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About Donkeys

What is a Miniature Donkey?

Just as you might think, miniature donkeys are small....averaging about 33 inches high at the shoulders. They are naturally small, which means they are not bred down to a small size like many dogs. They come in a variety of colors, including light and dark shades of gray, black, brown, red, white, and spotted. Some definitions are:

  • Jennet or Jenny: female donkey
  • Jack: male donkey
  • Gelding: castrated male donkey
  • Foal: baby donkey
  • Miniature: 36" and under

Where did the Miniature Donkey originate?

Miniature donkeys are native to Sicily and Sardinia...islands of the Mediterranean. In 1929, Robert Greene imported 6 Jennies and 1 Stud Jack from the Mediterranean to his farm in New Jersey. While there are barely any miniature donkeys in Sicily and Sardinia present day, they have become very popular in the US and the UK.

What are their health requirements?

Ideally, a miniature donkey's hooves should be trimmed at least 3 to 4 times a year. It is also essential that they are de-wormed at least 3 to 4 times a year (more often depending on living conditions). They should be vaccinated on a schedule as recommended by your veterinarian, but they should receive the equine influenza vaccination annually. A healthy adult miniature donkey weighs between 250 and 450 pounds. Adequate shelter and feeding is, of course, necessary for good health.

What are their feeding requirements?

For the same cost of feeding a horse, an owner can feed 5 miniature donkeys. They can be fed hay year round since they do not require a variety in their diet. Do not feed pure alfalfa, as it may lead to a stomach ache. However, it is acceptable to mix a little alfalfa into their feed. Brome grass, meadow grass and Timothy hay provides the best vegetation for miniature donkeys. They eat constantly if allowed, and are prone to obesity. Carefully monitor their food intake. A few hours a day of grazing should be enough. Allow 1/2 to 1 acre per donkey for pasture grazing. A pregnant or nursing jennet may have their diets supplemented with a cup of not more than 10% grain a day. Donkeys generally accept carrots and fruit as treats, but only in small amounts. Some people prefer not to offer treats from the hand because it may encourage "nipping" at your hands if they think you have a treat for them. Fresh, clean water should always be available. Donkeys will ignore dirty water and could dehydrate.

How old are donkeys before they reproduce?

Even though female donkeys become fertile about the time they are 1 year old, they lack the physical and mental maturity to deliver, nurse, and raise a baby foal. They are still adolescents themselves. They should not be allowed to become impregnated until they are at least 3 years old, otherwise an owner may risk a Jennet rejecting her new foal. Jacks on the other hand, are generally fertile within 1 year and can start breeding at 1.5 to 2 years old. A Jennet may continue to have babies up until her 20s.

What is the gestation period?

The gestation period usually is between 12 and 13 months. Foals weigh approximately 15 - 21 pounds and are on their feet within minutes of being born. The weaning age for foals is 4 - 6 months. To be healthy both physically and mentally, a foal should not be separated from its Dam until it is completely weaned. Foals appear to be better adjusted if left with their Dams for 6 months, even if she has weaned them earlier.

Do miniature donkeys get along with other animals?

Miniature donkeys have a sweet, docile, loving nature which makes them good companions and pets for children and adults. They do, however, demand attention and don't like being alone. So unless an owner can provide near constant attention, another miniature donkey is preferable to provide companionship, otherwise the donkey will be depressed and unhappy. Generally, miniature donkeys don't like dogs or cats and will run them out of their pen or pasture. This is a defense mechanism as miniature donkeys can be prey to coyotes and wolves. However, if you have a pet dog or cat, most donkeys learn to tolerate them with time.

What are the shelter requirements?

Miniature donkeys are fairly resilient to changing temperatures, but should be provided shelter to escape rain, cold, or heat. A barn or a 3-sided structure with a roof will offer protection.

How long do miniature donkeys live?

When cared for properly, miniature donkeys can live above 30 years, some even into their 40s.

What can I do with a miniature donkey?

Besides being a good pet, you can breed, raise and sell miniature donkeys as a second income. They are intelligent animals that can be taught to pull carts and carry packs. Some donkeys and owners participate in fairs and shows where the donkeys are judged in confirmation, driving, and jumping classes. Since they love attention, some owners take them to nursing homes and elementary schools where residents and students can pet them and receive education about this loveable animal. An owner and donkey may even participate in local parades, often both being dressed in costumes for the occasion.