Unusual Pets: Donkeys

Of all the pets I own, one of the most fun is our donkey. Before you consider owning a donkey, you should read this information.

General Information

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.

Housing

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.

Other Information

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.

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User Comments
  1. Ruby Hawk

    On June 6, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Donkeys are amazing animals.

  2. Brenda

    On June 7, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    donkey’s are very good companions, so friendly, but not good if you dont know what to do around animals

  3. Eddie Starr

    On June 10, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    all I would need is a few acres, I’d have a donkey, they are soo gentle and always curious, unless they are eating. (like any animal almost right?)

  4. Hannah

    On June 6, 2009 at 5:37 am

    I love donkeys,
    i think they are so cute.
    I love how interesting donkeys are.

  5. Pam in Texas

    On November 18, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    My friends have 10 donkeys as pets. All are wonderful and tame. They lip you to receive treats like carrots, crackers, apples and the like. The male donkey is currently being kept in a pasture beside the one where his mama’s and thier babies are. I think he gets bored and lonely. Does anyone know if I bought him a large plastic ball….would he roll it around and play with it? I feel sorry that he is alone and he often cries out to the others. Does anyone know of something I could buy and give to my friends so this gentle male will not feel so left out? Thanks, Pam

  6. chantelle gill

    On May 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    hi i have lots of land do you thik i could get a donkey? and plese tell me every thing you know about them like what tey eat . and is a female better to get than a male if i just want it as a pet ?

  7. Mark Gordon Brown

    On May 30, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    to chanetelle girl

    a few acres is all you need, but they do need to have a friend, we have 10 acres, 1 standard donkey, 1 llama, and a bunch of sheep.
    I find gelded males good, or jennies, the jacks can be rough if only as a pet.

  8. Cricket

    On June 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I have an opportunity to get a minature male donkey. Born only three days ago, he is presently with his mother in a very large pasture.
    The website I looked at said they should be 5 – 6 months old before weeing. I feel I need to have my hands on him long before that time.
    Is that an accurate time line for weening the little guy? I have had pet cows, horses, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, and numerous pets from the rodent family, yet I have never experienced a donkey.
    Have any suggestions as to taming him while he is with his mom on pasture? And will he bond with chickens. I have chickens and guineas.

  9. Sibeartx

    On February 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Cricket
    If the Jenny gets familiar with you – you should be able to approach the young one with no troubles. Sooner the better to start becoming “freinds”. I use a rubber curry comb. Gives them a scratch and gets the used to grooming (mine hate more aggressive combs). The comb has always worked for me. I also use oatmeal and raisin horse treats. This can backfire, because they search my pockets looking for them – even when I dont want them in my pockets.
    5 or 6 months is right. You usually have to seperate the foal to stop them weening. This is a bit stressful on the foal, so you need to spend as much time as you can with them. Start on a friday when you have the weekend free. Miniatures are really like pets – be careful not to over feed – deworm every two months – get annual vacinations – castrate if its a male before he comes active (also at 4 to 6 months). Breeding is something to work up too. If your looking for a pet a Jack is not for you.

  10. debra

    On August 18, 2011 at 8:48 am

    my big gentle draft cross is scared to death of the mini donkey at our barn, why? alpha male appendix is mean to same donkey, why? How much weight can a mini donkey hold the kids love to ride him but some kids are chunky?

  11. Mark Gordon Brown

    On August 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Some horses just don’t like donkeys! Its rather odd to be scared of an animal it probably sees often. I know that some people have said jack donkeys can be very mean, not sure if this is the case. If so that would also explain why your alpha horse is aggressive to the donkey, it wants the donkey to remember it is the boss!!

    Miniature donkeys are strong, but too many heavy kids riding them means they have a bad back as they get older, use your own judgement. I prefer not to let kid ride of they are too chunky, its just not fair to the animal.

  12. Sandie Michelle

    On April 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    We have always had horses,but just bought a young female donkey . She will be 2 in May. She will not let us touch her. I have set in her pen and did other things to be busy. She is following and watching me.I even set there and talk to her. Does anyone know any tips to earn her trust ? Is this normal , we have had her now for 2 weeks? Thank you

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