When caring for outdoor animals, it’s always important to be one step ahead of the changing seasons. This way, you’re never caught off-guard. With the seemingly endless frigidity of winter ahead, you’re going to want to start your prep work for your mini donkey now that it’s still autumn. How can you get your mini donkey ready for winter?
To prepare a mini donkey for winter, you should do the following:
- Have plenty of road salt for your donkey’s hardstanding
- Get your donkey’s teeth inspected by an equine dentist
- Make sure they see a farrier as well for their feet
- Schedule all your mini donkey’s vaccinations now
- Have plenty of winter bedding and forage
- Check the state of your donkey’s enclosure and improve upon it if necessary
In this informative article, we’ll go through each of the above steps, explaining what you need to do in detail. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll feel confident that your miniature donkey is ready for the winter ahead!
Readying Your Mini Donkey for Winter: Here’s What You Need to Do
Find Your Road Salt
Now, this first step might not sound like something that benefits your mini donkey, but trust us, we’re getting to that. You probably already have road salt handy to keep your driveways and pathways free of ice and snow so you can leave your farm or property safely.
You’ll also need some road salt for your miniature donkey’s hardstanding. The hardstanding, although not a suitable enclosure on its own, is still a feature many farmers opt to have for their equine animals. It’s especially useful in the winter, as it will give your mini donkey a hard, solid place to keep their feet.
Well, unless it’s snowy, slushy, or rainy. That’s why you need to salt the hardstanding and any paths leading up to or around it. This will prevent your mini donkey from slipping when they take a step. That could lead to severe injury, which is not something you want to deal with in the chill of wintertime.
And Your Bedding and Forage
Once you’ve got the hardstanding and surrounding paths salted, keep digging around in your garage or farm for more supplies. This time, you need hay bedding as well as hay in which the donkeys can eat. If you don’t yet have this, then order it now before winter comes.
Even with a good supply of hay for bedding and forage, it doesn’t hurt to buy more. You know, just to be on the safe side. Your mini donkey will require thicker bedding in the winter to aide them in staying warm. They may plow through food at a faster rate, too. You sure would hate to run out.
Another reason to have more hay than you’ll need? Should the weather get particularly stormy, you might not be able to get out and see your miniature donkey for a day or two. At least in such a situation, you wouldn’t have to worry about your donkey running out of bedding/forage and risk starving or freezing to death.
See a Donkey Dentist, a Farrier, and a Vet
Get your phone out, because you’re going to be making a lot of appointments for your miniature donkey before the winter gets here.
The first is to a dentist that specializes in equine animals. We talked about this before in a recent blog post, but we want to mention it again. In the winter, especially when compared to the warmer months, moisture is lacking. Maybe that’s not always true if you live in a state where the winters are quite mild, but for the most part, there’s not a lot of moisture in the air.
Hay is very drying, but it’s also a staple of a mini donkey’s diet. When you combine the dryness of hay and the lack of moisture in the air from the winter, your poor donkey’s mouth can dry right out. This can affect their teeth and their ability to chew. An equine dentist can diagnose the issue and recommend a treatment now before the problem worsens.
Next, you want to see a farrier. What is a farrier, you ask? They’re a professional in all things donkey and horse hooves. They can put shoes on, balance hooves, and trim them as well. They’re like a cross between a veterinarian and a blacksmith.
Like we’ve mentioned, all the slippery, unsteady winter ground puts your mini donkey at risk of injury. You want to make sure they have healthy feet before the winter. Then, once spring arrives, book a follow-up with the farrier to check that your donkey suffered no foot damage over the winter.
Finally, you want to call your vet and bring your mini donkey in. They should give your donkey a checkup as well as confirm that the animal does not need any shots. If they do, please don’t wait until the spring to get your mini donkey caught up. It’s better to do it now before the coldest time of the year.
Provide Your Mini Donkey a Safe Enclosure
Another point we touched on in our last article was about enclosures for cold weather. Your mini donkey does need an enclosure, not a shed or a tent or a hardstanding. It’s recommended the enclosure has at least three sides, but you can always build or buy a four-sided enclosure. That will keep the winter winds and weather outside where it belongs.
The blog Mike’s Backyard Nursery has a great post with tips and pictures for building an enclosure designed to withstand cold winter temps. He used treated wood for the base, attaching each wooden slat with no space between. Mike says he did this to keep the wind out of the enclosure, as that was his primary goal in designing the donkey home.
Another interesting point is that he built the enclosure to face away from the most prevailing winds in his area. In this case, the winds came from the northeast, so Mike put the enclosure southeast. The direction of the prevailing winds may be different for you, so do some research if you are building your own donkey enclosure or getting a premade one installed.
To keep the enclosure from being completely dark, Mike added a small front window. This too is made of wood. He also kept the enclosure opening rather small, just enough so his mini donkey could squeeze in, but no bigger. Now messy weather can’t get in either.
You don’t have to rebuild this enclosure to a T, but the ideas presented on Mike’s blog are pretty good ones to emulate!
Keep a Clean Living Space
If your shelter has only three doors, then strong, blustery winds can blow snow, slush, and water into the enclosure. The floors, which were once hard and dry, are now slick and mushy.
It’s your job to get in there whenever you can and tidy up. Keep the donkey’s enclosure as dry as possible and you’ll have a happy equine animal.
A Note on Mini Donkey Blankets or Rugs
We wrote a whole blog post about the concept of using a blanket or rug on your mini donkey for wintertime coldness. The thought process here is that your donkey must be cold, so you should wrap something around them to keep them toasty, especially since they’re outside.
It’s not necessarily true. Mini donkeys can alter their coats, thickening their fur somewhat. This 2017 study from the University of Portsmouth notes that the changes to a miniature donkey’s coat are not on par with animals like horses though. The study advocates for offering more protection for donkeys than horses in the winter.
We agree, but that doesn’t always mean your mini donkey needs a rug or blanket. That’s only recommended for very young, very old, or ill donkeys who may have a hard time regulating their body temperature. A healthy adult donkey should be okay in the winter if you give them an enclosure with at least three sides.
Even the study mentions that “they need manmade protection from wind and rain.” That sounds more like an enclosure than it does a donkey blanket or rug.
You may want to have a blanket or rug handy for a few donkeys who are feeling under the weather, but every one of your donkeys does not need it.
Your miniature donkey should have a safe, warm environment in the wintertime especially. A three-sided (or four-sided) enclosure is the best means of safeguarding your donkey from the cold. Blankets and rugs are recommended for ill donkeys or those that are very young or old.
Besides that, salt the hardstanding around your donkey’s enclosure. Make sure they’ve gotten all the shots they need, their feet are in good condition, and your donkey isn’t having a hard time chewing from lack of moisture.
It’s not too late to begin preparing for winter on your farm. With the tips and advice in this article, your mini donkey will get through the cold season no problem. Good luck!