Breeder of Registered Miniature                 Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets

Care of the Miniature Donkey

BY Carolyn Christian


The following are some tips and procedures we use at Quarter Moon Ranch to care for our donkeys.  You will find that there is no singular approach to the miniature donkey's health care and management.  We advise you to consult with your veterinarian in order to develop a plan that will satisfy you both.



Your donkey should have access to good, clean water 24 hours a day at all times.  You may find it easier to install a float valve on your trough.  Troughs should be cleaned when needed especially in the summer when the heat can cause bacteria and algae to grow faster than in winter.  Caution should be taken when foals are around troughs. Do not use a trough so low to the ground that a foal could fall in and drown.



A good quality horse hay should be fed to your donkey in the winter or if your donkey is in a dry lot meaning there is little to no grass available. If your pasture is rich and of a good quality grass such as coastal Bermuda (that's what we grow in this part of Texas), hay isn't necessary during the summer.  If your pasture is native grass and sparse, you will need to feed hay.  Also, if you find your donkey getting fat after it has reached maturity, discontinue or reduce its intake of hay and/or grain while on pasture, but only in summer months.  Hay should be given at all times during the winter when pasture is unavailable.  Hay bales of coastal Bermuda or another quality hay native to your region is preferred over alfalfa because alfalfa hay is too rich in protein.  Many owners feed hay twice a day if pasture is sparse or if the donkey is in a dry lot.  Feeding twice daily will control your donkey's diet, keep him trim, and permit you to observe your donkey frequently for illness or injury.  Twice a day feeding is, of course, more labor intensive but has its merits.  Because of the number of donkeys at Quarter Moon Ranch, we free feed in the winter, meaning we leave hay out continually so that they may eat at will.  We carefully observe our donkeys to make sure they are not getting too fat or too thin, in which case we will adjust their feeding and/or supplemental feed program.  Show donkeys are taken off pasture or free fed hay to avoid their getting grass or hay bellies prior to a show.



If you ask 10 donkey owners or breeders their views on supplemental feeding, you will get 10 different responses and all will, in all probability, work very well for their animals.  The key is to observe how your graining (supplemental feeding) is effecting your donkey's body condition.  There are several types of supplemental feeds.  One grain that is used frequently is crimped oats (must be “crimped" oats not whole oats).  Crimped oats is usually 10% protein with some crude fat.  Donkeys do well with this grain, because it's in a pure form.  A second grain that's widely used is called horse & mule feed or sweet feed.  This feed comes in 10, 12, and 14 percent protein amounts.  We stopped using horse and mule feed for our MATURE donkeys because we found that it was putting weight on our donkeys but not muscle, probably because it contains “sweet" additives such as molasses.  Another feed is regular horse pellets that you can get in 10, 12, and 14 percent protein amounts.  These feeds can be used for your lactating jennets (gals that are nursing foals) and for foals and yearlings.  The third type of supplemental feed comes in various brand names, but are commonly referred to as a total or balanced nutritional supplement.  Products such as Strategy, Omaline 100, 200, and 300 are examples of this feed.  All are by Purina.  These products contain protein, but also contain a good balance of vitamins and minerals.  Although more expensive than other supplements, these are a complete nutritional package for your donkey.  We feed Omaline 200 to our show donkeys, our weanlings, and any donkey in need of weight gain.  We find that it gets the youngsters off to a good nutritional start.


With crimped oats, we suggest feeding no more than a 1lb. coffee can full per feeding, preferably 1/2 a coffee can full.  With horse and mule feed, the amount should be reduced.  With your total nutritional supplements, follow the recommended amounts on the bag.  We feed a coffee can or half a coffee can per feeding depending on the age and size of the donkey and whether or not they are prone to overweight in which case we cut the supplemental feed way back.  As with all feeds, you need to monitor the effectiveness of your feeding program, then adjust the amount being fed, frequency of your feeding, type of feed you are offering, or eliminate supplemental feed completely depending on your donkey's body condition.  Just remember, foals, yearlings, and nursing jennies require more protein and supplemental feeding than do mature donkeys.  Never feed more than 14% protein.  Also, do not let your pregnant jennet become fat, because that can complicate a pregnancy and delivery.  That's why we either eliminate completely or reduce the amount of supplemental feed during the last trimester of pregnancy.  The foal is already developed and too much feed will just add weight and size to the foal thereby increasing the risk of complications at birth.  Historically, miniature donkeys are used to sparse food supplies that were native in their ancestral homes of Sicily and Sardinia.  Don't over feed your donkey.  You will find them developing a fat roll or crest on the top of their necks which does not go away if they are eating too much or too rich a diet.  If this happens, cut down the supplemental feed by amount, protein percentage, frequency, or eliminate entirely.


Sweet feeds and high protein feeds encourage milk production which is good for the lactating jennet, but a note of caution is appropriate here regarding mom and the new foal.  I don't give any feed to a new mom for the first week after giving birth unless she is not producing a good supply of milk, in which case, giving her feed will encourage milk production.  If given too much supplemental feed after delivery, her bag may become too large and the baby may not be able to keep up with production.  In some cases, that can create mastitis which causes inflammation and an infection of the udder and must be treated with antibiotics.  Don't be too quick to give feeds to your new mom.  Take a look at her bag after delivery and if you feel you must feed her, give her very small amounts to begin with and increase the amount over time.  It will not hurt her or the foal to be without supplemental feed until the baby is nursing well.  Conversely, feed can help stimulate milk production to the under producing jennet so you can begin feeding her after deliver but in small amounts.  Always look at the nipples to make sure the foal is nursing both sides.  They should be pliable and not engorged if the foal is nursing properly.



A trace mineral supplement such as 12-12 should be made available to your donkeys at all times.  They will eat it as needed.  When purchasing your minerals, be sure it is recommended for equine. 12-12 minerals for equine are a different product than 12-12 minerals for cattle.  Cattle products can contain urea which is toxic to donkeys.  We use a product called Purina Horse Minerals which comes in granular form rather than the hard mineral blocks, although we keep the blocks out for them as well.  We think it is easier for the donkey, especially foals, to eat the granular minerals.  Since a donkey does not have all of its permanent teeth until age five, they may not be able to use the block very well if teeth are missing.  A salt block may also be made available to them.



Donkeys should be wormed every two to three months with an equine paste wormer.  Until recently, rotational worming with an ivermectin product then a fenbendazole or other category of wormers was the preferred worming technique.  This is thought to prevent the donkey from developing immunity to wormers.  It is still used quite often.  Many vets now advise staying with an ivermectin product throughout the year, but using a fenbendazole or other non-ivermectin product for one or two applications before you resume treatment with the ivermectin.  Whatever your worming schedule, you must use an ivermectin product after the first and last frost to prevent bots.  Bot eggs can survive cold.  Consult your vet and follow his recommendations on worming.  We practice rotational worming with an ivermectin (trade names Zimecterin, Equimectrin or Equalan) and a fenbendazole (trade names SafeGuard or Panacur).  These can be found at feed stores, co-ops, veterinary offices, vet supply retailers, or mail order catalogs such as Jeffers and


Foals are wormed at two months with a product that protects against roundworms which are more common in foals and young animals.  You will notice that your young foal will eat mom's poop off the ground.  Don't panic.  Although it can lead to worms, it's primarily nature's way of immunizing him.  Both people and donkeys need some exposure to bacteria to stimulate the immune system to perform.  Wormers are safe and effective as long as you follow the instructions on the box and use the correct dosage.  Under dosing is as good as not worming at all and will result in poor parasite control.  Overdosing could also be problematic.  After placing the wormer in the back of your donkey's mouth, give them a bite or two of feed, grain, or cookie to make them swallow the paste and not spit it out which some will do.  I hold their heads until I know they've swallowed it.  Don't give too much feed or they may choke.  You may also try spreading the wormer on a slice of bread and giving them a "medicine sandwich".  Some of ours have gotten wise to that trick though!



We vaccinate all donkeys once a year (preferably March or April) at the beginning of fly season.  We vaccinate for Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis, tetanus, and influenza.  This shot is sometimes called a 5-way. We also give a rabies shot once a year.  Pregnant jennies receive a rhinopneumonitis injection (commonly Rhino-Pneumabort K) in the 5th, 7th, and 9th months of pregnancy to prevent abortion.  Our show donkeys are given a Rhino-flu booster 3 weeks prior to attending a show and are isolated from the rest of the herd for at least 2 weeks following a show.  This is done to prevent them from becoming a carrier and spreading any virus they may have picked up from the show to the herd.  We also vaccinate our jennets 30 days before foaling in order for her to be at peak immunity and to trigger the immune system of the foal.  Consult your veterinarian as to his thoughts regarding what vaccinations are appropriate for your area and your breeding program.  Foals should receive a tetanus antitoxin injection at birth.  Foals are given their first vaccination at four months, a booster 30 days later, then a booster annually.


There is much discussion about the West Nile Virus and whether or not to give that vaccination to donkeys.  From many discussions with several veterinarians in private practice and at Texas A&M University, I've discovered that the veterinary community endorses giving the West Nile vaccine as opposed to not giving it.  The mortality rate for those animals that become infected is 30% which is high.  It is suggested that you give this vaccination to jennets that are not pregnant.  If you must give it to a pregnant jennet, do not give it in the 1st or last trimester of her pregnancy in order to prevent abortion or other complications.  Consult with your veterinarian to see if the West Nile vaccine is something he suggests for you.


It is not difficult to learn how to give your own injections.  Have your vet instruct you, but be sure you know where and how to give the injection before attempting to administer your own shots.  We use a 20 gauge, 1" needle for adults and a 20 gauge, 1/2" needle for foals.  Be very careful giving shots to foals, especially in the neck.  The area to receive the injection is very small and located close to the spinal cord on top and the jugular vein on bottom.  It's better to give a foal an injection in the muscle in their rear.  Seek instructions from your vet before giving your own shots.  Always let the vet administer an injection in the vein, NEVER try that yourself.


Always keep an un-expired syringe of Epinephrine handy if you give your own injections.  Although extremely rare, anaphylactic shock can occur after any type of injection is administered.  Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergic reaction to some antigen introduced to the body in an injection or bite.  This is very dangerous and will constrict the airway and cause death quite quickly.  If the donkey is going to go into anaphylactic shock, it will occur within minutes of giving the animal an injection, but can be reversed immediately with Epinephrine.  I never give an injection then leave the animal.  I stay with them for at least 10 minutes then I check them again within the first hour of giving any injection.  Donkeys can have reactions to injections up to an hour after administering the injection.  The good news is that although frightening to the owner, reactions are not common.



Your donkey will need his hooves trimmed every two to three months by a farrier.  If you live in a rocky area, trimming will be required less frequently.  If it has been exceptionally wet, you may want to clean your donkeys hooves with a hoof pick regularly because bacteria will breed in wet areas and invade the hoof if left too long.  Bacteria will die when exposed to air, but should you want to insure that your donkey's feet are perfectly clean, you can squirt a solution of 1 part Clorox to 4 parts water onto the sole of the hoof.  Be careful to not squirt it on any area that has hair. It could cause an irritation.



There are a few plants that are toxic to all equine.  Consult your vet and/or county agent for those that you may have in your area and seek their advice on the subject.  Mesquite pods are probably more toxic than most. DO NOT panic if you have any toxic plants in your pasture.  If you are feeding properly, your donkeys will have no need of eating a plant that is toxic.  If your donkeys are eating an abundance of acorns in the fall, you may want to give them small amounts of wheat bran to flush the bowels out during acorn season as those can be a problem.  Once again, consult your veterinarian to help with your health care program.



Donkeys need a three-sided loafing shed for protection against the cold north winds of winter and the hot sun of summer.  Do not be surprised if your donkey doesn't use it at times when you think he should.  He knows when to seek protection and when to just enjoy the rain.


Your donkey can be brushed and bathed although there is nothing better to a donkey after a good bath than a good roll in the dirt.  A good dust bath keeps flies off.  There are many equine shampoos on the market, and you can find grooming brushes at most feed stores and mail order catalogs.


We like to trim our donkeys' manes close to their necks in the summertime. It makes them look groomed and cared for.  Donkeys can also be body clipped to remove winter's shaggy hair.  Body clipping makes it cooler for them in the summer, but exposes the skin to flies.  Also, spotted donkeys are more susceptible to sunburn when body clipped.  Do not body clip late in the year as it takes several months to grow out and winter winds may arrive before your donkey's winter coat does.  Brushing in the spring will help to remove the longer hair of winter.



You may want to train your donkeys to lead, pull a cart, etc.  There are many good books on the subject that can be obtained through the Hee Haw Book Club of the American Donkey & Mule Society and other sources.  Judy Martens and I authored a driving manual titled "Training Your Miniature Donkey To Drive".  It can be purchased from the National Miniature Donkey Society for $12 from the Mini Mart on their website at  It has lots of photos to illustrate the techniques employed in driving.  One of the best things you can do is to train your donkeys to lead.  You may want to take them to county fairs, church and school events, parties, or just out on walks.  Leading can be taught by first teaching your donkey to stand quietly while tied and without fighting the halter and lead rope.  This not only teaches him patience but teaches him that pulling on the lead rope is uncomfortable while not resisting is comfortable.  That is a great aid when you are leading him.  NEVER leave a donkey unsupervised while you have him standing tied.  You need not be within his view, in fact, for the first few times it is advisable for you to move out of sight and let him figure it out himself, but you need to be where you can see him in case he gets his head wrapped around the lead rope or has an emergency.  Always tie him short so that won't happen but not so short that it's uncomfortable or his neck is in a bind.  Learn how to tie a quick release tie so that you can free him quickly if he gets in trouble.


The first lessons should be short 15 minute ones.  Our donkeys have learned how to stand tied and be quiet because we tie them all to post when the farrier comes.  When hooves are trimmed, they are left there while the rest of the herd gets their hooves trimmed.  This teaches them patience.  Some get to where they just go to sleep tied to the fence.  When training your donkey to lead, after they master standing quietly, untie them and take them for a walk.  If they pull a lot and resist, tie them back up for 15 more minutes then try walking again.  Keep doing this until they decide they need to behave.  Don't step out in front of your donkey or get in front of his head.  That will engage him in a tug of war in which he will win!  It also teaches him to dig his heels in and resist.  If he won't lead for you, have someone walk behind him while you are leading him.  That moves them forward.  That person may also give him a light tap on the rear or the hind legs with a stick or buggy whip just to let them know he is there.  Sometimes, it's helpful to walk them along a fence so that the only way they can move is to go forward.  There is a lot more to training than what I have given you here.  The thing to remember is to have fun in whatever you do with your donkey.  A well-behaved donkey is so enjoyable, but one who can't lead and can only love you every time he sees you is still a wonderful creature.


If you want to teach your donkey to load easily in a trailer, take your donkey the edge of the trailer and keep constant pressure on the lead rope.  He will resist, but will give an inch or so at a time in order to relieve the pressure.  When he does, keep the pressure on and just BE PATIENT.  This may take you a good long time, but donkeys are smart and they know EXACTLY what you want them to do.  They are just cautious.  He will eventually jump in when he realizes you aren't going to let him go.  When he does, always give praise as a reward.  If you're having difficulty teaching your donkey to load, park the trailer in their pasture and feed them grain in the back half of the trailer.  Leave the trailer with the trailer doors open in the pasture for a week or so.  Be sure the trailer doors won't close and trap your donkey inside.  Doing this causes the fear of the trailer to go away and is replaced by jumping in and out of the trailer like it is their toy.  We often hear hoofbeats on the trailer floor at night.



This is a very broad overview of how we care for our donkeys.  We recommend that you consult with your veterinarian to establish your own management and health maintenance plan.  Please feel free to call us at any time should you have a question or an emergency.  The well being of all donkeys, not just ours, is very important to us.


When we first got our donkeys, we were afraid of everything.  Every bit of dust that tickled their nose and made them cough became a rare disease that only OUR donkeys had and we knew was INCURABLE.  Relax.  Talk to other donkey owners, read, consult your veterinarian, but mainly enjoy what you have purchased.  These are hardy animals and are very forgiving of our mistakes with them.  You have a lot of wonderfully happy and loving years ahead for you both.


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Quarter Moon Ranch; Breeder of Registered Miniature Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets.  Miniature Donkeys FOR SALE at all times. email     top    Quarter Moon Ranch; Breeder of Registered Miniature Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets.  Miniature Donkeys FOR SALE at all times. email     home    Quarter Moon Ranch; Breeder of Registered Miniature Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets.  Miniature Donkeys FOR SALE at all times. email   sale donkeys: new arrivals  /  jacks  /  jennets  /   geldings  Quarter Moon Ranch; Breeder of Registered Miniature Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets.  Miniature Donkeys FOR SALE at all times. email
Pete and Carolyn Christian
Quarter Moon Ranch
4674 Bucksnort Road
Franklin, TX  77856
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