The average lifespan for a domestic donkey is 30 to 40 years.
However, most Sanctuary animals come from abusive factory
farm conditions and consequently may have more health problems
and shorter lifespans. On the average, adult males (jacks
if uncastrated; geldings if castrated) weigh between 450 and
700 pounds, and adult females (jennies) weigh between 400
and 550 pounds. The normal body temperature for donkeys is
between 100° and 102°F.
Water - Clean, fresh water must always be available to your
donkeys. A mature animal may consume up to 8 gallons per day,
so be sure to use a container large enough to hold that quantity.
You may want to purchase an automatic watering system as it
will greatly reduce water waste.
Salt - Salt should always be available to your donkeys. Select
horse/equine-safe salt and mineral blocks without fly-block
additives. Salt blocks and specially designed holders for
them can be purchased at most feed stores.
Feed - Donkeys rely on hay or pasture for their dietary needs.
Grain is very high in fat and therefore we do not recommend
its use for healthy donkeys. Pasture should be of a good quality
and plentiful as it provides the bulk of their dietary needs.
Before pasturing, be sure to remove all plants that are poisonous
to donkeys. Contact your County Ag Extension Agent for a complete
poisonous plants in your area. If adequate pasture is not
available, you will need to supplement with hay. Adult donkeys
will need 8 -10 pounds of hay per day. Choose a high-quality
grass hay containing 10% protein. NEVER FEED YOUR DONKEYS
MOLDY HAY, AS THEY MAY HAVE SEVERE AND POTENTIALLY FATAL ALLERGIC
REACTIONS TO MOLD. Alfalfa hay is very high protein hay and
should only be used for sick or debilitated animals. If feeding
your donkeys outdoors, place hay under cover to prevent wet
feed, which is costly and unhealthy problem. To locate a source
of hay in your area, check with your County Ag Extension Agent
for a listing of hay/straw auctions or look in the farming
section of your local paper. It is less expensive per bale
if you can buy in large quantities, therefore it is well worth
the investment to build some type of hay storage building
Donkeys can be halter trained, and we recommend doing so in
order to properly and safely handle them. We suggest the use
of a rope halter available through farm supply stores or catalogs.
Be careful when working around donkeys - though not usually
aggressive, they are very strong and accurate kickers if threatened
or upset. You should also always be aware of where they are
stepping so they dont accidentally crush your feet.
By grooming your donkeys and running your hands over their
bodies and legs, you will help accustom them to being handled.
Building - Donkey shelters do not need to be elaborate, but
must be waterproof. Depending on the climate in your location,
you may only need a three-sided structure with the open side
facing away from the prevailing winds. If you have a totally
enclosed barn, be sure it is well ventilated. This is extremely
important for both hot and cold weather. If the barn is much
over 50° in the cold weather, humidity from urine, manure
and body moisture may rise and can cause allergies and respiratory
problems. Allow at least 20 to 30 square feet for each animal.
Donkeys will roll on the ground inside their shelter (especially
when it is wet outside),
therefore all walls within the structure should be solid from
the ground up, to prevent them from getting caught underneath.
Always provide your donkeys with plenty of clean, dry straw
for bedding. Remove damp and soiled straw daily, replacing
it with fresh straw. Spreading lime (be sure to use gound
lime not feed lime) on wet areas before laying down fresh
straw this will help absorb moisture and prevent spread of
bacteria. If your barn has a cement floor rather than dirt,
provide extra bedding during winter months.
Fencing - Sturdy fencing and secure gates are a must for donkeys.
There are a variety of fences - woven wire, wood, and electric.
Prices vary greatly, so shop around. Woven wire or wood (or
a combination of the two) is generally the most practical.
Fencing should be strung taut, 10 to 14 feet between posts,
and approximately 4 feet high. We do not recommend the use
of barbed wire for donkey enclosures.
Roll Hole - Donkeys roll in the dust on the gound as part
of their normal behavior (helping to control external parasites),
therefore will require a bare dirt or sandy patch to roll
Pasture - We recommend 4 to 5 acres of land for per donkey.
This may vary, depending on the amount of hay you want to
utilize. For warm weather, the fenced area must have shade.
Maintenance - Donkeys are relatively easy to care for and
sanitary housing, good quality pasture, nutritious food and
sunshine will greatly help to reduce health problems. Regular
brushing is necessary to keep your animals skin and hair healthy
and reduce lice problems. Proper hoof care is also important;
your donkeys hooves will need to be trimmed a minimum of 2
to 4 times per year. More often if you have an older animal.
Hoof trimming should always be done by professional farrier
to avoid injury to the donkey and yourself. Donkeys may also
need to have their teeth filed down (floated) approximately
once a year to ensure that they can properly masticate their
food. Your veterinarian can check your donkeys teeth and float
them if necessary. Donkeys need to be vaccinated yearly for
rabies and several other contagious diseases - consult your
veterinarian for advice on
vaccinating your donkeys. During your daily contact with your
animals, always be on the lookout for any physical or behavioral
changes. Symptoms indicating illness include listlessness,
pale coloring of the gums, limping, loss of appetite, coughing,
or abnormal temperature. If any of these symptoms occur, consult
your veterinarian immediately.
Common health problems
Respiratory Problems - Coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge,
watery or irritated eyes, lethargy, and loss of appetite are
all possible symptoms of respiratory infection or allergies,
commonly caused by mold in the air or in the hay. Consult
your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.
Laminitis - Abrupt changes in diet (for instance, from hay
to lush grass) can cause donkeys to founder -
to develop infection in the feet. Symptoms include limping,
holding a leg up while standing, and inability to walk at
all. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you observe
Foot Abscesses - This ailment is fairly common in donkeys
living in wet climate or those who walk on graveled areas.
Foot abscesses will cause swelling of the area just above
the hoof, and are very painful. Abscesses can be treated with
antibiotics, and also by soaking the infected foot in a bucket
of warm Epsom salt solution. When soaking the foot, be sure
to start with cooler water first, slowly adding cups of warm
water so as not to startle the donkey, and use no deeper that
6 of water. Consult your veterinarian if further treatment
Sand Colic - A potentially fatal condition when sand becomes
impacted in the small intestines, due to gradual ingestion
of sand and dust while eating hay from the ground. IF YOU
LIVE IN A SANDY REGION, DO NOT FEED HAY ON THE GROUND - USE
AN ELEVATED HAY FEEDER OR PLATFORM. Many people in these regions
routinely add psyllium to the feed to further prevent this
Rainscald - This painful condition can occur during extended
periods of rain or in regularly wet regions, when the hair
and the skin of the donkey is not allowed to dry out. Symptoms
usually occur along the animals back, and include swelling,
bald patches, hair coming out in clumps, and a burned appearance
to the skin. Rainscald can be easily prevented by providing
proper shelter for your donkeys, and drying them off if theyve
chosen to be out in the rain for extended periods.
Arthritis - As donkeys grow older, they may suffer from arthritis,
just as people do. Unfortunately it is often incurable by
you can ease your donkeys discomfort with pain reliever
and some success can be had with dietary supplements, vitamins,
homeopathic remedies, herbal treatments, and heat wraps to
affected joints. Consult your veterinarian for appropriate
pain relief and other
Parasites - Though good sanitation will greatly reduce parasite
problems, you should still have your donkeys checked regularly.
Fecal tests should be done every 3 months, and donkeys treated
according to the results. Oral worming pastes containing Ivermectin
are available at most feed stores or through supply catalogs.
DO NOT USE INJECTABLE IVERMECTIN ON DONKEYS, AS FATAL REACTIONS
HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO OCCUR. Earmites are also a potential problem
for donkeys - we recommend checking and cleaning your donkeys
ears once a month with clean gauze pads wetted with mineral
oil and water. Earmite medications are also available at most
feed stores or through supply catalogs.
to return to the main animal care page.