How to Care for Donkeys
Caring for Donkeys: A Fact Sheet by
Folly’s Farm Home of Rest for Donkeys and Ponies
Folly’s Farm is an alternative sanctuary running on natural medicine and fed on chemical free and organic feed.
This fact sheet provides the basics. There is more to looking after donkeys which will come with hard work and lots of love.
Donkeys come from North Africa, so they do not have waterproof coats. This means you must have a shelter in your field or paddock for them to enter. In the winter have your donkeys in at night. On wet days turn them out with New Zealand rugs (waterproof rugs) on.
I say donkeys, as you must have a pair, even if you have other animals living in the field. They love humans and their own kind, as they live in herds, like horses, in the wild.
Water must be at hand at all times. Keep their water buckets scrubbed out as well as water troughs. Make sure there is no rubbish left lying around that can be eaten or cause injury.
Don’t allow your donkeys to become overweight. A salt block or salt bucket in the stable and field shelter is important so they can lick it when they like.
Good, strong fencing is a must. Post and rail is by far the best form of fencing.
Donkeys should be checked at least twice daily. Grooming is very important as well as picking out the feet which is all part of handling.
Bedding for your donkeys can be straw or shavings. I prefer shavings as they produce less dust but you would have to feed extra hay, as with a straw bed they tend to eat their bedding as well.
Please give a good deal of thought before you acquire your donkeys, they are not lawn mowers, as some people might think, to keep the grass down in the orchard, but they need extra care and attention, even more than a pony and are a commitment for 365 days of the year, including Christmas and Easter.
Also remember that before you commit yourself that if you go away on holiday then you will have to make arrangements for someone to look after your donkeys, someone who will have the knowledge and the tim. If you go out to work full time then you will have to see to your donkeys before you go to work and also again when you come home in the evening.
Donkeys are strong willed and misunderstood for many reasons, be it neglect, abuse or ignorance. They are in fact very affectionate, highly intelligent, sensitive animals and can give much happiness and reward, given the proper care and attention. Donkeys are herd animals and enjoy their own company and form strong bonds with each other.
Before you purchase your donkeys, make sure you have a farrier who will trim your donkey’s feet. For various reasons some farriers will not trim donkeys feet. Regular hoof trimming should be done every 6-8 weeks. This will depend on how fast your donkey’s feet grow.
Regular Delousing for Lice
From October to May you need to delouse your donkeys, by rubbing louse powder into their coats. Don’t forget their manes and tails. When you are near your donkeys head put the louse powder on your hand and rub into the mane just behind the ears, being careful of the donkeys eyes.
Folly’s Farm uses Barrier Louse Powder.
The biggest threat to your donkey is worms.
Your worming programme should be every 8-12 weeks alternating with your wormers. We strongly advise you to consult your vet before deciding on a course of action, as this will depend on the condition and size of your donkeys, grazing available and what other stock you have. You can also use garlic in their feed, when you are feeding, which will purify the blood and partly control the worms. The garlic is only a compliemtn to your worming programme and not an alternative.
Equine Flu and Tetanus
When your donkeys arrive you must make sure that they are vaccinated for Equine Flu and Tetanus. There are two ways of doing this. Firstly through a conventional vet, who will give a course of injections, or secondly it can be done in a homeopathic way, with a course of powders. If you choose the homeopathic way you can obtain your course of powders and further advice from:
Vet- Chris Day
Tel: 01367 710324
Remember to keep your Equine Flu and Tetanus up to date.
Your donkey’s teeth require checking annually and may need rasping. This should be done by an equine dentist.
Equine dentist – Mr T Phillips Tel. 01529 241522
Most donkeys are over fed. They have a very good digestive system that will turn their food into fat. The fat, in most cases, will firstly go to their necks and then to their bodies. Once you have this fat problem it will take a long time to remove it, which will mean very careful feeding, but not starving your donkey. A lot will depend on the grazing available. It is better to be in control of your donkeys diet than not. If you have ample grazing we suggest that you bring your donkeys in at night on a bed of shavings, with a small selection of hay and of course access to fresh water. Do not starve your donkeys as this could cause problems. Also, your donkeys will still need exercise, so you must not confine them to your shelter or stable. Make sure that the feed for your donkeys is always of good quality. Hay should always look fresh and have a sweet smell, preferably organic meadow hay which will contain many grasses and natural herb,s but make sure there is no Ragwort as this is the most poisonous when dried!!
Clean oat and barley straw will give your donkeys the roughage they require, although we do not feed straw at Folly’s Farm.
If you have to feed short feeds, please weight the food out and keep records of intake and feed, so that you can use this information as a reference. A donkey a its correct weight, with no fat areas on his or her body or neck, would require approx half a pound of hard feed with carrots sliced lengthways and approx. 1 measure of garlic powder and 1 measure of seaweed supplement with a section of hay. Once again this will really depend on your donkey’s size, age, and what work he or she is doing, plus their grazing.
If hard feed is fed, we recommend that you consult your vet for advice as it is very dangerous to over feed your donkeys and could bring about Hyperlipaomia and Laminitus which can be fatal!!
The feed we use and highly recommend is purchased from:
Simple System Ltd.
Helpline: 01728 604008
Shavings or Straw
Remove the droppings and wet patches on a daily basis, so that your donkeys have a dry bed. Never muck out while your donkeys are still in the stable as this could lead to either the donkey or yourself being injured.
Never leave your stable tools around, this can be very dangerous and your donkeys will seize on this opportunity, so always put tools in a safe place.
Scrub your water buckets and feed bowls, if you are feeding hard feed. This should be done on a daily basis.
Remember it is their house, and so like yours, the donkeys like it to be clean and tidy. Don’t you?
Pick up your donkeys droppings on a daily basis, as this will keep your pasture clean and your worm count down. Leave a number of pieces of wood around your field so that your donkeys can chew on them. This will curtails them from eating your new fences and also stop them stripping any bark off the trees.
Donkeys love rough or coarse grazing with a variety of grasses, herbs and thistles, but beware of poisonous plants like Ragwort. These plants must be dug up and burnt. Other plants which are poisonous to donkeys are Deadly Nightshade, Foxgloves, Hemlock, Laburnum, Privet, Yew and Acorns. Also beware of buttercups as some donkeys can have a reaction in the form of a rash.
A Basic First Aid Kit for your Donkey
Seek advice for contents from your vet.
It is a personal choice, but we advise you to have your donkeys freeze marked because of the increase in horse thefts.
Folly’s Farm uses:
Tel: 0870 870 7107 www.farmkey.com
A Final Note
Remember your donkeys could live to 40 or 50 years of age and could possibly outlive you!
Donkeys can suffer from Laminitis. One of the causes of this is too much rich grazing. Also stress or sudden change in your donkey’s diet could trigger off Laminitis. This is a serious and very painful disease.
Donkeys have a very low tolerance to pain and ill health, so observe your donkeys each day and if you notice a change in their behaviour there might be something wrong. Also from time to time ask your farrier or vet what they think of their condition. Your might not notice a change in your donkeys, as changes are usually gradual.
Have fun with your donkeys and be proud of the way you keep and look after them.
Folly’s Farm Home of Rest for Donkies and Ponies, Potten End, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 2QU