So now that I had these two donkeys, it was time to start learning how to care for them. First things first: how to feed them! Donkeys, like horses, are grazers. And they need to eat throughout the day to keep their guts moving. But since donkeys can gain weight on air, it seems, their feed needed to be rationed. After experimenting with several different types of feeders, I ended up buying the donkeys high-end “slow feeders”. These buckets have an inner ring in them that only allows one bite at a time. This forces the donkeys to chew each bite thoroughly before taking the next bite. And their hay is weighed based on a formula for their size and nutritional needs.
Donkeys are also “browsers” like the goats in that they also need more roughage in their diet. Much later, I found a source for barley straw that doesn’t contain seeds. This can be free-fed to the donkeys to provide that roughage. This helps keep their guts moving and stomaches filled without the added calories of the hay.
I also needed to provide veterinarian care for the donkeys. They need yearly vaccinations including rabies much like domesticated dogs and cats need. While some may not think donkeys NEED to have dental care, they do! I have a vet out yearly to sedate the donks to “float” their teeth. This not only checks teeth for any problems but also files off sharp points that can make eating painful for the donkeys. All equine should have this done regularly since their teeth, like a horse’s teeth, are constantly growing.
A good farrier is priceless! All equine need hooves trimmed regularly; about every 12 weeks. Donkey hooves are a bit different from horse hooves in that donkeys originate from a more rocky environment. Learning the parts of the hooves/feet and what can go wrong is one of the most important aspects of their care. And after having problems with Jill once; we are always vigilant for hoof problems! A farrier also needs to understand the differences between donkeys and horses regarding their personalities. While both need to be socialized to having their feet handled, donkeys can be, well, more stubborn about the whole process. A good farrier that understands donkey behavior and who won’t get angry at the donkeys for misbehaving is a huge blessing! I had no problem firing farriers until I found a farrier who valued my donkeys as much as I do.
Not that long ago, we had 30 tons of construction sand delivered. This is the amount we were told we needed based on the measurements we gave the quarry. Out last fall on the tractor, I probably used about 10 tons of sand to re-finish the donkey run and paddock. It took a few more weeks of steady work until I finally got the other 20 tons of sand moved from where it was originally dumped. Let’s just say that I have “extra” if we ever need sand for anything! And in just six months being on that new material, BOTH donkeys have improved hooves/feet! Ahh… mission accomplished!
Last spring, we had a new vet coming to do spring vaccinations and to float teeth. I was a bit anxious about what the donkeys would think of “new people”? I really hoped Jack behaved well! Our first farm vet moved; she was wonderful and is sorely missed! The vet she referred us to use didn’t think the donkeys were “valuable” enough to care much about their teeth or health! I was quite anxious yet hopeful to meet this new vet and hoped she would appreciate the donkeys for what they are; not what they aren’t. I am thrilled that not only the vet but the entire vet student team did an awesome job! And Jack… He LOVED all the extra attention!
About a week after our vet visit, I was contacted by the students who came out to see our donkeys. They had “found” my book and asked if I would sign it as a graduation gift to the staff vet! I was more than flattered that my book was their chosen gift to the attending vet!
More in Part 3…