Do mini donkeys protect animals? One of the reasons you were thinking of adopting a mini donkey is because you heard they could protect livestock. You have a few farm animals that you worry about, and you think a mini donkey would be the perfect solution for maintaining their wellbeing. Will this work? Can your mini donkey keep these animals safe?
Mini donkeys cannot protect or defend livestock because these animals are not big enough to fight off predators. However, full-sized donkeys can be used as guard animals instead.
In this article, we will discuss the role that full-sized donkeys play when it comes to protecting livestock. We’ll also provide some tips for keeping your own mini donkey safe from predators. Keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it.
Do Mini Donkeys Protect Livestock?
Farmers cannot be in the field 24/7 to watch their livestock. They have jobs to do and personal life to enjoy, not to mention they also have to sleep sometime. A guard animal can fill in the gaps, watching over the livestock and even protecting them if predators come by.
Most guard animals are dogs, but some farmers use donkeys as well. Should you do the same?
A full-sized donkey is fine to utilize for livestock protecting duties. That said, a miniature donkey is not appropriate for this job due to its size. They don’t weigh enough to fight off predators, which puts the mini donkey and your livestock at risk.
In this section, let’s talk more about how full-sized donkeys can protect livestock. It may take training, but with time, these animals can warm up to their new duty.
You can use either a male or female donkey as a guard animal, but it’s recommended they’re 36 to 48 inches tall and weigh somewhere in the ballpark of 400 to 500 pounds. As you can see then, miniature donkeys need not apply. These smaller donkeys may only scrape by at the 400-pound mark when fully grown, but some are about 200 pounds lighter than that.
The earlier in the full-sized donkey’s life you begin them watching over the livestock, the better. By raising your donkey with the animal(s) you want them to protect, they have the chance to assert themselves as the leader right away. This creates a lasting dynamic the livestock will follow.
Donkeys tend to have a sense of territoriality, so if another creature comes onto their turf, they’ll want them off. These animals can see very well, too, so they’re more likely to pick up on a threat early.
The Downsides to Using Donkeys as a Livestock Protector
As mentioned, farmers traditionally rely on dogs over full-sized donkeys to manage the safety of their livestock. It turns out, there may be a reason for that. While there is indeed a multitude of benefits to having full-sized donkeys (note, not miniature donkeys) be guard animals, it’s not all great news.
Here are some negatives to keep in mind if you forge ahead with your donkey.
Donkeys Don’t Always Protect Other Animals, Only Themselves
Don’t get us wrong. Your average full-sized donkey does have the capacity to keep animals safe. Whether it decides to do that is up to your donkey and only them. Some farmers who have used donkeys as guard animals have found that if a predator threatens the other livestock, the donkey won’t jump into action.
Should the predator target the donkey themselves, then they’ll fight back. As you can imagine, this is quite problematic. Your donkey is supposed to be the guard animal here, the protector, and they’re only doing their job when it comes to them. You could have a lot of dead or severely injured livestock as a result of this serious protective error.
If They’re Outside of Their Territory, Their Protective Skills Can Falter
We said before that full-sized donkeys are quite territorial. They care about that territory and protecting it at all costs. That said, their vigor can sometimes disappear if you move them outside of that territory. Now, the donkey doesn’t really care what happens. Again, this is not ideal if you’re using the donkey for protecting your livestock.
Donkeys Could Runoff in the Face of a Threat
This one varies depending on the personality of the donkey. Some can be quite brave, choosing to stand up and defend themselves if a predator gets too close to their territory and livestock. Others can’t handle threats as well and will do anything to escape.
The livestock are now sitting ducks, with nothing and no one at all to safeguard them from the hungry predator. They’ll probably end up as lunch or dinner.
The size of a donkey can also determine whether they stick around or bolt. Donkeys aren’t stupid, and they know if a predator outsizes them. Then their self-preservation instincts kick in, and those instincts tell them to get out of dodge.
That’s one very great reason why using a miniature donkey as a guard animal is so ill-advised. A predator easily outsizes the mini donkey and could kill them in a confrontation.
They Can’t Fight off Some Creatures
There are certain animals that full-sized donkeys cannot successfully combat. These include mountain lions, feral hogs, bears, and wolves. That’s not to say that a donkey can’t do some serious damage with its gnashing teeth and strong hind and front legs. Once you get into the territory of predators that are bigger than the donkey though, it’s a losing battle.
For some reason, donkeys also won’t fend off raccoons and other small creatures. Maybe they don’t see them as threats, but a donkey could stand idly by while these animals attack your livestock.
Donkeys don’t do well against birds either, especially bigger ones. If you have problems with hawks or even eagles around your farm, a donkey does not make a good guard animal for you.
If There’s More Than One Predator, the Donkey Doesn’t Stand a Chance
While donkeys are pretty good fighters, if they’re outnumbered, it doesn’t spell great news for your donkey. Even if the donkey could normally take down the predator if there was only one of them, such as with wild dogs, they can’t handle three or four wild dogs.
With your donkey taken out, this again leaves the livestock as the next snack for this pack of dogs or other predators.
They Don’t Always Let You Know There’s a Problem
If a dog senses danger, they will likely begin barking their heads off. This is their way of telling you to get here quick because there’s something going on. As for donkeys? Well, they’re not mute animals. They can bray, but whether they will is up for debate. Some will begin braying like a dog would bark so you know there’s a threat. Others will stay silent even if predators are invading your farm.
This is troublesome, as it’s possible you could have helped and saved some livestock if only you knew there was something wrong.
They May Fight Your Livestock Instead of Protecting Them
Sometimes the biggest threat to your livestock is the full-sized donkey themselves. Territorial jacks or males might be more likely to exert themselves over smaller livestock, but female donkeys or jennies can do it, too.
Not only that, but some farmers have witnessed their donkey trying to get in the way when a livestock animal is giving birth. This can cause complications for the mother and result in the death of the offspring, neither of which you want.
They Don’t Do Well in All Terrain
There’s also the matter that donkeys don’t like every type of terrain you’d find on a farm. If you have a lot of heavy trees and brush or other rocky, tough terrain, then the donkey might opt to stay away from those areas. For that reason, it’s not recommended you use a donkey to corral groups of goats or sheep. They probably won’t bring every last animal back.
Can You Train a Mini Donkey to Be More Protective?
Miniature donkeys can exhibit many of the same traits and behaviors of full-sized donkeys. In a perfect world, that’d make them a good guard animal, but again, there’s the very real size issue to worry about.
Even if you only raised small livestock on your farm, it’s not the animal maintenance that mini donkeys fail at. They can be plenty protective, at least in that they’d oversee your livestock like a full-sized donkey would.
The problem arises when predators come around. Your mini donkey can’t do a thing to ward them off. Sure, maybe the mini donkey could successfully combat a racoon, but even a feral dog would have the size advantage.
It’s not about training them one way or another, then. Using a mini donkey as a guard animal is a bad idea all around. Not only do you put the lives of your livestock at risk, but the life of your mini donkey as well. It’s much better to use a full-sized donkey or even a dog as a guard animal.
Tips for Keeping Your Mini Donkey Safe from Predators
Has all this mention of predators gotten you a little nervous? You want to take as many precautions as possible to keep your mini donkey safe and sound. Here are some tips for doing just that:
- Have a guard animal of some sort. Your mini donkey would be part of the livestock crew that would rely on the guard animal to stay safe from predators.
- Get your mini donkey a full, four-sided enclosure. This should have a door you can open and close to let your mini donkey out for exercise. The enclosure should also have a window or opening for light and ventilation.
- Make sure you keep the enclosure secure. Never leave the door ajar or the window open, as some predators could try to jump in and feast.
- Watch the guard animal from a distance for a while to see how they interact with your mini donkey. Are they sociable around the animal or are they violent and threatening towards it?
- If it’s the latter, you may want to consider either training the guard animal or using a different one.
Mini donkeys can’t protect livestock because they’re too small to successfully fight off predators. Their full-sized brethren are often used on farms for this very duty. Admittedly, donkeys sometimes care more about themselves more than the livestock, and some will flee from a fight.
If you really strive for it though, you can raise a full-sized donkey to make your farm a safer place.
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