5 Important Tips On Keeping Donkeys (For The First Time Farmer)

Keeping donkeys can seem intimidating to someone who’s never cared for them before. But it needn’t be – as long as you use common sense!

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Important tips on how best to keep donkeys
  • Basic things they need
  • How best you can prepare yourself

But first here are the 5 most important tips on keeping donkeys.

  1. Keep donkeys with company (other donkeys or other animals)
  2. Keep their food simple (grass/hay is fine)
  3. Be patient when training
  4. Keep them stimulated
  5. Learn how to read them

We’ll dive into each of these into more depth below.

Donkeys Can Get Lonely: Try To Find Them Company

Many of the problems first time donkey owners experience when it comes to their animal, comes down to isolation.

Domestic donkeys seem to do best when they’re with others. While keeping them with different species like horses, ponies and sometimes cows, isn’t a bad idea either.

The company of other animals keeps them stimulated and their behavior on point. But, as with all things, there are exceptions.

Sometimes an aggressive donkey can be a threat to pasture mates while other times a solitary donkey can be just fine.

As a general rule though, it’s best to keep them with a stablemate or farm friend.

Don’t Overcomplicate A Donkey’s Food: Keep It Simple

The best thing to feed a donkey is grass or hay. Nutritionally-speaking, they’ll get most of everything they need from that food source alone. Additional supplements aren’t a huge necessity.

Feed them out of elevated haynets or feed bins to restrict them overeating.

Keep donkey treats simple too. Feeding them things like raw vegetables (things like carrots, celery etc) in safe quantities, is perfect for their dietary needs. Just make sure you keep tabs on their weight!

If you also keep horses and invest in things like horse treats, you can give donkeys these too. They’ll love them just as much.

Be Patient When Training A Donkey

You can’t train a donkey in the same way you might a horse. The two animals have different temperaments. Donkeys don’t respond well to being bullied or forced.

Raising a donkey to behave in the way you want is dependent on trust. End every training session on a high note and give them plenty of praise and cuddles when they respond accordingly. Patience is key.

But also be aware of herd dynamics. If a donkey is trying to test you then you have to show them who’s boss. A small bump from them should be countered with a stronger shove from you.

That way they’ll always know who’s in charge.

Donkeys Like Toys

To stop your donkeys acting out, chewing wood or braying for attention constantly, you need to provide them with stimulus. Unlike horses who are pretty non-plussed when it comes to toys, donkeys really like them.

Toys donkeys like include:

  • Hula hoops
  • Cardboard boxes (make sure you remove any adhesive tapes or metal staples)
  • Beachballs or plastic balls
  • Hoses or rubber tubing

They needn’t be complicated. You can pick up useful things on Amazon for relatively cheap…

Learn How To Read A Donkey

Knowing what to be aware of in terms of your donkey’s general health is super important.

Donkeys aren’t as expressive as other equines. For that reason it can be difficult to know when they’re experiencing pain or discomfort.

Here are a few things to pay close attention to:

  • Feet: check hooves regularly for cuts, bruises or abrasions (you might need to consider shoes)
  • Coat: look for signs of excessive damp and keep it dry if possible
  • Behavior: be vigilant for any sudden mood changes or actions that seem “out the ordinary”

It’s important to have a good vet and farrier you can call to consult about your worries as soon as they come up.

Additional Information On Keeping Donkeys

These 5 important tips aside, what else can be said about keeping donkeys that a first time buyer might want to know?

Here are a few more common questions I feel it’s important to talk about.

Are Donkeys Difficult To Keep?

Donkeys aren’t difficult to keep. Compared to horses, they can be much less maintenance. They’re more independent, less easily startled and better able to handle themselves than their equine cousins. Things that could phase a horse (other animals, vehicles etc) don’t easily bother them.

As far as other farm animals go, they could prove easier still. Their intelligence, spatial awareness and protective nature make them great companion animals. It’s unlikely they’ll get trapped or injure others.

Are Donkeys Expensive To Keep?

The expense of keeping a donkey is largely down to how you decide to care for them. Investing in top of the range shelters and expensive feed can spike the cost. But neither action is necessary.

Compared to horses they’re generally less expensive. But that’s mainly because they’re smaller and have less specific dietary needs. They also don’t need as much space.

Things that can make donkey care expensive include:

  • Fencing
  • Hay and storage
  • Water tank and heating
  • Stable or shed costs
  • Vet and farrier fees

Obviously you can work with a budget in each of these areas to drive down the overall costs.

What Is Needed To Keep Donkeys?

Basic things you’ll need to keep donkeys include:

  • A three-sided shelter or run-in barn
  • Water and food supply
  • Healthcare access

But that’s about it!

The good news is donkeys are very resilient and well adapted. Caring for them can be as basic or involved as you want. But you must meet their essential needs.

Final Thoughts

Learning how best to keep donkeys, especially if you’ve never owned one before, is crucial.

Look after your donkey and it’ll look after you.


Image Credit: @edinphoto at Unsplash

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