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In the eclectic world of animal companionship, donkeys often remain an unexplored gem.
While cats and dogs dominate household pet narratives, donkeys, with their gentle demeanor and unique personalities, are carving out their own niche in the hearts of animal lovers.
But do these docile creatures make good pets?
Venturing beyond the typical pet paradigm, this guide delves into the pros and cons of having a donkey as a companion, addressing their needs, temperaments, and the rewards of sharing your life with one.
Do Donkeys Make Good Pets?
Donkeys can make excellent pets to own, however, it is important that you know all about the care and attention donkeys need to thrive. Though they can make wonderful animals to own, they are not for everyone.
Owning a donkey can be very rewarding, as they are intelligent animals that can form strong bonds with their owners. While donkeys are similar to horses, they are not the same and therefore require care specialized to their specific needs.
If you have ever considered owning a donkey keep reading to learn if they are right for you.
Donkeys are sociable animals that can make great family pets. They are generally gentle creatures that enjoy affection. Donkeys are generally hardy, easy-keepers that can make an awesome addition to your barn.
Caring for Donkeys
Like horses, donkeys will need routine visits from a veterinarian to receive vaccines and make sure they are in good health. Donkeys can be stoic, so it can be difficult to recognize when they are ill, which is why regular vet checkups are important. However, donkeys are typically hardy and healthy animals.
In addition, donkeys also need regular visits from a farrier. Donkeys should also have their teeth floated as well, with annual checkups.
Regular brushing is also key to a healthy coat. Your donkey should be halter broke and comfortable around other people so it can safely receive the care it needs.
A donkey has different nutritional needs than a horse. While horses are grazers donkeys are browsers.
Donkeys are more efficient at digesting feed and will eat plants that horses will not. They can extract the maximum amount of nutrients from their food. Donkeys can even eat shrubs and woody vegetation that horses don’t.
They can thrive on low-quality forage, eating hay, grass, and even straw. Donkeys are prone to becoming overweight, so it is best to keep them off of lush pastures.
Donkeys should have a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein, sugars, starch/carbohydrates, and calories. They will do well on a diet of barley straw or oat straw and carefully monitored access to grass. Donkeys can also benefit from the addition of hay to their diet.
In summer, a donkey’s diet should typically be about 75% straw and 25% of hay/haylage or grass and 50% straw and 50% hay/ haylage in the winter. Meadow hay and seed hay are the most suitable types of hay for donkeys. Concentrated feeds should generally not be a regular part of a donkey’s diet.
Donkeys should consume about 1.5% of their body weight in forage a day. This may vary based on factors such as a donkey’s age, activity level, and health condition.
Donkeys should always have access to fresh, clean water. A mineral or salt block intended for equines can be provided at free will.
Donkeys tend to be affectionate animals, forming bonds with humans and their herd mates. They are smart, personable animals and are often docile and gentle.
Unlike horses, donkeys tend to stand their ground when faced with a potentially dangerous situation. Instead of fleeing, they will kick, stomp, or even bite the threat. You should always keep an eye on your dogs around donkeys as donkeys may attack them if they perceive your dog as a threat.
Due to this, donkeys can become territorial so it is important to slowly introduce new animals to their herd. It is also often harder to read the body language of a donkey compared to a horse, so it is important to respect their space.
Donkeys are often associated with being stubborn but this is actually just their strong sense of self-preservation. Donkeys like to stop and assess a situation before deciding what to do in the given circumstances.
Donkeys can also be quiet vocal animals. In addition to braying, they can also growl, grunt, squeal, whuffle and snort. If you want a donkey, be prepared for how loud they can be.
Shelter for Donkeys
Donkeys can be kept in a stall with regular turnout or in a pasture with a three-sided shed. They should have plenty of room to roam to keep them happy and prevent boredom. You generally want a minimum of 0.5 acres per donkey.
You may need to donkey-proof your pasture as some are prone to chewing wood or being clever escape artists.
Donkeys can not withstand extreme cold like horses can and should be blanketed during winter. If your donkey lives outside you may want to keep them in a stable during the winter to protect them from the cold, snow, and wind.
Donkeys are often more affordable than horses. They can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand. Price will vary based on factors such as age, breed, and training.
Are Donkeys Good Companions For Other Animals?
Donkeys are sociable animals and should be kept with other donkeys, horses, or mules. Some people will even keep donkeys with sheep or cattle.
Donkeys typically don’t do well living on their own. They are sociable animals and can become lonely, sad, and depressed.
Donkeys form strong bonds with other donkeys and even horses. Due to this, they should be kept with herd mates to ensure their happiness.
On average, donkeys live between 27-40 years old, with the average donkey living to its mid-30s. In some cases, a donkey can live well past the age of 40. It is important to take to realize that owning a donkey is a long-term commitment.
Exercising a Donkey
Daily turnout often provides adequate exercise for a donkey. Providing enrichment for your donkey can be very beneficial for a donkey’s mental and physical health.
Good items for enrichment include jolly balls, likits, hay balls, equine puzzles, traffic cones, pool noodles, slow feeders, and activity balls. This will help keep your donkey entertained and get them moving. Donkeys can also benefit from hand walking.
Donkeys can make excellent guard animals for cattle, sheep, and other livestock. Since donkeys tend to stand their ground, they will fight off a perceived threat such as a coyote or fox.
Some ranchers will use donkeys to protect their herds of livestock. However, it is important to slowly introduce your donkey to a herd of livestock so they can become acquainted with one another and gain each other’s trust.
Donkeys can be ridden but are often not large enough to carry an adult rider. They can generally safely carry 20% of their body weight.
Donkeys can also be trained to drive a cart and are more commonly used for driving than riding. In fact, in some parts of the world working donkeys are still regularly used to pull carts. Some people will even enter their donkeys in driving competitions.
Donkeys can also make great pack animals. For overnight trail rides, donkeys can make trusty companions to carry your supplies.
Many people simply keep donkeys as companion animals. With the right care, they can make a wonderful addition to your barn.