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The Guide To Proper CARE & FEEDING of the AMERICAN DONKEY  [back to article list]




Congratulations on the addition of a donkey into your family! Your donkey is an incredibly intelligent and

compassionate creature and is sure to add a great deal of pleasure to your life.

The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue has written this manual to offer solutions and answers to the most

common problems and questions we receive. This manual’s goal is threefold:

1-To provide a simple introduction to donkeys

2-To help you befriend your donkey

3-To help you care for your donkey.

Whether you have a wild burro or domestic donkey, this information is essential to creating a healthy,

rewarding, and long-lasting friendship.

The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is located in the High Desert area of Southern California and the

treatments listed here are designed for this environment. Every geographic region has its own unique

hazards. Please contact your local veterinarian to help you develop an individualized treatment schedule

for your specific area.


Alfalfa: Hay that should never be fed to donkeys, never-never-never!

African Ass: An endangered species and the root-stock for the burros of the New World

Burro: The Spanish word for Ass; usually referring to wild animals

Castrate: The removal of the testicles; also called Gelding

Donkey: The English word for Ass; usually referring to domestic animals

Founder: The deterioration of the bone within the hoof; usually caused by an improper diet of alfalfa

and oats; extremely painful

Grass Hay: Hay that is the closest match to a donkey's natural diet; comes in many forms, including

Bermuda, Timothy, Orchard and Bromegrass

Hinny: The hybrid offspring of a male horse and female donkey; usually more horse like

Jack: A male donkey

Jennet: A female donkey; also referred to as Jenny

John: A male mule

Laminitis: The deterioration of the lamina, or lining between the hoof and the bone within the hoof

wall; usually caused by improper diet or abnormal stress to the body

Mammoth: Donkeys that stand 54" or more at the withers

Miniature: Donkey that stand 36" or less at the withers

Molly: A female mule

Mule: The hybrid offspring of a male donkey and female horse; can be bred from miniature to


Internal Parasite: Internal worms that cause serious health problems; controlled with a worming regiment

given every 3 months

Standard: Donkeys measuring between 36" and 54"

Sully: The term used to describe a donkey that will "shut down" to avoid the pain associated with

prolonged abuse


The American donkey is a direct descendant of the African Wild Ass, which was first domesticated in

North Africa. Spaniards brought them to the Americas in the 1600s. Donkeys played a crucial role in the

construction of roadways, railways, and missions that made the American West accessible. They also

were the unsung heroes of early American mining efforts. Today’s wild burros are the ancestors of

domestic donkeys that were released after their services were no longer required.

Donkey Facts

George Washington was the first to own Mammoth Donkeys in the United States. The King of Spain gave

him a “Royal Gift” and General Lafayette of France gave him “Mammoth.” Both were used to create draft

mules for farm work.

Donkeys originated in the African deserts and are a descendant of the African Wild Ass. The African Wild

Ass is one of the most endangered animals in the world, with some of its sub-species now extinct.

Donkeys can tolerate water loss up to 30% of their body weight; they can replenish it in only 15 minutes of


Jennies are pregnant for one full year and normally have one foal. Twins are extremely rare.

Thousands of wild burros thrive in the deserts of our American Southwest as a result of our Western

migration. These animals are round up and placed for adoption as they are seen as a threat to the habitat

of the Big Horn Sheep.

Donkeys are more affectionate than horses and enjoy the companionship of people. The prospectors of

old did not lead their donkeys; the donkeys simply followed behind or even led the way.

American donkeys can live to 40 years of age. Donkeys in third world countries seldom live over 10 years

due to unchecked parasites.

Because the coyote is the only natural threat to donkeys, they do not like any canine. Donkeys are used all

over the world to protect goats and sheep against coyote attack. They also protect cows while calving.

A donkey can easily carry 30% of its body weight in live load and 20% in dead weight.

Peaceful Valley RawhideThe World Famous Rawhide

Castration of Male Donkeys

All male donkeys should be castrated regardless of age. There is no justifiable reason to breed

standard donkeys as we are faced with an almost insurmountable problem of overpopulation. Gelded

male donkeys are less dangerous, make better companions, and enjoy a less stressful life.

Donkeys cannot be gelded using the same techniques that a veterinarian would use to geld a

horse. The blood vessels are much too large to be crimped or emasculated and often times the donkeys

will bleed to death as a result. Make sure that your veterinarian is aware of this problem and that he will

ligate the blood vessels before removing the emasculator.

Dr. John Roueche, Chief Veterinarian for the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, has performed

over 100 gelding procedures at the rescue without complication. Our castration patients have ranged in

age from 4 months to over 35 years old.

We offer a free article written by Dr. John Roueche on the proper castration procedure. This

article, along with the photo accompaniment, is available by mail or online at

Peaceful Valley-loving natureThe loving nature of donkeys is often overlooked


Internal parasites are the #1 killer of donkeys worldwide. Donkeys have the highest potential of

harboring the destructive equine lungworm. PLEASE PUT YOUR DONKEY ON A PARASITE CONTROL


The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue uses the following worming program on all of our donkeys.

This is based on our type of feed, weather conditions, and environment. Please check with your local

veterinarian to ensure that our method will work in your area.

Our donkeys are paste wormed every three months beginning January 1. Most donkeys weigh an

average of 500 pounds; therefore, 1 tube can be split evenly between 2 adult donkeys. Babies should be

wormed starting at 6 months of age and placed on an every three-month schedule. It is easier to take a

small amount (less than 100 pounds on the adjustment scale) on your finger to place in their mouth.

An Ivermectrin based wormer must be used twice per year. Many brands offer an Ivermectrin

product such as Ivercare or Zimmectrin. Ivermectrin is the recommended product to kill lungworms that

are common in donkeys.

The paste syringe should be inserted through the inter-dental area of the mouth (the area

between the front and back teeth). Push the syringe in until the tip is at the back of the tongue. Push the

plunger until it hits the weight adjustment ring. It is that easy! Wormers generally cost between $10 to


Wormers should be rotated each time to prevent parasites from developing immunities. Many

brands offer 2 different formulas for this purpose.

Many people feel that using a strong wormer on an animal with a large infestation is dangerous as

other problems can be caused by the massive sudden die off the internal parasites. For this reason, we

recommend starting with a 250 pound dose of Strongid followed by a second 250 pound dose 2 weeks

later. Once this has been completed, you can begin the following cycle.

Peaceful Valley wormer paste

Jan 1 Strongid Paste by Pfizer

Apr 1 Ivermectrin based wormer (Zimmectrin, Ivercare, etc.)

Jul 1 Anthelcide Paste by Pfizer

Oct 1 Ivermectrin based

*PVDR uses Pfizer products whenever possible because of their generosity


PVDR vaccinates all of our donkeys with Fluvac® Innovator Triple-E® FT by Fort Dodge. This is known

as a 4 way + VEE. This vaccine aids in the prevention of Equine Encephalomyelitis due to Eastern,

Western and Venezuelan viruses; Equine Influenza due to types A1 and A2; as well as Tetanus.

This vaccine is administered upon arrival at the rescue and a booster is given 3 weeks after the

first. Vaccinations using the same product are given annually thereafter. Consult your veterinarian for the

proper vaccine and regiment for your area. We do not vaccinate any donkeys over the age of 40. We feel

that by reaching this age, the donkeys have been exposed to most viruses and have built their own


Vaccines can be administered by the donkey owner with little stress on either party’s part. The

recommended vaccine comes complete with a pre-filled syringe and a needle. Remove the rubber

stopper from the top of the syringe; remove the plastic cap from the bottom of the needle base; push

needle and syringe together. The needle should be inserted into a muscular area with good circulation.

We at PVDR prefer to vaccinate in the lower neck region. Insert the needle at a slight angle, draw the

syringe back to ensure that a vein or artery has not been punctured, and slowly depress the plunger until

all of the liquid is dispelled.

We strongly suggest that everyone vaccinate their equine against West Nile Virus.

The injection procedure is less stressful if administered by you, the donkey’s friend, than by a

stranger. However, if you are not comfortable giving an intra-muscular injection, ask a professional for


Peaceful Valley- prepackaged vaccination and syringe

Prepackaged vaccination and syringe

Peaceful Valley-10 dose vial

10 dose vial for larger herds


Donkeys must be kept on a low-protein diet in order to ensure good body weight, and healthy

hooves / joints. Spoiling donkeys with alfalfa and oats will ultimately lead to much hardship for you and

your donkey. Rich diets are the leading cause of obesity in donkeys. Fat deposits on the sides, rump and

neck are unhealthy. High protein levels also lead to the deterioration of the bones within the hooves,

which cause the donkey’s weight to bear down on the sole of the hoof. This may lead to lameness and

the inability to stand due to extreme pain.

Grass Hay comes in many forms including Bermuda, Timothy, Orchard and Bromegrass. All

grass hay has a lower protein level than alfalfa and other legume hays. As a desert animal, the donkey’s

metabolism cannot handle the high protein and result in health problems. Donkeys should be fed 1% to

1½% of their body weight each day, divided between 2-3 feedings. This will equal approximately 5 pounds

of hay per donkey each day.

Cool, clean water is very important for a donkey’s digestive tract. Make sure you check the water

supply each day and protect it from freezing in the winter months.

Treats should be given moderately. Carrots, cut into 3" pieces, work nicely as they are easy to

chew, nutritious, and have natural de-worming properties. Treats should only be given by hand and never

included in the daily feed routine. Do not make a habit of bringing treats each time you come out to spend

time with your donkey. You need to build a relationship of trust and love, not one where treats are


Peaceful Valley hay protein levels

Protein levels in hay/feed.  It is important to keep protein below 5%

Alfalfa +/-15%

Bermuda 3.7%

Bromegrass 5.0%

Timothy 2.9%

Oats 13.9%


In the wild, burro’s hooves are trimmed naturally by the harsh environment and constant

movement. In captivity, conditions are radically different and hoof care is extremely important. Many

people have a fear of a donkey’s hooves. They are worried about being kicked and severely injured. The

donkey is afraid of having his hooves touched because it is his only form of protection.

Once you have befriended your donkey, hoof work is the next step. Begin by rubbing the donkey

all over his body. Slowly run your hand down each leg just a little and then back up to his “safe” point.

Keep progressing, slowly rubbing lower and lower each time. If the donkey runs or becomes agitated,

simply go back to rubbing the donkey where he feels conformable. After he will let you rub each leg all the

way down to the hoof, gently squeeze the tendons behind each leg above the hoof. This will signal to the

donkey to raise his leg. When you take the hoof, quickly release it and praise him for his cooperation.

Always release the hoof immediately in the early stages. The donkey needs to know that you will always

give the hoof back whenever you take it. With patience and practice, your donkey will allow all 4 hooves to

be picked up safely.

A hoof pick is a great tool to start working on your donkey’s hooves. Available at all tack stores,

the hoof pick is used to clean dirt and manure out of your donkey’s hooves. Once your donkey has

progressed to the stage of allowing his hooves to be picked up, use the hoof pick to clean out the

underside of each hoof. Daily cleaning is recommended for health and training purposes.

Regular picking will help reduce the risk of thrush, a bacteria that thrives in non-oxygenated areas.

Hooves that are packed with mud and or manure make an excellent breeding ground for this bacteria.

Thrush will eat away at the frog and sole of the foot, and your farrier may need to cut out thrushy areas.

Hoof trimming is usually better left to a professional farrier. Call local farriers to ensure they will

work on donkeys and that they will not use painful devices. You do not want your donkey to associate

hoof work with pain. It is better to have a veterinarian sedate the donkey to work on the hooves than it is

to hurt the donkey and ruin your relationship.

Regular hoof care ensures that your donkey’s feet do not get too long. In the wild, donkeys weardown

their hooves by traveling long distances looking for grazing areas and water. Domestic donkeys,

however, are usually kept in smaller, softer corrals, thus not allowing them to wear down their hooves like

their wild relatives.

Routine farrier care is also important to make sure the donkey is wearing their feet properly and

keeping the proper hoof angle. Your farrier can make sure that your donkey’s feet are balanced, meaning

there is not too much growth on the outside wall or inside wall, and not too much toe or heel growth. If a

donkey’s feet remain unbalanced for too long, lameness and permanent leg damage may occur.

A normal trimming schedule is anywhere from 8-12 weeks, but will depend on the rate of hoof

growth for your individual donkey. Discuss this with your farrier to see how often they feel your donkey’s

feet will need trimming.

It is important that you work with your donkey’s feet as often as possible. This will make hoof work

less stressful for your farrier and your donkey. In the end, it is your responsibility to provide for your

donkey’s well being. By ensuring that hoof work can be done easily and safely, you are doing your donkey

and yourself an invaluable favor.

Feel free to contact the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue for information on how to trim your

donkey’s hooves the right way.

Peaceful Valley donkey hoofPeaceful Valley neglected hoof

A well trimmed donkey hoof.                         The broken remains of a neglected hoof


All donkeys require space to exercise. Younger donkeys like to run while older donkeys like to

explore. Whatever your situation, make sure that your donkeys have at least a 50’ x 100’ area for


The second requirement is a pen. A donkey being penned for long periods should have a

minimum space of 24’x24’. This should be constructed of an unbreakable material, at least 5’ in height.

Four-rail pipe corral panels are ideal, but other materials will work just as well. Ensure that your donkey

has a shader, a windbreak, and an adequate supply of water. Even if you plan on letting your donkey

remain at pasture most of the time, it is recommended that you have a pen enclosure where your donkey

can feel safe and you can administer treatments and medicines when required.

It is advisable to build a capture chute, which allows for worming, vaccinating, and hoof trimming

in a safe, low stress environment. Details on the PVDR chute are available online at

Peaceful Vallely confinement gate panels

2 facing gate panels 24” apart

Peaceful Valley 4-rail pipe corral panels with shader

4-rail pipe corral panels with shader


Whether you have just adopted a wild burro or are working with an abused donkey, the gentling

process is absolutely necessary in order to have a strong healthy relationship with your donkey. Donkeys

have a very different perspective than do people. In order to effectively work with a donkey, you must first

understand the way a donkey thinks:

Donkeys have few enemies and have developed a fight mechanism when they feel that they are

in danger. While a horse will run blindly when scared, a donkey will only retreat a safe distance and plan

its next move. If provoked and left no other choice, a donkey will attack.

Donkeys have a well-defined sense of self-preservation. They are always looking out for their

own safety. If a donkey is not comfortable with a situation, he will stop or turn away. This is not

stubbornness; this is the donkey looking after its own interest. Understanding this trait is paramount to

developing a trusting relationship.

Donkeys usually kick when they feel threatened. A donkey can kick with any leg from any angle

with perfect accuracy. The old adage about never standing behind a donkey carries little weight. A

donkey will usually give you many opportunities to avoid being kicked. These include running away,

swishing its tail, and making small hops on both back legs. Any of these are a clear indicator that the

donkey is not comfortable or feels threatened. New mothers are extremely protective of their young.

Extreme care must be taken to ensure the safety of you, the mother and the baby.

A donkey that is unfamiliar with humans, or one that has been mistreated by them, views people

as vertical creatures. Animals, for the most part, are horizontal. This is a major distinction to a donkey

and explains why they are more comfortable with horses, cows, and even some dogs than they are with

you. Because donkeys use their limbs to strike, a person who is reaching out to pet a donkey will appear

to be attacking rather than comforting.

Donkeys communicate using their heads. Smelling, licking and grooming are all done with the

head. This is less threatening and appears more natural to the donkey.

The first step to gentling is to gather all of the patience you can muster and go out and sit in the

pen with your donkey. A lawn chair and a good book will do more to build the relationship than anything

else. The donkey has to become comfortable with your presence. You must appear non-threatening and

even a little non-interested. It is a good idea to leave enough room behind your chair so that the donkey

can walk all of the way around you and even approach you from behind. The donkey determines each

step of training. You cannot advance unless he is ready. Some donkeys require days while others require

weeks. A donkey has a life expectancy of 40 years; he has time to wait. You must have the patience.

Once the donkey is comfortable with your presence, offer carrots as a treat. If he will not

approach you to take them, simply throw them in his direction. Even if he does not eat them right away,

once the training session is over, he will eat them and learn that your presence can be rewarding.

Continue to offer treats each day until the donkey is comfortable enough to take them from your hand.

The next step is to offer the carrot while standing. Once the donkey recognizes the treat, he usually will

not mind the transition between sitting and standing. After a comfortable period, try to reach out and

scratch the donkey between the ears. As you progress, try to begin each session with a scratch instead of

the treat. Time and patience rule this process. We often undervalue these traits and the rewards they

sow. Consider this a time to welcome peace into your life, as well as the life of your new friend.

Once you have completed the gentling process, you can advance to the training process.

Remember: Donkeys are highly intelligent animals with a desire to please. The main barrier is

communication. Make sure you communicate your wishes in a language that he can understand.

Peaceful Valley Donkeyman communicating with wild babies

The Donkeyman “communicating” with some wild babies


There are only 2 simple rules that apply to donkey training. Once you have mastered these rules,

your donkey will do anything you ask it to do.


Befriend your donkey. Until you are completely at ease with your donkey, your donkey will not be at ease

with you. If you are nervous, cautious, or just plain scared, your donkey will have no choice but to

reciprocate the same feelings. I begin most of my relationship building on the ground. I sit in their pen and

let them explore me. I do not reach out to touch them, but rather let them initiate the contact. A person on

the ground is much less intimidating than a person standing erect. You and your donkey should be best

friends. When I crossed Death Valley

on foot, I did it with my 4 best friends. I did not do it with 4 slaves that I expected to comply with my every

whim. When you deal with your friends, are you demanding, self centered and unwilling to listen to

reason? Then you should act no differently with your donkey. You can be a leader without being a tyrant.

Most donkey abuse stems from failed training. A donkey does not respond as a horse does. Feelings of

frustration can lead to striking a donkey. Sadly, this often leads to continued abuse. Love your donkey

unconditionally and without fear and your donkey will be more than happy to please you.


What you begin, you must finish. This is much harder than it sounds, but it is crucial in your donkey's

behavior. With all due respect, your donkey is as smart if not smarter than you are. He has little to no work

ethic, and he would rather not do most things that you want him to do. If you set out to halter your donkey

and he runs, you must continue until you have him haltered. If he is allowed to get away with running just

one time, he will have learned that running means no halter. If he pulls away on the lead rope when you

take him for a walk, he will know that he can escape you at will. When I set out to halter a donkey, I will

continue until the task is complete. If it takes 5 minutes or 5 hours, that donkey will be haltered before I am

done. When my donkeys see me coming with a halter, they will turn away and start to avoid me until they

hear me call their name. They then know that regardless of their actions, they will be haltered and that

running is pointless. Your perseverance will pay off.

Peaceful Valley- baby donkeys are cute

Baby donkeys are cute, but they grow up!

With many people once the cuteness wears off, so does the attraction.

Meet The People Behind the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue

Peaceful Valley-Amy Meyers, Founder; Mark Meyers, Executive Director

Amy Meyers, Founder

Mark Meyers, Executive Director

Mark and Amy Meyers never planned to start a donkey rescue. Their move to the country was

simply a way to avoid the congestion of city living. Their first donkey, a one-year-old named Izzy, was

purchased over the internet. Never having been around donkeys, the Meyers were mesmerized by this

loving, happy intelligent creature. She had a nature that was more like a dog than a horse. But, now

having a donkey, they became more aware of other donkeys they encountered. They suddenly noticed

donkeys everywhere—at feed stores, in hillside pastures, in small pens behind houses. Many of the

donkeys that the Meyers saw did not act like their beloved Izzy.

Amy bought a donkey from a feed store that she named Banjo. Banjo had a trail of green mucus

hanging from his nose. He was so aggressive that if you approached his pen he would lunge through the

bars and try to bite you. It took some time but eventually Banjo learned to love and trust and make a full


As Banjo became a loving part of the family, Amy found Martin and Lewis in a livestock auction.

They were both horrified of people and would shake so violently upon approach they would literally fall

over. They too came to live on the Meyers' ranch to learn that not all people are bad.

Donkey after donkey took up residence with the Meyers' until there were twenty-five pair of long

ears. At this point, the Meyers' decided to start a Donkey Rescue in order to find adoptive homes for their

charges. By adopting the

donkeys instead of selling them, the Meyers' felt that they could be more selective as to where their

donkeys ended up. As a result of the tough screening process used by PVDR, many donkeys have found

permanent loving homes.

While the Meyers first love is always the donkeys within their immediate care, they felt that the

problem of donkey neglect and abuse is far too widespread to just focus on a "hands on" approach. The

Meyers use the internet, speaking engagements, educational programs, and television appearances, as

well as this book to improve the plight of the American Donkey.

Mark and Amy have five children that are active in the work of the rescue.

Dr. John Roueche, DVM

Dr. John graduated from Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological

Sciences, in 1997. He began his practice as a veterinarian in Las Cruces, NM, from 1997 until 2001. Dr.

John then moved to Agua Dulce, CA, and began working with the Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic. Dr. John

now has his own veterinary practice where he continues to assist animals both large and small.

Dr. John has headed the Veterinary Department of the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue since his arrival in

California. Because of Dr. John's commitment to his work and his love of animals, his contributions to the

rescue have helped thousands of donkeys worldwide. Dr. John and his wife Stacey have four beautiful


Kevin Elliott, Farrier

Kevin began his career as a farrier in 1997. His formal training involved classroom work and

hands on experience as an apprentice with a journeyman farrier. He now has his own successful practice,

which, by choice, centers on backyard animals as opposed to show animals.

While Kevin admits that some donkeys can be more difficult to work on than most horses, he truly enjoys

working with them. Kevin feels that the unique personality of each donkey makes the effort even more

rewarding; especially since donkey hoof care is often neglected.

Kevin and his wife Mary-Sue have adopted two donkeys from the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. They

say that the donkeys have taught them a great deal about patience, love, and understanding as they

watch them interact with each other, their mule, and their horses.

The Staff of the


is here to help.

You can email us at

You can call us at 866-DONKS-31

You can write us at

Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue

PO Box 223

Acton, CA 93510

You can find us online at

We are always available to assist you and your donkey.

The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue

Providing a safe and loving environment

to abused, neglected, and unwanted donkeys.

Improving the Plight of Donkeys Worldwide

You may request additional information and articles via phone or email:

The Myths of Donkey Castration with pictures - by Dr. John Roueche, DVM

Trimming Donkey’s Hooves - by Kevin Elliott

The Plight of the American Donkey - by Mark S. Meyers

Why Do People Abuse Donkeys? - by Mark S. Meyers

PVDR Capture Chute Diagram

The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is supported through private donations.

The Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue is a non-profit charity listed under

The Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3)

Federal Identification Number 77-0562800

Mark Meyers is available for speaking engagements on a variety of topics.

The Guide to Proper Care and Feeding of the American Donkey

was written by Mark S. Meyers

Article contributions and supervision by John Roueche, DVM and Kevin Elliott

Editing and 50 cent word insertions by Jesse Morris

All photos are property of the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue except

Rawhide’s picture by Jill Fineberg

Source:    Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue Home Page

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Note: We are shipping only to USA addresses at this time.

Your continuing support of our products and affiliate links throughout this site help us inform and promote the Miniature Donkey breed and Donkeys everywhere whether you are just starting out or

have your loved one already.  Thanks so much! Cheryl and Chris

We are shipping only to USA addresses at this time. International orders may contact us for additional shipping charges.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

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