Donkey Care

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 Things to Ponder with your donkey....


As with any donkey, the Ass-Pen Ranch recommends that all donkeys have a suitable shelter from the elements, (be it rain, snow, mud or summer heat), that they can voluntarily enter.

The shelter is a good place to leave a salt block.

Donkeys are social animals.  No donkey should ever be kept by itself.  Although some people have a donkey in with horses, donkeys don’t speak “horse”, nor do they require the same feed as a horse in regards to hay and grain.  Donkeys fare best in the company of at least one other donkey.

A grassy pasture situation with most donkeys on a 24/7 basis could eventually lead to your donkey foundering.  Mature donkeys tend to have a different metabolism than horses, and usually put on fat much easier.  Therefore, we don't recommend too much pasture, grain or high-protein hay as a regular diet.  

However you stable or house your donkeys, watch their weight!  If they develop fat pads on their neck, ribs or rump, or they occasionally get hoof abcesses, you could be putting their health and life at risk.  Contact your local equine veterinarian for a suitable diet.  Consider limiting your donkey's time on pasture by adding a dry-lot corral with shelter adjacent to the pasture and giving the donkey less grazing time daily. 

Some donkeys will develop a thick, large neck on the crest that will eventually fall slightly to one side.  We commonly call this a "broken crest", due to the donkey getting too fat.  Once a donkey has a broken crest, it will likely not be upright and symmetrical again.  Also, a severely grass foundered donkey may never be sound again.  Be perceptive, watch their weight, and ultimately your donkey will be around longer and live a healthier life. 

Just like horses, donkeys need to be vaccinated and wormed, and their hooves trimmed regularly.  Contact your veterinarian and farrier for a schedule that fits your donkey's needs.  Don't forget their teeth!  Dental problems don't happen overnight.  Either have an equine veterinarian who has expertise in modern dentistry (many don't!), or ask a certified equine dentist to evaluate your donkey's teeth.  If you ride or drive your donkey, their wolf teeth will need to be removed.  Even if you never put a bit in your donkey's mouth, there's a variety of routine dentistry and maintenance which should be evaluated.  

Thinking of clipping your donkey in late spring or early summer?   Donkeys generally don't shed out as quickly or as slick as a horse.  Once the summer heat kicks in, (which varies depending on what part of the country you live in), some people opt to clip their donkeys.  There's a wide variety of electric clippers and blades available either at your local tack store or online. 

But before you clip, here are several things to consider.  If flies are a problem in your area, the longer hair tends to protect your donkey from those pesky flies.   The comfort of your donkey should be the utmost consideration.  When competing in the showring, donkeys are given a full body clip.  But for the many donkeys who don't compete, a partial clip is a good solution.  By leaving the leg hair long, clipping just the body of the donkey works for many.  The donkeys are cooler throughout the summer and by early September, they are already beginning to get their winter hair growing back. 

Clipping takes practice.  Not all donkeys require clipping.  But shelter, flies and weather should certainly be considered, as well as fly masks and commercial fly repellents. 

What size is your donkey?   In general, donkeys come in four sizes.  Donkeys are measured at the top of the withers at maturity, with an equine measuring stick.  Some donkeys have been known to grow in height up to six years of age, but for the most part, they are considered mature at age three or four.  Once mature, here are the four common sizes of donkeys:

  • Miniature (up to 36”)

  • Standard (from 36.01” to 48”)

  • Large Standard (48.01” to 54” for jennets, 48.01” to 56” for jacks and geldings)

  • Mammoth (54.01” and over for jennets, 56.01” and over for jacks and geldings)










Bay Area Equestrian Network