We send new owners off with a packet of information on how to care for their new donkeys. But if you are just in the research stage gathering information in order to better prepare yourself for miniature donkey ownership, then this page is for you! These are some of the most common questions we get in regards to general miniature donkey care. As always, call or email if you have questions that aren't addressed on our website!
What Do You Feed Them?
Miniature donkeys are very easy keepers. They will get very heavy if fed too much, so you really have to be careful. It is just as unhealthy for a donkey to be overweight as it is for one to be malnourished. Pasture is the best thing for any equine. But up here in the northeast part of the country, we need to supplement pasture grazing with grain and hay year round. Our typical feeding routine involves giving grain daily to our pregnant and/or nursing jennets, and weanlings and yearlings up until around age 2. We use a blend of crimped oats mixed with sweet feed purchased at our local feed mill.
We also provide a good quality grass hay that we make ourselves here on our farm. If we are having a good summer with plenty of rain to keep our pastures growing nicely, then we sometimes cut back on hay through the summer. One thing we have learned is that donkeys tend to walk away from their feed when they are full, and come back to it later. This makes it easy to adjust the amount of feed needed. If you are seeing a lot of hay leftover from one feeding to the next, cut it back a little. Likewise, if they are cleaning up every last bit from one feeding to the next, increase the amount a little.
We provide a constant mineral salt supplement to all of our donkeys. We also provide a selenium block in all pastures since discovering we are in a selenium deficient area of the country. It is also necessary to provide fresh drinking water at all times. On our farm, all of our pastures, run-in sheds and stalls are equipped with automatic waterers, ensuring a fresh, constant supply of water at all times.
What Routine Health Care Do They Need?
Donkeys get the same vaccinations that horses do. So, if you are familiar with horses, there really are no differences. We recommend discussing with your vet what vaccinations he or she advises. Some people give the minimum 5-way EWT, others continue on with West Nile, Rabies, Potomac Horse Fever, and even Strangles. Vaccinations can be somewhat of a personal preference and can depend largely on how much exposure your animals get to other animals outside of your farm. Again, discussing this topic with your vet who is familiar with your farm and your health care preferences and practices is highly recommended.
We have had issues in past years with Selenium deficiency so we do give Selenium boosters 3-4 times a year to our entire herd. We also give a Selenium shot to every newborn foal within hours of birth. We currently use Mu-Se, but E-Se (Selenium and Vitamin E) can also be used. Selenium deficiency can cause fertility issues with brood jennets, aborted foals, and can cause the death of seemingly healthy foals under 1 month of age. We have unfortunately been witness to all of these issues in years past on our farm. We learned about Selenium deficiency the hard way, through many losses, and several necropsies at Penn State University on some of those lost animals. We advise all of our customers to continue on with Selenium boosters after taking ownership of their new donkeys. It is such a little step in their care, but it makes such a huge difference in their health.
Worming is another issue that goes hand in hand with vaccinations. Some breeders and some veterinarians are suggesting equine have been "over de-wormed" and "over vaccinated" through the years and as a result are basically developing immunities to the vaccinations and dewormers. Since we began our breeding farm, we have always wormed every three months, usually with Zimectrin, Ivermectin, or Equimectrin. However, our veterinarian is now advising us to pull random fecal samples and worm only if needed. This is a new procedure for us but after much discussion, it makes sense. Our primary concern is always the health of our animals, and sometimes that means changing health care practices that have become a familiar routine. Our advice to new owners, again, is to discuss this with your own veterinarian and see what his or her opinion is on deworming.
Hoof trimming is another vital step in caring for any equine. If you are new to owning a donkey, look for a qualified Farrier in your area. Most who care for horses will also care for miniature donkeys. Most donkeys need their hooves trimmed 3-4 times per year. Some need it more often than that. Others could get away with only 2 times per year. Here on our farm we have a farrier that comes several times a year to trim our entire herd. My dad has also become good at trimming and he will keep up with those who need an extra trim here and there.
Can I Have Just One Donkey?
Generally, no. Miniature donkeys are very social animals. They buddy up in pairs, or even in groups of three, and will go to the earth's end to stay with their best friends! We've found they get very upset if separated, so we try to keep the girls with their best buddy, or buddies, at all times if at all possible. Because of this strong need to be with other equine, we will not knowingly sell one single, lone donkey without equine companion(s) waiting for them at your home. Donkeys thrive when allowed to live with other donkeys. When at all possible we try to find homes for our foals in pairs. Although rare, we have had a few people manage to get one donkey to buddy up with a pony or horse. This seems to work only when they are the only two animals present. If you take one donkey into a situation with several horses or ponies and expect that donkey to buddy up with one of them, you will be disappointed. A single, lone donkey is a lonely donkey, and should be avoided if at all possible. We do our best to avoid any of our donkeys from ever having to life a lonely life without another donkey friend!
Are You Just Looking For Pets?
If you are interested in owning a few donkeys as family pets, there are many options. Some people opt to go with two little boys. Geldings (castrated males) make wonderful pets. Geldings are easy to handle, make perfect, gentle pets, and are generally less expensive to purchase than jennets.
However, when purchasing a pet quality weanling jack from us, you are taking home an intact jack that was too young to be gelded prior to leaving our farm. Our vet will not geld a donkey until he reaches 11-12 months of age, and even then only if they are "ready". Therefore, the responsibility and costs of gelding falls to the new owner. Costs vary but on average you should expect to pay around $200 to geld a yearling jack. Pet quality jacks will be registered by us as geldings. Jack foals sold as a breeding prospect will cost more upfront than a pet quality jack and will be registered as a jack.
If you prefer owning females, jennets are just as friendly and gentle as geldings. We have had customers purchase 2 jennet foals as pets, 1 jack foal and 1 jennet foal as a pet pair, or 2 jack foals as a pet pair. Any combination works, it just depends on your personal preference. The only thing we do not encourage is keeping an intact jack as a pet. Hormones get the best of even the most gentle jack from time to time. If you are not using your boy for breeding purposes, do both him and yourself a favor and have a vet come to geld him.
Are You a First Time Buyer?
If you are looking to purchase your first miniature donkey, take your time, do some research and compare donkeys from farm to farm! If you do your homework, you'll have the best chance of finding the donkey that is right for you and your family, whether you are interested in a pet quality, show quality, or breeding quality donkey. The more you know about miniature donkeys before you buy, the better for you and the donkey! Also, ask questions! If you are dealing with a reputable breeder who is genuinely concerned about the welfare of his or her animals, he or she will take the time to answer each and every question you have. An informed, prepared new donkey owner is what we aim for when we agree to sell our donkeys to you. About 80% of our donkeys go to family homes with people who have never owned a miniature donkey before. We maintain contact with a large percentage of past customers through the years and quite often, they become our friends, not just our customers. We care about what happens to our donkeys once they leave our farm and will do our best to help you provide the best care possible by sharing our knowledge and experience.
You're New to Miniature Donkeys,
You Should Know the Basics:
Jennet - Is a female donkey
Jack - Is an unaltered
male donkey who has superior conformation, overall build, disposition and pedigree which
makes him a candidate for becoming a quality herd-sire.
- Is a male donkey that has been castrated so that he cannot, will not, and does not want
to reproduce! (Geldings make the BEST and most economical pets!)
- This is a donkey baby from the time it is born until the time it is weaned from its mother.
Weanling - A young donkey that has been separated from its mother
(a weanling will be anywhere from 4-5 months old to one year old)
Yearling - A young donkey who is between one and two years of age.
You're New to Miniature Donkeys,
You REALLY should know...
A miniature donkey does not reach maturity until the age of 3. This is important to know! Jennets should never be bred prior to the age of 3 years old because of this very reason. They need time to grow and mature, both physically and mentally before breeding.
A miniature donkey jennet will carry her foal for 11 to 13 months on average.
A miniature donkey foal averages between 19 & 25 pounds at birth, and between 18 & 25 inches in height.
Foals are weaned from their mothers from 4 to 6 months of age.
The most common color for a miniature donkey is gray-dun. Other colors include various shades of brown, black, spotted, red and frosted spotted white. A donkey listed as having MSF (masked spotting factor) means the body color is solid but the donkey has a white blaze on its face. A donkey listed as having NLP (no light points) means the donkey does not have the typical white belly, white muzzle, white around the eyes, or white inside the ears.
Life expectancy for miniature donkeys is anywhere from 25 - 35+ years, making donkey ownership an important lifelong commitment!
The average adult donkey will weigh between 250-350 pounds.
The average height of a mature miniature donkey is 32 - 34" at the withers. The maximum height for a miniature donkey to be able to be registered is 36" at the withers. Extremely small jennets (those around 30" and under) can have trouble birthing foals due to their small size.
Miniature donkeys need shelter in a barn or a 3-sided shelter in order to be able to get in from rain, wind, snow and even extreme sunshine in the summer months. They CANNOT survive without shelter of some sort!
Miniature donkeys need to be provided with enough pasture to be able to run and play and get exercise.
All miniature donkeys really want in life is your love and attention!