Far from the stubborn cantankerous beasts of burden depicted throughout history, donkeys are gentle farm animals who enjoy associating with people. When a donkey's needs are met and he is properly cared for, they make excellent pets.
Choosing a Pet Donkey
The donkey is a breed of its own; only two purebred donkeys produce a donkey foal. Terms often used for donkeys include burro, jackass, ass, jennet, mammoth jackstock and standard. Male donkeys, or jacks, who have not been gelded do not make good pets. Donkey owners recommend having at least two donkeys because they thrive with companionship. Donkeys come in a variety of coat colors with the gray-dun color the most common. Donkeys come in different sizes the smallest being the miniature, which is less than 36 inches, and the largest is the mammoth jackstock, which is 14 hands or higher.
Prior to domestication, donkeys walked many miles daily to fulfill their nutritional needs. They often become obese in the lazy life of captivity. Pet donkeys should have regular exercise, along with their fulfilling diet. An overweight donkey may contract laminitis, causing chronic veterinary issues and possibly death. To keep track of your pet's weight, purchase a weigh band from the local feed store. Many foods are harmful for donkeys and should be kept out of reach. These deadly foods include chicken feed, bread, rotting fruit, horse nuts, pellet pet foods and grains. Donkeys need fresh water available and often drink 6 to 8 gallons a day. Pet owners often use a refillable tub or barrel for water. Donkeys require mineral supplements in the form of a mineral-lick, placed near their water supply.
Shelter and Living Space
Much like horses, donkeys prefer a farm-like setting with fields of grass for grazing. It's recommended to keep one donkey per one acre of land. Donkeys are escape artists; secure fencing is essential. Donkeys need a sheltered stall to get out of the weather, feel protected and as a safe place to sleep. Donkeys do not like to get their feet wet and should not be kept in standing water. The floor of their stall should be dirt and covered with a layer of insulating straw in the winter. Cleaning is easier with a dirt floor; only the droppings need daily removal as urine soaks into the ground.
Donkeys need regular grooming, but also frequent farrier and veterinary attention. Your donkey's hooves grow continuously and his feet need trimming every 12 weeks. Donkeys contract a variety of internal worms from the fecally contaminated grasses they eat and should be wormed quarterly. Your farrier, or veterinarian, can worm your donkey using worming paste. Your pet donkey's teeth need to be examined by an equine dentists every two years. Donkeys are always at risk for a lice infestation. Delousing powder should be used every three weeks. If lice persist, even after delousing, call your veterinarian promptly. Flies cause a host of problems for your donkey and equine fly repellent should be used regularly, avoiding his eyes. Roll on repellent can be used around sensitive areas.