Keeping Pet Donkeys
I never thought of a donkey as a pet, until I got my first one. Donkeys are not quite the same as horses and require a special touch, but with care soon will bond to you better than a dog. This a guide on how to care for your donkey friend.
- General Information on Donkeys
- Selection and Purchase
- Feeding and General Care
- Other Information and Links
General Information on Donkeys
Donkeys are often kept as guard animals for sheep or goats, they have a strong dislike for dogs, so will protect the sheep from coyotes and wild packs of dogs. They can be taught not to harm your pet dog, but any new comer should take caution.
Some donkeys are used to guard against human prowlers, because a donkey will usually approach anything new in their area, and will act accordingly to the threat.
Donkeys are best known as beasts of burden, used to carry things from place to place. Sadly in some areas they are treated poorly due to their good nature and desire to have human attention.
A tame donkey will be personable and friendly, they will call you if you are late for feeding and will often call to you when you are not giving them deserved attention.
A lot of people mistake their intelligence for stubbornness, as donkeys like to "think" before the "do"
A donkey is also called a Burro, or an Ass.
Selection and Purchase
Donkeys come in a variety of sizes, from the small miniature, to the standard and the larger Mammoth. Most often it is the small minis who are kept as pets. They indeed are the cutest.
If you are not experienced in training, then I would not suggest you get a donkey who has not been handled. Make sure you get a tame one who is very halter broke. They can, and will, kick without warning, so if you are not alert and don't know what you are doing a green, or untrained, donkey will be tricky for you to deal with. Make sure the donkey is polite about having its feet picked up and trimmed. This is one area I often find fault with, I see loads of donkeys for sale with their feet in terrible condition. The first thing I look at is the feet. Bad feet = no sale.
Next, look at their neck, donkeys get fat on their necks, a bit is acceptable, but if there is a neck roll and it hangs down sideways you may want to avoid that animal, especially if you are considering going to shows. Otherwise plan on giving your new pet some exercise.
Donkeys are long lived (lifespan over 30 years) so do not be scared off of buying one over the age of 10.
You may want to stay away from Jacks, which are ungelded male donkeys, these will be more aggressive and harder to handle. Gelded donkeys actually make the best pets. A female donkey is called a Jenny, and while they make good pets, they are usually more expensive, and can be moody from time to time.
You can buy donkeys at livestock auctions, or privately. In some places, there are animal rescues that adopt out donkeys. You will find you can get lower prices from the rescues and usually get honest information. If you are unsure of livestock auctions in your area, contact a local livestock feed store and they will know. Where I live they have odd livestock auctions where among the other animals you will have many donkeys.
If breeding, or attending shows, is important to you, make sure to get a registered animal. Remember registration is no proof of quality, if you want a quality animal be sure to check its show records.
Most people do not keep their donkeys in a barn but rather have them on pasture, with a shed for sun and rain protection. They must be properly fenced. They can be kept in a stall, but because of their intelligence and tendency to get bored easy, they are usually happier outdoors. A happy donkey will have at least 2 acres of land, and a friend. They can be kept with sheep, goats, horses, llamas, cattle, and of course, other donkeys.
Jacks will fight if kept with each other, especially when Jennys are around, and will even fight with stallions.
Feeding and General Care
Donkeys are “easy keepers” which means that for their size they do not require a lot of food. They get fat easy and are prone to a problem called founder, or laminitis, it is for this reason they should not be given any grain or additional supplements and tend to do well on pasture or hay.
Like all animals, donkeys, must have access to fresh water at all times.
Talk to a veterinarian in your area to find out what vaccinations or deworming your donkey will require.
Donkeys require regular hoof trimming, but not all farriers are willing to trim donkeys feet, some refuse to do miniature animals because of the bending involved. It is very important your donkey is taught to stand well for the farrier because a good donkey farrier may be hard to find. They only require trims, and do not need shoes.
Donkeys enjoy attention, but their personalities are not the same as horses. I can only describe them as being more opinionated than a horse.
Other Information and Links
Many people think of donkeys as stubborn, in fact they are extremely intelligent and a stubborn donkey is probably thinking to itself “Do I want to do this?”, “Why should I do this?”, or “Is this entirely safe?”. If your donkey resists doing something, it is not his or her fault. You need to find a better way to ask, I have found that bribes work extremely well. However remember if they don't think something is safe, they may be trying to protect you, as well as themselves.
Often smaller donkeys are referred to as “burros” .
Donkeys make a sound called “braying” which is very loud.
Good alternative pets to donkeys are mules, horses, llamas, or miniature cattle.
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