Can Donkeys Eat Horse Feed? (Answered)

by Kloee Ngozi
Updated on

The subject of donkey nutrition is one which is still being studied as there isn’t extensive knowledge about it unlike horse nutrition.

Although horses and donkeys are both equids, they do not have the same nutritional requirements.

Donkeys can eat horse feed however there is the high possibility that horse feed will be too rich for them. Donkeys are able to survive on roughages and can extract the most nutrients from food while horses require more nourishment.

This article will discuss what horse feed is, the health benefits of horse feed to donkeys, how often you should feed and other questions you might have. 

What Is Horse Feed Made Of?

Can Donkeys Eat Horse Feed

Horses usually subsist on grasses, hay and straw for their nutritional requirements.

Horses most especially love alfalfa grasses and hay as it is sweet tasting.

Horse owners can also decide to complement their horse nutrition with commercial feeds especially when the horse is involved in high intensity work.

Lightly worked horses can survive on natural grazing and hay. Commercial feeds are designed to add more vitamins and minerals to the horse’s diet.

A typical horse feed contains cereal grains such as oats and barley and by-products like beet pulp.

Commercial feed comes in various types which are designed for different classes of horses ranging from a high worker such as a rodeo horse to growing ponies, senior horses and pregnant/lactating mothers. 

What Are The Health Benefits Of Horse Feed To Donkeys?

  1. Vitamins

Vitamins are important nutrients needed by all mammals for growth and development.

Most horse feeds are prepared to add vitamin content to their diet as there isn’t enough found in their natural diet which consists mainly of forage grasses and hay. 

Vitamins that can be found in a horse feed mixture include Vitamins A, B, C and D.

These vitamins serve the important function of boosting the immune system, promoting healthy skin and cell growth.

  1. Minerals

Minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and phosphate have important roles which they play in the body systems of equids.

A typical horse feed contains enough mineral content.

Iron is important for the circulation of oxygen throughout the body. Calcium helps in the development of strong teeth and bones.

The other macro and micro minerals also have their important functions.

  1. Protein

Protein is the body’s building block and it is important for all growth and development.

Protein is one of the most important nutrients that must be present in a horse feed. The levels of protein in each horse feed mix differs as different horses have different protein needs. 

  1. Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates help to give living organisms energy for their various activities. Carbohydrates are found in horse feed in the form of simple and complex carbs. 

Alfafa, barley, oats and beet pulp are all sources of simple and complex carbohydrates which can be found in horse feed mixtures.

  1. Fats 

Fats are a good source of energy as well. Fats aid in the digestive process of fat-soluble foods such as Vitamin E and are naturally highly digestible.

Soybean and corn oil are two of the most common sources of fat for horse feed.

Here is a mega list of foods and treats that donkeys can eat

How Often Should I Feed Them Horse Feed?

Before you feed horse feed to donkeys there are several things you need to take into consideration.

Donkeys have adapted their bodies over the centuries to be able to extract the most nutrients from food.

Naturally they can efficiently process the nutrients they have gotten from plants especially those high in fiber.

Horses on the other hand require a much richer feed which should be high in protein and calories.

Donkeys typically require less calories than donkeys most especially when they are not heavy duty.

Before feeding horse feed to your donkey, consult with your veterinary doctor or equine nutritionist to assess your donk and figure out his nutritional requirement.

Based on the results, he can then prescribe the type of horse feed that would be best for your donk or if he wouldn’t need horse feed in his diet. 

Can Mini Donkeys Eat Horse Feed?

Mini donkeys are much smaller than standard donkeys and often have a lower energy and calorie need level.

Donkeys come in various sizes such as mammoth, standard and miniature.

Most miniature donkeys are usually kept as pets or farm guard animals.

They do not involve in heavy duty work and can most often survive on natural grazing with a mix of hay. Mini donkeys should have access to pasture. 

Sweet legumes and cereals should not be fed to mini donkeys as it can predispose them to obesity and diseases such as laminitis.

Horse feed would most likely be too sweet for your mini, however a veterinarian or equine nutritionist would be in the best position to find out your donkey’s dietary needs.

Can Donkeys Eat Horse Hay?

Hays can be divided into three types namely; legume, grass and mixed hay.

Horses can eat any of these classifications of hay depending on their body size and nutritional requirements. 

Legume hay such as alfalfa is popular with horses and their owners as it is sweet tasting and contains much nourishment.

Donkeys however should not be fed alfalfa grass or hay as it has high digestibility and causes them to have health conditions such as laminitis. 

Grass hay such as meadow, seed, and timothy hay are quite healthy for donkeys to eat. Good quality mixed hay is also good for donkeys to have in their diets.

Also check out this article I wrote on donkeys eating kale

Can Donkeys Eat Horse Pellets?

Horse pellets are filtered, crushed up cereal grains, and supplements mostly protein which have been through a pelleting machine.

Pellets are good for horses that pick through their food and horses with inadequately strong teeth for chewing. 

Horse pellets should only be fed to hard working donkeys or jennies who require more energy in their feed.

This should be in small quantities however as cereal grain pellets are not suitable for donkeys.

Things To Watch Out For Before Feeding Them Horse Feed?

Before placing your donkey on horse feed, it is best to discuss with your vet doctor to determine your donkeys’ health and nutritional needs.

Donkeys evolved from desert dwellers who had been adapted to extracting food requirements from poor food available.

Horse feed can be a bit too rich for your donkeys and to avoid problems, consult with the appropriate professionals.

Horse feed is not a total no no for your donkey however, as you can place your old donkey on a senior equine feed for example.

Donkeys who are also involved in a lot of work can be placed on a horse feed diet. Be sure to get the right consultation to avoid predisposing your donk to health problems. 

How Can I Feed Horse Feed To My Donkeys?

Commercial horse feed can come in either textured or pellet form.

Textured horse feed comes in a loose form and the donkey or horse can decide to browse through and pick the food parts he likes the most.

Pellet horse feed on the other hand comes as pellets and is designed to ensure the animal gets all the nutrition from the food.

This way a picky donkey cannot pick out only the grains but will have to eat it all.

You can serve either textured or pellets to your donkeys. Ensure you provide a clean source of water for drinking and a salt block for mineral requirements. 


Donkeys and horses even though part of the same equine family do not have the same nutritional needs and requirements.

Donkeys require less calorie and protein intake or they might get overweight easily.

As a donkey owner it is only natural for you to pay attention to your donkey’s health and overall diet.

Before adding anything to your donkey’s feed, ensure you consult with a vet doctor or equine nutritionist who will outline the best diet for your donk based on characteristics such as his health, size, weight, workload to mention a few.

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About the author

Kloee Ngozi

Kloee is a backyard farmer and avid gardener who enjoys tending to her garden and plants. She is so engrossed with her plants that she has pet names for all of them. She likes to relax with a bottle of wine and read a book.


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