Donkeys serve as guardians of livestock which involves sheep, goats, cows and other farm animals.
Donkeys can protect sheep in your farm. Due to the donkey’s dislike of canines who are the major predators of farm livestock, they are able to protect the sheep from being picked off.
Sheep are gentle animals who will take to flight at the first sign of a threat and they are easy prey for large predators asd they do not have any other defense mechanism to survive.
As such they are usually guarded by other stronger animals such as the donkey.
If you have been thinking of getting a donkey guard for your sheep, then this article will seek to answer some questions you might have.
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Why Do Sheep Need Protecting?
Sheep are easy prey for most large prey because they do not have any mode of defensive mechanism.
When sheep perceive danger, their first instinct is to run and not fight to avoid being eaten.
This however makes them easy pickings for their natural predators who attack in packs and will easily pick out those who have fallen behind.
Sheep are naturally grazers and as such they do not have any natural defense or attack instincts.
Wild sheep band together for protection from predators and some of them have been able to develop flight modes which will enable them to elude the predators.
However, sheep domesticated by man barely have any defense mechanisms and usually rely on man to protect them from wild predators.
Due to this, man has had to institute different ways of keeping the sheep herd safe.
Are Donkeys Good With Sheep?
Donkeys guarding sheep is a phenomenon that’s becoming quite popular among livestock as some now prefer the quiet animals to guard dogs.
It’s best to have the donkey grow up with the sheep together so they can bond early.
The donkey is less social than horses or llamas but over time they come to bond together with the sheep flock and will grow protective of them.
If the donkey is old already and is being introduced to the herd, it might take about 2 – 3 weeks of housing them together for the donkeys to get familiarized.
Not all donkeys can be guard animals though, some might not necessarily alert you to the presence of predators or threats.
A good test of this is to keep the donkey in a stall and bring a dog around it.
Donkeys’ dislike of canines usually extends to dogs too and they might take a while to get settled around the farm dogs.
If the donkey reacts aggressively towards the dog at first then it will make a good guard donkey.
Donkeys are great guard animals because of their sturdiness, good eyesight and hearing.
They can attack or chase off predators and are known for kicking coyotes and stomping on them to run them off.
Usually farm owners prefer using female donkeys or jennies to guard the sheep as they are not as aggressive as the males.
In other cases, the farmer could use a gelded male who will also not be overly aggressive.
The donkey acts as farm security and might even sniff out newly born lambs to ensure they are not a threat to the other animals.
Also check out this article I wrote on can donkeys eat bananas?
Which Animals Commonly Attack Sheep?
Sheep have been known to be natural prey for quite a number of animals and because they do not have defense mechanisms, their only means of survival is to run at the sign of danger.
Some of the predators however can be pretty fast especially when hungry and the sheep do not stand a chance.
A variety of wild animals attack sheep for food and they usually pick off the lambs who are not yet strong enough to run well. Some common predators of sheep include:
- Wild dogs
Stray dogs especially like to harry and pick off domesticated sheep.
If the sheep doesn’t have a guard animal, they will chase the sheep, separate the lambs from their mothers and cause injuries to the sheep.
Predators usually focus one kill at a time and they are known to target young lambs who are still weak and easy to catch.
They can also chase and kill adult sheep depending on the type of predator.
The presence of a guard animal usually helps to protect the sheep in man’s care and keep the predators at bay and over the course of the years there have been various animals used by man to protect sheep herds.
Learning to recognize sheep predator behavior will help keep your sheep alive and you’ll know how to better protect them from danger.
Are Donkeys Good Protectors Of Livestock?
Donkeys are good livestock protectors.
They are very alert and sharp and will alert you to intruders by their braying ‘hee-haw’ sound which they make for a variety of reasons.
Donkeys can protect quite a number of livestock including sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas and horses.
Once a donkey has been raised with the flock it is protecting, it naturally sees them as family and will ensure they are well protected from predators.
A single donkey can usually chase off a coyote or wild dog and if they feel threatened they would kick the coyote and bite.
Sometimes the predators can attack in packs and the guard donkey might become overwhelmed as they would attack from different places till the donkey is down.
Some farm owners also keep guard dogs with the donkeys to make the herd more protected.
Smaller sized donkeys known as mini donkeys can also be used for guarding smaller livestock such as chicken, geese, duck among others.
They are also more vulnerable than mammoths or standard sized donkeys and should not be left to guard farms on their own as they can easily be attacked by predators.
Donkeys are a great addition to any farm and as the farm owner you should know the pros and cons of having them guard your other animals.
Related: Here is an article I wrote on can donkeys protect chickens?
How Many Sheep Can A Donkey Protect?
A donkey can effectively protect a sheep herd of 100 to 200 heads depending on the terrain.
If the land is flat and the sheep are concentrated in one feeding pasture, then it is easy for the donkey to scan for and easily notice threats.
However some pasture grounds are wide expanses of land with bushes and woods where predators can hide and easily pick off the sheep.
In cases where the donkey has to guard a larger number of sheep then there should be more than one donkey and the donkeys should be separated with its own sheep.
This is due to the fact that the donkeys might leave their herd of sheep and go socialize with themselves.
However if they are well separated, there will be no distractions and they will keep the herd safe.
Will Donkeys Kill Wolves?
Donkeys are brave and will try to stand down most predators they encounter instead of running away or getting frightened.
Wolves are predators of sheep and they can be encountered in wild places which might be close to sheep grazing pastures.
A donkey can hold its own against a single wolf, however wolves hunt in packs and can attack the donkey from different angles till they kill it.
It is easy for a pack to overwhelm a single donkey
A donkey that encounters wolves will most probably run away to alert the farm owner to the threat, however if the donkey is cornered it will go down fighting.
The wolves will not hesitate to kill the guard animal before going for the livestock who will panic and scatter making them easy pickings for the wolves.
The worst fear of a livestock farmer is having their animals picked off by predators and sustaining injuries or loss of their investment.
Different farmers over time have devised ways of keeping their herd safe while grazing and have gotten guard animals to protect them.
Donkeys are becoming quite popular for this task in recent times and they are great livestock protectors and will give their life to save the herd from being attacked by predators.