Note: There are many differing opinions out there, if you are really worried about something, find a donkey knowledgeable vet and ask them!! No one on facebook can replace the value of your vet's expertise!
This is not a complete list and should not be your only education when it comes to your donkey. This is only a cheat sheet for first time owners that I have compiled. If you are unsure, ASK YOUR VET!!
1. What is a good diet for my donkey(s)?
Everyone in the donkey world has strong opinions about feeding. To every rule there is an exception. If you are confused, or do not know if this is right for your donkey, CALL YOUR Donkey-Knowledgeable VET. Ask. You can also do Hay Testing and test your pasture/hay for sugars, protein etc and see if it is appropriate for your donkey. All donkeys, at different stages in their life, have different needs.
The GENERAL rule, if your donkey is on a maintenance diet (pasture pet) and is at a good weight already, is plain grass hay (no alfalfa), no mold, the stalkier the better. Straw is great for bedding, reducing mud, and your donkey will enjoy eating it too! Some people feed free choice,some feed multiple feedings, some use hay nets to slow down consumption. Donkeys have a very thrifty digestive system (being desert animals who can get nutrition from woody plants-hence why they eat your trees, barn, fence) and can get a lot of nutrition out of very little. For example, my mammoth donkeys (14hh, around 800 lbs)only eat around 10-12 lbs of hay each day, fed three times a day in small meals. Donkeys are not horses, and should not be fed like a horse. If your donkey lives with a horse who eats alfalfa, consider moving him or her into a different pen. When I look for hay, I look for the “best worst hay” out there. As in, I am getting the least nutritious, stalky, brownish hay that is also clean, mold free, and palatable. The way all equines digest food, they are meant to have food in their stomach 24/7. They naturally would be searching all day for small portions of feed, walking many miles. Obviously, to keep weight in check, it is not always possible to have them eat all day.We feed three small meals, but other alternatives are track grazing systems, grazing muzzles, hay nets with very small holes, and slow feeders.
Grazing: it depends on your pasture grass. In some areas, pasture grass is fine for donkeys. Where I live in Colorado, the grasses have so much sugar that I rarely allow turnout, and only at certain times of the year. Muzzles can be used to slow down eating. I prefer donkeys on dry lot,and to allow for perhaps an hour or two of grazing time to replace a meal or two for the day. Again, if you have a hard keeper or an older donkey that is NOT prone to laminitis, you may want more turnout. If your donkey has fat deposits...probably not the best idea!
Grain: In GENERAL(remember, with donkeys, one size does not fit all!), donkeys do not need grain. It is much too nutritious for them, full of sugars and carbs that cause health issues, including obesity and laminitis. Especially sweet feed (which I would never feed to a horse either!).You can find low sugar, low starch grains. Remember, donkeys are not supposed to be as filled out like a horse, they naturally have slopey hips and backs. Pregnant jennets, older donkeys, and sometimes foals or donkeys on a hard work regimen, sometimes need grain.
Water: Donkeys need 24/7 access to clean, unfrozen water. Donkeys are usually suspicious of new water containers, and may not drink at first until they get used to it.
Minerals/Salt: Donkeys need free choice access to a pure white salt block and a 12/12 mineral block, preferably without molasses if you can find it. They will lick and chew these to get the salt and minerals they need. You can also get free choice minerals in granulated or powder form,and that way it is easier for your donkey to get enough.
Treats: I prefer to use treats sparingly, and only for training purposes. Treats are awesome for training your donkey to catch/halter, step forward, go into trailers, and pick up feet. I will crunch horse treats into smaller bits so that my donkeys are not getting a lot of sugary treats. Donkeys enjoy carrots, apples, horse treats, oats, and may enjoy watermelon, pumpkin, and other interesting delicacies.
Discuss with your vet if you think your donkey needs a different diet based on being too thin or (most commonly) too fat. Do NOT change your donkey's diet immediately, especially if he needs to lose weight. It can cause major health concerns. Consult your vet.
While an obese donkey can be slimmed down, it must be done with utmost care, under a veterinarian's watchful eye. They commonly will not lose all of the fat pads, but will slim down.
2. What do all these donkey terms mean?
Equine- any relative of the horse, which includes zebras, asses, mules, onagers etc.
Jack- Uncastrated male donkey, capable of breeding.
Jennet, Jenny-Female donkey
Gelding- Castrated male donkey, not capable of breeding. However, many geldings DO gothrough all the actions of breeding, including penetration!
Foal- Baby donkey,either sex
Colt- male,uncastrated baby donkey
Filly- female baby donkey
Heat- jennets go into sexual receptiveness on a regular cycle, especially in the summer, but sometimes also into the winter. Heats can cause interesting behavior, sometimes your jennet will be moody, sometimes sweeter, and usually will gape and snap her jaws, and urinate frequently. She may back up into males, even geldings, asking to be mounted. Some jennets will mount another jennet in heat.
Mule- Female horse,bred to Jack, creates a mule, who is sterile
John/Horse Mule-Male mule, must be gelded, as they have the same behaviors as stallions, even though they are sterile.
Molly/Mare Mule-Female mule/mare mule
Sterility- Mules and Hinnys are generally sterile. There have been VERY rare exceptions. Mule studs must still be castrated, as they will have all of thestallion/jack behavior, despite being infertile.
Hinny-Female jennet bred to male horse (stallion), offspring is sterile
How long do donkeys live? A long time! Some donkeys can live into their fifties and sixties, although it is rare. If you need to, put your donkey in your will!
3. What type of shelter does my new donkey need?
Donkeys have different coats than horses, and are desert animals. Their coats do not slick off water like a horse's coat. Therefore, they DO need shelter, especially in the rain. A three sided shelter works well. Donkeys are notorious for standing out in the rain when shelter is nearby. You may need to find a way to keep your donkey in if the rain is very bad and it is cold out. They seem to do OK with cold temps and snow, so long as it doesn't melt onto their skin. Yes, you can blanket donkeys, but they need specialty sizes and shapes usually. I use Weatherbeeta blankets with the shoulder relief. There are other blankets that are awesome and adjustable for smaller donkeys out there. Many people feel strongly that it is not good to blanket donkeys, as they need their hair fluffed for insulation, among other things. You know your donkey, you make the choice. Ours only get blanketed if it will be both cold and raining hard, or if the wind is very strong and it is wet. We did blanket frequently our older donkey who really needed the extra warmth, as she wasn't capable of keeping body heat at her age. Healthy donkeys usually don't need blankets if they have adequate food, shelter, and water. Again, you can read many articles both for and against blanketing. Read up, make a choice that makes sense for you and where you live.
4. What sort of vet and farrier care does my new donkey need?
Donkeys need hoof trims from a farrier at least once every six weeks, just like a horse. This assumes regular growth and a soft paddock. If your donkey lives in an environment where his hooves are staying trim just from moving around, GREAT! That's awesome. Usually that isn't the case.Donkeys hooves are very different than horse hooves, so you will need to find a farrier knowledgeable about donkeys. Donkeys hooves aremore upright and a different shape than horses. Sometimes this is hard. There are actually a few great resources out there about trimming donkey hooves. Please be kind to your farrier and work with your donkey on picking up his feet. If your donkey is desperately in need of a trim but cannot be worked with, you can perhaps discuss with your vet some mild sedation.
The way I like to train donkeys to pick up feet (everyone has their own way that works for them, based on the personality of the animal) is to have one person by the donkey's head, holding the lead rope, always on the same side as the hoof lifter. That way, if the animal kicks, you can turn the animal towards you and away from the hoof lifter. I always make sure the donkey can yield his hind end both ways (look up “turnon the forehand”) before starting. Then, the handler, who has small treats, rewards any “good” behavior (first, being touched without kicking or moving, gradually moving to actually allowing the foot tobe lifted, then lifted for longer periods, the a rasp on the hoof,etc), shaping the donkey's behavior until she or she lifts feet well.Keep sessions short, easy, leave on a good note. If you cannot touch the leg at all, getting a cotton rope to lift the hoof at first can help. Make sure the rope can be released immediately if need be.
Many donkeys come to new owners with hoof issues, or hoof handling issues. Overfed donkeys commonly have laminitic changes. Laminitis is a very painful condition, also known as founder, where the blood chemistry of an animal that is fed too richly causes separation of the hoof wall from the coffin bone in the hoof...laminitis is a medical emergency and can cause you to have to put an animal down IF left untreated. Another things that donkeys are prone to is abscesses in their hooves from wet, unsanitary conditions. If you go out one day and your donkey looks like he can't put any weight at all on one leg, many times it is an abscess. Checking the hoof for heat is one major clue,as well as a raised digital pulse. Any condition where your donkey islimping badly (or not eating) is a reason to have the vet and/or farrier out.
Donkeys need their vaccines just like horses, in the same dosage as horses. Check with your vet about the schedule of vaccines used in your area. You may need to vaccinate more or less frequently depending on if your donkeys are exposed to more animals or fewer animals and places. You can do Titer tests at your vet's office to determine if your donkey REALLY needs a vaccine. Donkeys also need to be dewormed on a rotating (based on what parasites are likely in each stage of grow that what times of the year) schedule, also based on your area and what your vet suggests. Many have warned against and had bad experiences with the dewormer Quest, although some have used it with no problems.The main things SEEMS to be that Quest requires you to give an exact dosage, and too much can cause serious health issues. Dewormers are based on weight, so you must measure your donkey's weight before using dewormer. If you really want to know what your donkey needs for deworming, get a fecal sample tested by your vet (around $25) and see. It is worth doing so, as many parasites are getting resistant to the usual dewormers from overuse.
Donkeys DO need dental floats (teeth filed) like horses do. They can get hooked teeth, abscessed teeth, wave mouth etc. Check with your vet to determine how often your donkey needs to be floated. Donkey teeth grow continuously throughout their lives.
My main rule of thumb is that if there is a puncture wound, major bleeding,especially on lower limbs or around eyes, hoof concerns, raised temp,pulse, breathing, or if my donkey seems to not want to eat, looks listless, or in pain, I call the vet. I call the vet if there appears to be unusual discharge from any opening. I call the vet if there is major swelling, especially around a joint or on the face. Watch your donkey, spend time with him. Figure out what is normal for him, so that you can detect if something is wrong. Donkeys can be stoic. It is always worth finding out earlier rather than later if something is going wrong, it may save your donkey's life, and a lot of money and suffering!
5. What type of donkey is best for a beginner? Do I need two?
In GENERAL, jacks do not make good first time pets for donkey owners. There are many awesome, gentle jacks out there, and sometimes, especially with a green donkey owner, they can be a lot to handle, even dangerous. They are hormonal and act like it! If your jack isn't for breeding purposes, he will be happier, healthier (not trying to jump out of his pen to get at ladies etc), and easier to handle as a gelding. Gelding jacks can be done even in older donkeys, so long as the vet knows that castrating donkeys is different and requires extra steps to reduce loss of blood.
Jennets and geldings make great first time pets. That being said, finding one that is already easy to catch, halter, pick up feet, and handle is always going to be more fun than dealing with a training project! It might be tempting to buy or rescue an inexpensive donkey that needs training, but you may sign up for more than you want. Once you have learned about donkeys and how to work with them, then it is great to find a project!
Donkeys need a companion. They prefer and are happiest with other donkeys. They can get along with horses, mules, and sometimes other animals, but other donkeys are the best. Donkeys can sometimes be great with goats,sheep, and cows. Many times, especially with jacks or geldings, donkeys will attack, play rough with, or kill goats, sheep, lambs, chickens and calves. Be aware.
6. Can my donkey be a guardian over my other animals?
There are many myths surrounding donkeys—that they are of super-animal strength, that they never need vet care, and also that they all make great guardians.
Some donkeys, if they are large enough, strong enough, and have the drive, can make good guardians. Mostly, you are doing a disservice to your donkey by making him a guardian. Many donkeys will try and chase off coyotes,bears, wolves, etc. Many get terribly injured. Even a mammoth is no match for a determined pitt bull! Minis stand no chance. I personally would never use any donkey as a guard animal.
For every one photo of a donkey or mule attacking a coyote, there are ten of gruesome injuries sustained because of dog/wolf/bear attacks. I wouldn't take the risk.
7. What should I have in my first aid kit for my donkey?
Again, ask your vet. I have a list I like to have, but I also get extra meds from my vet to keep on hand for emergencies. Some vets will not supply these medications.
This is what I have(that I can think of):
Uniprim (powdered antibiotics)
Bute (NSAID for swelling and pain)
Banamine (Muscle relaxer for Colic)
Dermosedan (mild tranquilizer)
Lots of vet wrap
Sterile bandages andcotton bandages
Scissors, a knife
Sugar and Betadine to make Sugardine
Instant cold pack
A small length of rubber hose (to insert into nostril should your donk be bitten by a rattlesnake on the nose)
Triple antibiotic ointment
Spray on Alushield
KY jelly (for thethermometer)
SWAT (for flies in wounds)
A small baggie of my donkey's favorite grain, tasty treat. To put meds in.
A rubber bucket
A trailer to get your donkey to an emergency vet (yes, this is important, and also to TRAIN your donkey to go into a trailer)
8. Can my donkey be trained? What can donkeys do? How much weight can they hold?
Yes, your donkey can be trained! Anytime you work with your donkey you are training him,either in a way you want, or don't want. Donkeys can be trained to ride, drive, pack, do tricks, the possibilities are endless. They just don't learn like a horse does. Donkeys evolved in arid,treacherous terrain, where bolting at a perceived threat would result in falling off a cliff and never breeding again. Horses evolved on plains, where running was an effective escape strategy. Therefore, a startled or alarmed donkey is more likely to baulk than run. This can be frustrating for those who have worked with horses and are used to startling their horse into doing what they want, then rewarding it. Donkeys, when pressure is applied, often simply stop and hunker down. Training donkeys takes patience, time, and intelligence. No shortcuts. They must trust and respect you in order to do what you want. Relationship takes time.
Donkeys can safely carry 20-25% of their weight. This is INCLUDING tack. If the weight is a very balanced rider, 25% including tack is appropriate. Packing, even a balanced load, no more than 20%.
How do you measure weight? There is no weight tape that is made for donkeys yet. Horse weight tapes are made for horse proportions. They can be used, but taken with a grain of salt. There are measurements that can be done that involve a formula (I have found this online). I tend to guesstimate fairly accurately based on what similar horses or ponies weigh. The only truly accurate way is to put them on a scale.
9. Is my donkey OK? He isn't shedding out.
Older donkeys may beprone to Cushings Disease, which does lead to an extra shaggy coat,requires medication, and is serious. An extra shaggy, course, or long coat can also be caused by worms.
Usually however, a shaggy coat is due to simply being a donkey. Our donkeys do not really shed out until midway through summer, then immediately start growing a new winter coat. It's a donkey thing.
10. Flies are really bugging my donkey, what can I do?
Donkeys seem thinner skinned when it comes to flies, especially on their legs! Before you buy EVERY ointment on the market, think about these options. SWAT can work, but needs to be cleaned an re-applied. Sox for Horses (can befound online) has Donkey Sox. These need to be occasionally pulled up, but work well. Also, stockings or tights with the toes cut off can work to protect legs. Fly spray can give some relief, but generally wears off quickly. If you find something better, let everyone know!!
Donkeys do usually need fly masks, and yes, you can find them with ears!
11. Why is my donkey doing that?
Head resting on you-Your donkey is claiming ownership and friendship with you.
Backing up slowly-Wants butt scratches.
Playing rough with other donkeys, wrestling to the ground, neck biting- That's donkey play!
Wiggling lips,stretching out neck when you scratch or groom him-he LOVES it!
Nibbling- NOT good. Do not allow. Can lead to biting.
Kicking, but not contacting you- a kick threat, NOT good. You need to work on respect with your donkey in your space.
Eating trees/barnwood- Donkeys love wood. It is tasty and they can get nutrition from it. If you don't want them to eat it, don't have it.
Not braying-Sometimes they are brayers, sometimes they are pretty quiet. If they are new to you, they may just be adjusting. They will bray eventually.
Rubbing rear on trees, barn etc, rubbing out hair- Could be many things but usually they are just itchy, could be a bit of fungus or parasites, but many donkeys get itchy spots when they are shedding especially.
Following you with ears laid far back, swishing tail-he is herding you. Not great. Maybe cute at first but could lead to dominance issues later. I do ground driving in my groundwork to instill that I drive my donkeys, they do not drive me.
Won't walk through water-That's a donkey thing. There could be monsters in there. Patience is key.
Jumped the fence without running- Donkeys can coon jump, where they clear fences much like a deer. They don't even need to run first. There are coon jumping competitions out there!
12. My donkey may be pregnant...how pregnant is she?
The only way to know is to have a vet do an ultrasound or rectal exam. Call your vet. You cannot tell by a photo.
13. What breed of donkey do I have?
While there are some breeds of donkeys (especially in the UK), in the US, we mostly categorize them by size. There are minis, standards and mammoths. 36 inches and under are minis, standards are anything between that and mammoths, which are 54/56 inches and over.