I must say out of all our animals, and we have lots, our donkey is one of my favorites. They have a personality that you would not expect, they truly adore their people and are actually quite wonderful to own. Donkeys are commonly kept as guard animals for sheep, they have a strong dislike for dogs, so will protect the sheep from coyotes and wild packs of dogs. They can be taught not to harm your pet dog, but any new comer should take caution. Some donkeys are even used to guard against human prowlers, because a donkey will usually approach anything new in their area, and will act accordingly to the threat. It is really quite amazing.
A tame donkey will be personable and friendly, they will call you if you are late for feeding and will often call to you when you are not giving them deserved attention. They are ridable and often used as beasts of burden to carry things.
Selection and Purchase
Donkeys come in a variety of sizes, from the small miniature, to the standard and the larger Mammoth. Most often it is the small minis who are kept as pets. They indeed are the cutest.
If you are not experienced in training, then I would not suggest you get a donkey who has not been handled. Make sure you get a tame one who is very halter broke. They can, and will, kick without warning, so if you are not alert and don’t know what you are doing a green or untrained donkey will be a disaster for you to deal with. Make sure it is polite about having its feet picked up and trimmed. This is one area I often find fault with, I see loads of donkeys for sale with their feet in terrible condition. The first thing I look at is the feet. Bad feet = no sale.
Next look at their neck, donkeys get fat on their necks, a bit is acceptable, but if there is a neck roll and it hangs down sideways you may want to avoid that animal, especially if you are considering going to shows. Otherwise plan on giving your new pet some exercise.
Donkeys are very long lived so do not be scared off of buying one over 10 years, as 30 years of age is not unusual. Stay away from Jacks, or ungelded male donkeys, these will be more aggressive and harder to handle. Gelded donkeys actually make the best pets. A female donkey is called a Jenny, and while they make good pets, they are usually more expensive.
You can buy donkeys at livestock auctions, or privately. In some places, there are animal rescues that adopt out donkeys. You will find you can get lower prices from the rescues and usually get honest information. If you are unsure of livestock auctions in your area, contact a local livestock feed store and they will know. Where I live they have odd livestock auctions where among the other animals you will have many donkeys.
Most people do not keep their donkeys in a barn but rather have them on pasture, with a shed for sun and rain protection. They must be properly fenced. They can be kept in a stall but because of their intelligence and tendency to get bored easy, they are usually happier outdoors. A happy donkey will have at least 2 acres of land, and a friend. They can be kept with sheep, horses, llamas, cattle, and of course, other donkeys.
Feeding and Care
Donkeys are “easy keepers” which means for their size they do not require a lot of food. They get fat easy and are prone to a problem called founder, or laminitis, it is for this reason they should not be given any grain or additional supplements and tend to do well on pasture or hay.
Like all animals they must have access to fresh water at all times.
Talk to a veterinarian in your area to find out what vaccinations or deworming your donkey will require.
Donkeys enjoy attention, but their personalities are not the same as horses. I can only describe them as being more opinionated than a horse.
Many people think of donkeys as stubborn, in fact they are extremely intelligent and a stubborn donkey is probably thinking to itself “Do I want to do this?”, “Why should I do this?”, or “Is this entirely safe?”. If your donkey resists doing something, it is not his or her fault. You need to find a better way to ask, I have found that bribes work extremely well. However remember if they don’t think something is safe, they may be trying to protect you, as well as themselves.
Often smaller donkeys are referred to as “burros” .
Donkeys make a sound called “braying” which is very loud.
Good alternative pets to donkeys are mules, horses or miniature cattle.