people learn more about them. 

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