Home | Establishing a Shelter | Operating a Shelter | Developing a Shelter
| Training | Farm Animal Care | Adoption and Placement
Featured Rescues | FAAN Program | Farm Sanctuary
Farm Animal Care

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.

Nutritional Needs
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 listing of
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 or loft.

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 don’t 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.

Shelter Requirements
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), and
therefore will require a bare dirt or sandy patch to roll in.
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.

Health Care
Maintenance - Donkeys are relatively easy to care for and sanitary housing, good quality pasture, nutritious food and plenty of
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 these symptoms.
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 is necessary.
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 condition.
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 they’ve 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 donkey’s 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.

Click here to return to the main animal care page.