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Basic Donkey and Mule Care


Tips for owning "Long Ears"


   Donkeys, mules and hinnys are all loveable "Long Ears". Donkeys are native to the desert and their diet should reflect their native heritage for their health. Mules are hybrids from horse mares and donkey jacks (studs). Hinnys are produced by stud horses crossed with female donkey. Hinnys are a little more homely and small, so mules are the most popular cross. There are also other crosses from zebras but are relatively rare, though you can more or less consider them the same as any other mule.

  Long ears are for the most part, like horses. They eat similar foods. However, they need a very sparing diet and require less water. In spite of the thick winter coats, they really fare better in the summer than the winter. They do need a shelter, like a shed. They do not like rain, which seems natural for an animal that came from the desert.

    Donkeys founder quite easily, contrary to popular belief. They are more stoic and will hide the pain a little better than horses, though. Yes, their feet are a little different from horses. The shape is a little more upright and the frog is larger in proportion than horses. The walls are thicker, as well. The mules and hinnys can take after either parent, or can be middle of the road regarding hoof shape.

   Long ears talk more than horses. Donkeys, especially jacks, have a very loud bray they let loose with at feeding time or when greeting you. Long ears also have a different mind set. They have a very strong sense of self-preservation. They do not respond well to force and if they sense danger, will refuse to follow commands, hence the "stubborn" reputation. To get a Long Ear to work for you, keep your temper in check and make sure what you are asking isn't beyond their ability. A little kindness will bring out the good work ethic. I prefer to work with most donkeys over some horses because they learn quickly if you aren't hurting them and will let you trim their feet sooner than a horse with the same background. That being said, donkeys are very strong for their size and you cannot let them be pushy.


This is a healthy hoof of a miniature jenny
Healthy Mini Donkey hoof

 Hoof care and diet

    Donkey hooves need regular care. Since donkeys are stoic they tend to hide problems until they are severe. Most commonly they suffer from laminitis and severe thrush. Even if they don't need a trim, you should have their feet checked every 3 months, minimum. Some need trims every 6 weeks like a horse, many may go longer between trims. It depends on their terrain, age and diet.

   Diet needs are minimal. NO GRAIN! Prarie hay or bermuda is all they really need. A salt lick should be available, as should clean water, at all times. Rarely, they may need a VERY LITTLE alfalfa if pregnant, lactating or working hard tilling a garden or pulling a cart. They do need to nibble all the time, but try not to over feed them. Red flags are fatty crest on the neck, or lumps of fat over the back, ribs and butt.  Usually fat donkeys are foundered. Also, the "eyore" personality is a symptom of overfeeding. They become lethargic and unhealthy on rich diets. A healthy donkey should be sleek, shiney and have some get up and go. A good guideline is 1% of his bodyweight (For horses it's 2.5%). So a 500lb donkey only needs 5lbs of dry matter PER DAY. If you can divide that up and feed several times per day, so much the better. I recommend stuffing the hay into slow feed hay nets, with one net for the morning, one for the night, by dividing the whole day's rations into the nets. If there is a lot of room to spare, and your donkey is able to gobble it all down quickly, then chews on trees or the barn, you can also stuff a little CLEAN straw (with no grain heads, no mildew) in with the hay. The donkey will be slowed down even more, and he can safely nibble on the straw instead of the fence. It keeps the tummy a little fuller, the jaws a little busier and the body a little warmer in the winter when it's fermenting the straw. However, DO NOT feed straw as a main feed. It's merely a bulky, fiber and is in no way a complete diet. The hay ration is given first, then the straw. No more than a flake or two a day.  

  If your donkey is a guard animal, be sure he can't eat the cattle/goat/sheep feed. They will get fat and founder and not be able to do their job. You can make "creep" feeders that let your sheep in but keep the donkey out. If you can't avoid him sharing the feed, perhaps you should find another way to protect your livestock, like a Great Pyreneese dog.

   Donkeys do need to be dewormed like horses. Make sure you get an accurate body weight for dosing. Moxidectin (Quest) is not recommended, but the other paste wormers for horses work fine. Vaccinations for horses can be used on donkeys, as well. Tetanus is ALWAYS a good idea for any of your equids. Don't forget to have your vet look your long ears over now and then for wellness.

Donkey Heel buttress
Donkey Heels