You own a farm, so adding a mini donkey among your livestock was sort of a no-brainer. Not only do these donkeys look too cute, but you’ve heard they can protect other animals on your farm. Is it true?
Mini donkeys can protect some animals and livestock, but it’s important these animals are smaller than the donkey itself. Otherwise, you put your mini donkey at risk of injury from a predator or the animal they should be guarding.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly which animals mini donkeys can suitably corral and look after. We’ll also tell you which ones to avoid so you can keep your mini donkey out of harm’s way. Let’s get started.
Which Animals and Livestock Can Mini Donkeys Look After?
Most mini donkeys have a max height of 36 inches by the time they reach full size. The animal also weighs 25 pounds when they’re first born and up to 200 pounds as adults. Some bigger mini donkeys can balloon up to 450 pounds.
According to Live Science, standard donkeys have a base height of 36 inches, with many growing to 48 inches tall. Already then, they have decent height over mini donkeys. These donkeys also have more heft than mini donkeys. They tend to weigh 400 pounds on the low end and up to 500 pounds if heavier.
Comparing those measurements, mini donkeys should not safeguard the same farm animals as a standard-sized donkey. Which ones are safe for your miniature donkey? You want animals and livestock that are smaller and weigh less.
Mini donkeys should outsize even bigger chickens. While chickens can get rambunctious and peck and scratch, your donkey should handle their guarding duties quite well with this feathered friend.
Predators of chickens include dogs, hawks, and foxes. The mini donkey should successfully chase off the latter two animals, but perhaps not all dogs, especially bigger ones. Do your part then to make sure your chickens are safe. You might keep them in a closed cage or even get an electric fence installed.
Ducks and Geese
The same applies to ducks or geese. Depending on the duck species we’re talking about, these animals tend to weigh very little. For instance, marbled ducks are 1.1 pounds, canvasbacks 2.7 pounds, and mallard ducks up to 3.5 pounds. Even a mini donkey can manage these waterfowl.
Snakes, rats, raccoons, and foxes might try to snatch duck or geese eggs. You’re more likely to find raccoons and foxes around your farm, both of which a mini donkey may ward off.
Before horses, goats, and cows get to full size, you can keep them with a mini donkey. In fact, farm experts say donkeys get along especially well with these animals. Obviously, once your horse or cow grows bigger than the mini donkey, it’s time to find another guard animal.
Which Animals and Livestock Should You Use a Full-Sized Donkey for Instead?
The bigger the animals you have to manage, the less applicable a miniature donkey becomes. Instead, you need an average-sized donkey or a bigger one. If your guard animal can’t go toe-to-toe with a predator because of a significant size differential, then they could be at risk of serious injury or even death.
That’s why you should keep miniature donkeys away from the following livestock guarding duties.
It’s not that donkeys aren’t sociable animals, but leaving your farm donkeys with a mini one seems like a bit of a mismatch. After all, some of the biggest, grisliest animals prey on donkeys. These include bears, wolves, and hyenas. Will these creatures show up on your farm? Not necessarily. Could a mini donkey protect your other donkeys if they did? Certainly not.
It’s better to choose a large donkey for leading the others on your farm.
Some farmers prefer using llamas as guard animals due to their high sociability (yes, even more so than donkeys) with other livestock. Most donkeys and llamas can get along quite well if you give them time to acclimate to one another. You could have the two work in conjunction to keep your farm safe or leave those duties exclusively to the donkey. Either way, make sure it’s a bigger donkey that gets the job, not a smaller one.
A group of goats can actually learn to move towards the guard donkey if they sense a predator may be nearby. Otherwise, your guard donkey will linger around the enclosure of the goats to keep them safe. Just don’t use a wooden enclosure, since a donkey could snack on it.
Foxes, wolves, and coyotes are considered goat predators. A full-sized guard donkey can ward off one of these animals if they come close.
If you have a benevolent pet dog on the farm, it’ll take some work for them to befriend your donkey. Dogs tend to want to take over the flock, which could create some tension with the donkey. We recommend slowly letting the two animals get used to one another. Also, make sure you get a donkey that weighs roughly the same as your dog.
Sometimes donkeys are afraid of dogs, running off if they perceive them as a threat. By training your donkey, you can reduce or eliminate this behavior so they make optimal guard animals.
For the most part, donkeys do a good job managing sheep. That said, Mother Earth News recommends you don’t use a donkey for guarding sheep if you have a terrain with a lot of trees and large brush. Also, if your sheep have a big pasture in which to roam, then reconsider a donkey in that scenario as well.
Why? Donkeys aren’t very adept at corralling groups of sheep that are all over the place. Either cut down on the sheep you have on your farm or keep them in closer quarters. Also, don’t have too many other animals on the farm, because donkeys tend to overlook sheep in those situations. Donkeys should keep most sheep predators away, such as eagles, dogs, and foxes.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the biggest donkey around, it’s not larger than a horse. That’s okay. If your donkey has a proven track record as a great guard animal, then you can leave it to watch over a horse or two successfully. Again, never use a mini donkey for this job. Horse predators include coyotes and wolves, which a mini donkey can’t fight off.
Keeping horses calm in the face of danger also matters, since these animals could take off if they sense a threat. That’ll undoubtedly cause a ruckus on your farm.
Pigs and full-sized donkeys should also coexist well. That said, you can’t just introduce your donkey to the pig and necessarily expect them to know what to do. You might have to guide your donkey and show them it’s their job to look after the pig and keep them safe. Make sure the donkey doesn’t chase or antagonize the pig, which can sadly happen.
Animals like dogs and wolves will try to go after pigs, often in a group. That means you should have several guard donkeys, since a single one can’t scare off several dogs at once.
You can also use a full-sized donkey to look over calves, or baby cows. Once the calves reach adulthood, you might want to consider a different guard animal. Sometimes donkeys get a bit territorial and aggressive, which could extend to some cows, even grown ones. This depends on the donkey and whether you train it, though.
Do make sure whatever guard animal you select can keep your cows safe from vultures, wolves, dogs, coyotes, and even bobcats.
Although not chosen as often, you can use a donkey as a guard animal on a farm. Since mini donkeys can’t scare off most bigger predators of livestock, it’s better to rely on a full-sized donkey instead. Miniature donkeys can still watch over chickens and baby