Advice Page 7

Differences Between Donkeys and Horses


As desert animals donkeys do best in a temperate climate, although they will adapt to cold climates if provided with proper shelter and extra feed. They do not mind the cold. Donkeys dislike rain, and are susceptible to pneumonia and bronchitis when chilled. In Canada during late spring, summer and early fall an open front shed will do for shelter if it is well bedded with dry straw. In winter, depending on the region of Canada, donkeys may be shut in a barn, but allowed to run out on good days, or they may be loosed housed in a comfortable shelter facing away from the prevailing wind. Some donkeys like snow, but others suffer from the cold. Guard against chilling by the wind.

Wet snow can melt down into a donkey’s coat, soaking the hair and causing the animal to chill. Snow should be scraped off a donkey when it is put inside the barn. During a rain, the horse will have water pouring off its back, but the donkey’s coat will become sodden with the rain as it soaks down to the skin. Donkeys therefore needs adequate shelter during the cold rains of spring and fall.


Donkeys can graze coarser pasture than a horse. Lush pasture is not recommended because donkeys have low energy requiremets and are prone to obesity and certain metabolic disorders such as laminitis (founder) and hyperlipaemia if allowed free choice high quality pasture.

Allow each donkey from one-half to one acre pasture per month. This will vary with the quality and amount of growth in the area, and the size of the donkey. Obviously Mammoths will need larger areas than Miniatures or Small Standards. If possible divide pastures and alternate from one pasture to another. When a pasture is at rest the long grass and weeds can be trimmed down well before the animals are to be returned to it. Harrowing the pasture will help to spread the manure and reduce parasite problems.

Donkeys will make a place where they can take dusUsand baths during warm weather. Pasture fencing can be page wire, plain or barbed wire (beware of cuts from the latter), electric or a combination of both. Donkeys quickly learn to be very respectful of electric fence.

From mid-May to early September, pasture will provide enough to meet the nutrient requirements of donkeys unless drought conditions exist. Make the change from dry food to grass slowly in the spring, to avoid health problems such as grass founder. Allow donkeys on pasture for thirty minutes per day at first then gradually increase the length of time each day, donkeys should be turned out after they have been fed dry feed. After a week, the donkey can stay on pasture all the time.

Feed and Water

Provide fortified trace mineralized salt in block or loose form in the pasture or by the shelter. Check with the district agriculturalist to learn which minerals are deficient in the feeds of the region (e.g. selenium, copper, zinc, etc). These must be added to diets for donkeys, usually in the salt or mineral mix.

Fresh water is essential. Donkeys are very particular about water being fresh and clean. They will drink from 10 to 25 litres per day. High quality hay should be fed in winter or when pastures are depleted in the fall. Legume hay (rich in alfalfa or clover) is not recommended as the only hay for donkeys because of its high protein levels. Timothy, meadow grass, brome grass or mixed legume-grass hays are suitable. Hay composed of 50 per cent timothy and 50 per cent alfalfa is suitable for donkeys that, are growing, pregnant, nursing and during the coldest months of winter.

When available, silage may be fed in small quantities with the balance of the feed to be made up of hay. Beware of mildew (grey dust) or mold on hay – They are poisonous!