Donkeys are gradually becoming popular as companions and guard animals and it is important to understand donkeys.
Donkeys are equines like horses and as such they require hoof care, regular veterinary attention, proper feed and clean water and a good shelter.
If you do not care for your donkey properly, there is the probability it might fall sick or get a skin disease or laminitis which you really don’t want your donkey to experience.
This article will explain the various ways to care for a donkey, the pros and cons of keeping a donkey and the differences in donkey and horse care.
7 Ways To Care For Donkeys
Knowledge of proper donkey care is quite important when you have one or more donkeys.
Even though donkeys are reputed to be strong and hardy, if they are not properly cared for they might end up being sick and require lots of resources to get well.
It is advisable for you as a donkey owner to check your donkey on a daily basis from its temperature to breathing, appetite, faeces, behavior and other body features.
Donkeys are quite easy to care for and here are a few ways by which you can ensure your donkey is well cared for and will not be easily susceptible to disease or pain.
1. Dental care
Dental care is quite important for donkeys as their teeth have evolved over the centuries to wear constantly since they have to chew on abrasive materials i.e. pasture that is not typically fresh.
Donkeys typically shed their first teeth at adolescence and the donkey owner has to ensure that all teeth are properly shed to avoid underlying pain and proneness to infection during later years.
A donkeys’ teeth should be checked at birth and dental care appointments should be at least twice yearly as they mature.
It is important to not wait before your donkey develops dental problems before scheduling regular check ups.
Related: Here is an article I wrote on why donkeys have big ears
Donkeys are more comfortable in hot and arid climates as they evolved from the desert though they can adapt to colder climes given appropriate shelter.
Providing a good and stable shelter is quite important for your donkey as donkey shelter is one of the most foremost aspects of their welfare.
Unlike horses who have waterproof coats, donkeys are not as strong and are susceptible to cold and bronchitis.
As such they require a dry well covered shelter that can protect them from rain and cold. A good and stable shelter should have the following attributes:
- Dry and thick layer of bedding
- Doors that make it easy for the donkeys to easily lean out but not jump out, about 107cm
- The back of the shelter should face the winds because of periods when there are strong and harsh winds blowing.
- The shelter should be positioned on a well drained ground that is devoid of flies.
- Mobile shelters should be movable easily while permanent shelters should be situated in an easily accessible location for the donkeys.
In general, a donkey’s shelter should be sturdy, dry and easily accessible. It should also protect the donkey from cold and wetness.
Donkey’s feed is another important aspect of donkey care. Donkeys are great eaters and will eat almost anything that comes their way.
However you have to be careful with what they eat.
Donkeys are prone to obesity when they eat sugar rich food. Their staple diet should basically be straw and hay which is dried grass.
You can give your donkey access to pasture but it shouldn’t be everyday and too frequent.
Fresh and lush pasture will make your donkey obese and it might easily get laminitis which if not properly treated can be fatal.
During winter your donkey will eat as it is not able to graze.
You should also give your donkeys healthy treats such as carrots, bananas, cucumbers, apples, celery and other vegetables from time to time.
This boosts their health and also makes them more affectionate towards you.
4. Skin care
Skin care is quite important for donkeys as they are prone to quite a number of skin conditions if their coats are not properly cared for.
Parasites like flies, mites and ticks can give the donkeys skin conditions and spread infections.
Skin conditions that might affect a donkey include:
- Lymes diseases from ticks
- Mud fever
- Rain scald
- Anaemia from blood sucking lice
- Sweet itch from midges
Schedule your donkey for regular skin care and also check the donkey over for lice and ticks that might be attached t it’s coat.
Also ensure your donkey’s shelter is clean and far from dump heaps that will attract flies.
Regularly clean and disinfect the shelter, pack away donkey dung as soon as possible, disinfect the stable walls and change water and feed.
Donkeys should be vaccinated as soon as they are born to protect them from infectious diseases.
An important vaccination for all donkeys is the tetanus shot, this is to protect them from the toxins which are produced by the tetanus bacteria.
Other important vaccinations for donkeys include rabies, west Nile virus, western and eastern encephalomyelitis.
The vaccinations will boost their immune system and help them fight infections in later years.
6. Hoof Care
Hoof care for donkeys includes trimming out the donkey’s feet every 4 to 8 weeks, and cleaning the hooves.
Regular farrier appointments should be scheduled from time to time.
Train your donkey to hold its feet up while you are grooming so you can check for swelling and injury.
Pick out your donkey’s hooves and check for stones and mud.
7. Veterinary Care
Like most animals, donkeys require regular veterinary care and attention. Do not wait till your donkey is ill before scheduling a vet visit.
A veterinarian can sniff out any sickness long before it becomes debilitating.
Ensure regular deworming and vaccinations.
Also ask your vet for diet advice, behavioral patterns, hoof care and grooming and a host of other things.
When your donkey is sick make sure you call the vet immediately and do not try to treat on your own.
These are the major care required to keep your donkey affable and in good health.
Are Donkeys Difficult To Look After?
Donkeys are not difficult to look after and care for. They are great animals, they are sociable and love having companions.
When getting your donkey, it is better to buy a pair as having a companion makes them happier.
Male donkeys are typically more difficult to care for and it is preferable to buy a jenny or gelded male except you are looking to breed.
Donkeys have been labelled as being difficult or stubborn at times, however as a new donkey owner you should understand that donkeys are intelligent and will not do something unless they want to.
Learn to train your donkey with patience and build trust with it. Once it learns what you want it will follow your lead.
Provide good feed, stable shelter and regular veterinary care for your donkey.
Donkeys are long livers and they can live as long as 30-40 years. If you care for your pet donkey properly, you would have him for many years.
What Are The Differences Between Donkey Care And Horse Care?
Donkeys and horses might seem quite similar however they have physical and behavioral differences which means there will be slight differences in the way you care for them.
Hoof care: donkeys have more upright hooves with wider frogs and because they were originally desert animals their hooves are able to retain water.
As such, it is always better to use a farrier who has donkey experience for your donkey farriering and shoeing.
Sedatives: when applying sedatives or pain meds, donkeys require a greater percentage than horses.
Shelter: donkey coats are not as waterproof as those of horses. As such they require sturdier shelters that would protect them from the wind and cold unlike horses who can still tolerate cold better.
Obesity: donkeys are easily prone to obesity when they eat sugar rich food and lush grass. As such their feed should consist of hay and straw.
Lush grass and sugary treats should be restricted to reduce the chances of developing laminitis.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Owning A Donkey?
Donkeys are great animals to have in your barn and as much as they are lovable it is always important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of having a donkey before getting one.
- Great Companions
Donkeys are great pets and companions. They are lovable and trusting. Donkeys might take some time to trust humans but once they do they will follow you everywhere.
They are also cute and love to be petted.
- Guard Animals
If you have livestock or other smaller animals, having a donkey around leaves you with the knowledge that they are safe. Donkeys will chase or kick most animal predators by facing them down.
- Low Maintenance
Donkeys are typically inexpensive to keep. Donkeys are less expensive to buy and care for than horses.
They are low maintenance and do not require expensive feed like horses. Donkeys will happily graze on hay and will also eat straw and coarse. They are also long livers and will last many years with you.
If you think horses can be stubborn then you have a lot to learn from the donkeys. The
The splayed feet posture is not a joke, except if you take the time and patience to get them to trust you, you might as well be talking to a wall.
- Prone to Obesity
Donkeys are prone to getting fat easily especially if they are eating lush grass. You have to always take care that your donkey doesn’t overdose on the pasture and restrict their diet to hay and straw.
Donkeys make the braying ‘hee-haw sound for almost every occasion. If their food is late, you are going to hear it.
This can be pretty annoying at times especially when you live with neighbors.
Donkey care is an important aspect of their welfare. If you do not care for your donkey properly as its owner, you predispose it to pain, infection and injury.
Take proper care of your donkey as a happy donkey makes a happy owner.