12 Not So Obvious Things Every New Mini Donkey Owner Needs to Know

When I first brought my rescued mini donkeys’ home, there were A LOT of questions I had that needed to be answered.  I was rescuing these animals, and I wanted to make sure they were able to live their best life, it would have been awful to find out that I wasn’t doing things properly!  I spent a lot,  I mean A LOT of time researching and learning the best ways to care for my new friends and make sure the lead happy, healthy lives.

Important things to know about mini donkeys:

  1. Mini Donkeys Are Very Social
  2. Mini Donkeys Are Best Kept in Pairs
  3. Mini Donkeys Should Be Weighed Frequently
  4. Mini Donkeys Are Quite Different From Horses
  5. Mini Donkeys Enjoy Toys
  6. Mini Donkeys Get Strong Separation Anxiety
  7. Mini Donkeys Are Trainable
  8. Mini Donkeys Can Be Trained To Guard Livestock. Sort of.
  9. Mini Donkeys Need To Be Wormed
  10. Mini Donkeys Need Selenium
  11. Hoof Maintenance is Critical
  12. I also made a list of terms that related to mini donkeys that we need to be aware of

While the list could go on forever, these are some things you absolutely MUST know about your miniature donkey, that aren’t necessarily obvious.

Mini Donkeys Are Very Social

Mini Donkeys get bored easily – and that’s when they become noisy and/or destructive.  If your donkey has been around favorable humans, they will soon crave human attention as well as attention and interaction from other minis.  You’ll find that your donkeys will be as excited to see you as you are excited to see them.  Keep in mind, your donkey will miss you when you’re not around.  Do Not buy a miniature donkey if you don’t have time for it – they will become unhealthily destructive to themselves and property.  That being said, a happy mini can be one of the most rewarding animals to be around.

Mini Donkeys Are Best Kept in Pairs

Unlike normal sized donkeys who can usually bond easily and well with a horse or pony, your miniature donkey needs a similar sized, like-minded friend.  A pair of mini donkeys will be much happy and content together – finding ways to play together and run around.  Mini donkeys will happily eat together, sleep in the same area and – most importantly – they will be MUCH easier to live with than a sad and lonely donkey that spends it’s time getting into mischief, chewing on fences, breaking feeders and making noise.   Donkeys love being around their human friends and influencers just as much as a single donkey, so don’t feel like you’ll be left out.  Think of it as double the fun and double the happiness for your donkey.  If you provide a pair of mini donkeys plenty of ways to frolic and play, they will provide hours of entertainment for themselves, as well as anyone who happens to be in their view.  One thing to note, a PAIR of mini donkeys can potentially be great companions for a single lonely horse, but only a pair of donkeys, not single, which could turn to fighting and food theft.

Weigh Your Donkey

Mini Donkeys that are allowed to graze in a field all day long can get overweight quite rapidly if they are allowed any type of treats or grain with added sugars such as molasses. Once a mini donkey has become overweight, it can be tough to get them back on track to healthy size.  Regular measurement of your donkey’s weight and size is a must.  Be sure and keep an accurate record so you can see any fluctuations over time and make adjustments before weight gain – or loss – becomes an issue.

Weighing your donkey isn’t as difficult as you might think.  Thankfully, there is a device known as a “weight tape,” which is a nifty measuring tool that is basically a soft tape measure – only calibrated in pounds (or kilograms) instead of inches.  You can purchase a weight tape at a tack shop, farm supply or online at horse.com, rural king or tractor supply.  By keeping a weight tape on hand, you will easily be able to measure your mini donkey’s weight.  The tape does take a little practice (for both you and the donkey!) but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to estimate any weight changes in a matter of minutes.

One note, measuring tapes are approximate, not exact like a scale would be.  They are GREAT for measuring fluctuations in weight, but do not provide an exact measurement of the donkey’s actual weight.  DO NOT use a weighing tape for dosing medications or strong dose dewormers.

A fully-grown miniature donkey should weigh between 200 and 375 pounds (90 and 170 kilograms).

Understand That You Have A Mini Donkey, Not A Horse

Mini Donkeys Vs. Horses – Unlike horses, mini donkeys are not nearly as skittish, and in turn, are often much more curious. Miniature donkeys will very seldom run away if they are spooked by a strange noise (or a rock, which once caused me to get bucked off one of my horses).  Calm, cool and intelligent, a mini donkey does not require a lot of space, eats much less food and over time will be naturally inclined to hang out and be by your side whenever possible.

Mini Donkeys Enjoy Toys

A bored donkey is a naughty donkey. A naughty donkey is frequently destructive to it’s surrounding area, chewing on anything it can gets its teeth on.  But, there’s an easily adaptable solution to help cure their boredom – toys!  Yes, mini donkeys love playing with toys, and honestly, it’s quite fun to watch!  Toss a large ball, hoola hoop or an old tire into their pen and they will entertain themselves and stop chewing on your barn!  The list of things they will play with is nearly endless, just be sure they are safe from nails, staples or anything that may cause harm to your donkeys.

Mini Donkeys Suffer Separation Anxiety

As social creatures, donkeys crave companionship.  Just like people, mini donkeys form strong bonds with their caretakers or mini donkey companion.  When a miniature donkey is separated for whatever reason from its companion, the results can be devastating and even harmful to the donkey – and potentially whatever stands in its way of getting back to the companion.

A mini donkey separated from its companion can experience hyperventilation, anxiety, pacing and may try to jump fences.  If cornered, they may try to push thru the barrier (which could be barbed wire fence or YOU!).

They are Trainable

As fun as mini donkeys are to have around, they can also be trained to work with you. Mini Donkeys don’t learn the same way as horses.  They are more stubborn and cannot be forced or bullied into doing what you want them too.   That being said, if a mini donkey trusts you and is comfortable around you, they will do almost any task you give them.  It is easy to train a mini donkey to pull a small cart around the farm, or in a parade or some type of event.  Training a mini donkey to allow small children to ride it is also very common.  Mini donkeys love any positive attention they can get, which makes training them to perform certain tasks as rewarding to them as it is fun for you.

Mini Donkeys can be Trained as Guard Animals

Much like regularly sized donkeys, a miniature donkey will protect its companions and surroundings from harmful creatures like dogs or coyotes.  A 300 pound mini donkey will guard a small calf the same way as a large donkey; however, the donkey will most likely only be able to alert and ward off a coyote or dog – a whole pack of animals will result in injury to the small donkey which makes another case for keeping mini donkeys in groups of two or more.

Importance of Worming Mini Donkeys

It is vitally important to keep your donkeys on a proper worming schedule for proper health, weight and safety.  Make sure to at least worm your donkeys in January, April, June, August and October – even if your donkey is healthy and happy, it is important to ensure it maintains proper gut health.

Most veterinarians recommend a “follow-up” dose ten days after the initial dose.  The second dose is a safety precaution and follows the same product and dosing guidelines as the original dose.

Consult your veterinarian for proper dosing and brand recommendations.  Dosing is determined per weight of the animal; however, dosing an animal that has not been wormed in quite some time requires proper caution and can result in a sick mini – or even worse if the dose is not administered properly.  Again, consult your veterinarian before making any worming decisions.

Mini Donkeys Need Selenium Blocks

A lot of soil is deficient of a trace mineral known as selenium.  Selenium deficiency can cause mild or sometimes even severe problems in mini-donkeys.  Oppositely, too much selenium can be poisonous.  Supply your donkeys with a salt-block type supplement of selenium, DO NOT use liquid, pastes or pill versions!)

“Equine that are overdosed with selenium even once can develop acute selenium poisoning.”
“Selenium is considered a trace mineral, one that the body needs in small amounts.”
HOBBY FARMS MAGAZINE, “Selenium Shortfall”, Dr. Aaron Tangeman, Sept/Oct 2006, P26-27

A veterinarian will help you find the right selenium balance for your animals if the land the donkeys are feeding on may be deficient.

Hoof Maintenance is Critical

Every 3-4 months, your donkey will require a farrier visit.  While it is possible to trim your donkey’s hooves yourself, care must be taken to learn about proper hoof management.  From experience, we’ve learned, this is a practice best performed by a professional.

Whether you trim the animal’s hooves yourself or hire a farrier, it is important for the overall health of the animal to have proper length hooves.  Improperly cared for hooves can lead too disease, walking issues and pain.

A farrier will be able to prevent, diagnose or cure any issues that may arise.

Important Mini Donkey Terminology

As I researched mini donkeys, I found some important terms to know:

Jennet:  Female
Jack:  Male (not castrated)
Foal:  Baby donkey
Gelding: Castrated male (done at 6 months)
Mule: The offspring of a jack with a mare (female horse)
Hinny: The offspring of a stallion (male horse) with a jennet
Imprint:  Positive human interaction at birth (Never forgotten by a donkey foal)
Withers: Point at the shoulder where the neck meets the back (this is the point at which height is measured)

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