What not to feed donkeys? (2023)

Some people think that because donkeys and horses look alike they can eat the same things. But they are separate species and have different needs.

Donkeys are desert animals and their bodies are not designed for rich pastures or grain.

Donkeys should ideally be kept on dry land. That's a lot with little or no grass growing on it. The southwestern desert, as in Arizona or Nevada, is an example of their natural habitat.

But if you put a donkey in the US Northwest, where it's fairly rainy, they might now be exposed to grass and forage that's too nutrient dense to eat.

Do you feed your donkey the same way you feed your horse? Or maybe your donkey is getting a little overweight. Read on to find out what your donkey shouldn't eat and how to keep your donkey healthy.


I) What food is harmful to a donkey's health?

II) The wrong treats for a donkey

(Video) Donkey Needs

IV) Special case: Older donkeys

V) What should I feed my donkey?

VI) Conclusion

What food is harmful to a donkey's health??

What not to feed donkeys? (1)

The donkey's digestive system takes nutrients away from rough plants like shrubs and shrubs.

Food passes through the donkey's digestive system more slowly than a horse's. That means more nutrients are absorbed as they pass.

Because of this, a diet that is too high in protein, starches or sugars can cause a donkey to gain excess weight.

Donkeys are easily overfed and obesity is a big problem for them, especially in dwarf donkeys. It is important to learn what and how much to feed a donkey.

(Video) Feeding Donkeys {6 Things ALL my Donkeys get Fed} Base Feeding Plan for Donkeys

Forage too rich for donkeys

The list below contains three things that horses can consume but are not suitable for donkeys.

  1. Grain: Corn, oats, wheat and barley are examples of unsuitable grains for donkeys. They contain too much starch and sugar.
  2. Alfalfa: Alfalfa is a legume. It is much richer in protein than grass and therefore unsuitable for donkeys. They quickly become overweight if their only hay is alfalfa.
  3. horse feed: Horse feed may contain grain. In addition, horse feed is said to make up the majority of a horse's overall diet. Donkeys do not require any feed, especially sweet feed, which is a mixture of grains with the addition of molasses. That's too rich for donkeys.

Although some older donkeys can be fed a small amount of high fiber horse feed,Healthy donkeys do not require the addition of pelleted feed.

Unlimited access to pasture

Donkeys are very fond of eating grass in a pasture or field, but this must be limited, especially in spring when the grass is young and very green. The protein and sugar content is too high.

Weed should be viewed as a supplement, not part of the diet.

Instead of allowing their donkeys to graze as much as they want, some people let their donkeys graze for a limited time each day, maybe an hour or two.

That way the donkeys don't get too much fresh grass.

Other harmful foods or poisonous objects

In addition to what has been listed above,Some things are harmful or even poisonous to donkeys:

  • Anything that contains molasses or sugar, like cookies, bread, and donuts.
  • animal or dairy products.
  • Certain trees, shrubs, plants:
    • The leaves of cherry, peach, plum and red maple trees are particularly dangerous.
    • Other trees: oak, locust, black walnut, horse chestnut and elder.
    • Shrubs: Japanese yew and oleander.
    • Plants: foxglove, clover and milkweed.
  • Acorns and beans from Mesquite trees.
  • Certain fruits and vegetables:
    • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy.
    • Nightshade: White and red potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.
    • Others: leeks, garlic, avocado and rhubarb.
Interesting READ How to treat colic in donkeys?

The wrong treats for a donkey

What not to feed donkeys? (2)

There are many treats that can be consumed by humans and other domestic animals but are harmful to donkeys.

Treats not suitable for donkeys include:

  • Stone fruit: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, mangoes and dates. These are all also high in sugar. Stone fruits are stone fruits. Even raspberries, blackberries, and mulberries are drupes; They are clusters of mini drupes.
  • Chocolate: The chemical theobromine makes chocolate dangerous for horses and dogs.
  • Biscuits: It's the sugar in biscuits that can cause problems.
  • Lump Sugar: This is pure sugar; therefore not recommended.
  • Sweets: Again, it's all about pure sugar.

What can happen if I feed my donkey the wrong thing?

What not to feed donkeys? (3)

If donkeys are given too much access to pasture, fed grain or the foods listed above, they can develop serious health problems such as obesity and laminitis.

Donkeys are prone to obesity, especially miniature donkeys. This is why proper nutrition is so important. When a donkey becomes obese, they develop love handles on their body: hips, neck and back.

On the neck, the fat deposits can cause the nape crest to fall over. This condition can never be reversed, even if the donkey loses weight. However, a fallen comb will not cause pain to the donkey.

(Video) Should I buy a donkey? 15 things you need to consider before getting a donkey.

laminitisis an inflammation of the tissues in the hoof that causes lameness. If severe enough, it can be fatal.

If a donkey has this condition, it needs immediate treatment. It can be treated, but he's likely to relapse.

Signs of laminitis are:

  • Shifting weight from one hoof to the other while standing
  • Take short steps when walking
  • Lie down more often than usual
  • hooves are hot

Your veterinarian can take x-rays of the hoof and recommend a bedding of straw or shavings to support the hoof, control nutrition, and limit exercise.

They may also prescribe pain relievers and possibly a hoof brace.

Special case: older donkeys

If your senior donkey (usually 20+ years old) is missing teeth or has very worn teeth, he may need a modified or alternative feed to get the nutrition he needs.

Watch your donkey eat to make sure it's chewing and swallowing its hay. If he has trouble chewing or won't swallow the chewed hay, he may need pre-chopped hay.

If that's still too much to chew, you can soak high-fiber pellets into a pulp. Use pellets for horses with laminitis so you don't give your donkey too much protein or starch.

You can also add soaked beet pulp to the mash.

Interesting READ Why does my donkey lie down all the time?

If your donkey needs more calories, you can add a small amount of vegetable oil to their feed. As with any donkey, provide plenty of clean water that is easily accessible.

What should I feed my donkey?

What not to feed donkeys? (4)

Now that you know what not to feed your donkey, here's what you can and should feed him.

The main diet

In the UK it isdonkey sanctuaryrecommends feeding barley straw. Here in the United States, however, straws can be hard to find. You can find straw for bedding, but it may not be clean enough for fodder.

(Video) Donkey nutritional needs and Proper dental care

Most American donkeys eat grass hay such as Bermuda or timothy hay.The hay should make up 1.5-1.8% of your donkey's weight per day.

Fresh, clean water must always be available. In winter when it's freezing you can either use an animal trough water heater or add hot water to heat it up so your donkeys drink enough.

You can give your donkeys supplements to add vitamins and minerals to their diet. You can buy a feed balancer that contains vitamins and minerals.

Salt should be in addition to a balancer. You can buy a block of salt, but make sure it's not suitable for cattle and get one without molasses.

You can also buy loose salt in a pack. Many prefer this because the donkey's tongue is not as rough as a horse's to lick salt off the log easily enough.

Allowed Treats

The following can be given as a reward.Remember that a treat shouldn't make up a large part of your donkey's diet.

  • Fruits: Apples, bananas (including the skin), pears, watermelons, oranges and strawberries.
  • Vegetables: carrots, parsnips and celery. Cut into sticks to reduce the risk of choking your donkey.
  • Trees/Shrubs - Pine, Ash, Beech, and Mesquite trees (leaves only, not the beans). Donkeys love branches. They eat the leaves and chew off the bark. They will also use them to scratch and drag them around.
  • Other: Mint leaves and treats for horses (especially low sugar/low carb).
  • For use during training: rolled oats and timothy hay cubes.

Although cookies and candy (like mints) are on the list of noxious treats, low-sugar cracker cookies and mints (the red-and-white striped discs) can be given to your donkey very sparingly.

The other items mentioned in the list above are less risky than cookies and candy.


You've learned a lot about what not to feed and how to properly care for your donkey.Following these guidelines will help keep your donkey healthy.

Always consult your equine vet for advice and questions about your individual donkey.

If your donkey is showing symptoms of pain, not feeling well, orDo not eat, be sure to contact your vet immediately.

Donkeys are stoic and don't show pain, so early intervention is crucial to help your donkey with any health issues.

Now that you know what not to feed your donkey and what you can feed it, you are well on your way to having a healthy and happy donkey.

(Video) This is Why Farmers Sell Their Weapons and Buy Donkeys


What should you not feed donkeys? ›

Avoid feeding potatoes, anything from the brassica family, onions, leeks, garlic, stoned fruit and anything which is old, fermented or mouldy as these are toxic to donkeys. Carrots, apples, bananas, pears, turnips and swedes are all safe and usually very popular with donkeys.

What kind of salt block for donkeys? ›

A block of salt is better than nothing at all. The best is loose (granular) salt. Donkeys, mules and horses have smoother tongues than a cow and may not actually get their needed amount of salt from a block. They may end up biting the block in an attempt to get more, which can lead to teeth and jaw or tooth problems.

What is the best feed for donkeys? ›

The donkey diet should consist of mainly good quality barley straw or oat straw (barley straw is best) and carefully restricted access to grass. Donkeys may require supplemental hay if they are not maintaining good body condition with the straw and restricted grass diet (for e.g. during the winter months).

What is toxic to donkeys? ›

As little as 20% of black walnut in the shavings can cause toxicity in horses or donkey. Red Maple (Acer rubrum) ingestion can cause destruction of the red blood cells when ingested by horses or donkeys. This can cause secondary kidney damage as well. Red or dark colored urine is typically the first sign seen.

Do donkeys need grain everyday? ›

Donkeys do not need to be fed regular grain if they are given enough straw along with grass or hay to maintain their normal diet. If basic horse grain is offered, keep it at a minimum as it has been known to cause gastric ulcers in some donkeys.

Is apple cider vinegar good for donkeys? ›

Benefits of Adding ACV to Your Donkey's Care and Feed Plan

I have often had rescue donkeys that are so used to eating sweet feed that they don't want to eat anything else. A little ACV usually gets them eating healthier stuff and starts them on a road to health in more ways than one.

Is hay or straw better for donkeys? ›

Straw should make up the majority of most donkeys' diets, with grazing and hay or haylage being considered a top-up only. Feeding a donkey on grass and hay without providing any straw will end up over-supplying them with calories and energy, causing them to store the excess calories as fat.

Should donkeys eat alfalfa? ›

Donkeys have the ability to recycle nitrogen, so they do not need to consume the same levels of nitrogen in their diet as horses. This is why it is inappropriate to feed alfalfa, which has very high protein levels, to donkeys.

Can donkeys eat just hay? ›

​Straw should make up the majority of most donkeys' diets, with grazing and hay or haylage being considered a top-up only. Feeding a donkey on grass and hay without providing any straw will end up over-supplying them with calories and energy, causing them to store the excess calories as fat.

How many times a day should a donkey eat? ›

Feed your donkey hay or haylage two to three times a day.

Is cracked corn good for donkeys? ›

You should avoid feeding your donkey any cereals or grains such as oats, barley, wheat and corn (maize). These products are too high in starch and sugar and have been implicated in the development of diseases such as laminitis in donkeys, as well as a leading cause of obesity.

What do donkeys need to be happy? ›

A large grazing area

Your donkey will be happier with as much space as possible to roam and graze. They do this for most of the day, so it is super important that you are providing an adequate amount of space. An alternative to a grass paddock is a dirt or non-grazing area, like a yard.

Are tomatoes good for donkeys? ›

Don't feed anything from the brassica family. This includes root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, and garlic. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) are toxic. Tomatoes and peppers are also toxic.

Can donkeys eat peanuts in the shell? ›

The Ladies remained humble and we celebrated with salted peanuts – in the shell – which is a donkey favorite.

What are the common diseases in donkeys? ›

Just like horses, donkeys and mules are also susceptible to infection by important virus such as equine infectious anemia (EIA), the eastern, western and venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, Japanese encephalitis (JE), West Nile fever (WNF), equine viral arteritis (EVA), equine herpesvirus (EHV), equine influenza (EI), ...

Can donkeys eat meat? ›

Diet. These animals are herbivores, meaning they eat no meat. They enjoy a variety of foods, including hay, oats, grains, and grasses, but they will also eat shrubs and desert plants in certain areas.

Can donkeys eat dry oatmeal? ›

You should feed your 7-month-old donkey no more than 2 cups of crimped oats mixed with an ounce of Mazola corn oil and about an ounce of a low protein vitamin supplement such as Sho Glo once a day. Feed and monitor weight gain with grass hay and pasture time.

Do donkeys need mineral blocks? ›

Providing donkeys access to a trace mineral salt block is recommended. Fibrous forage is the basis for a donkey's healthy diet. Lower quality forage, that may be too mature for a horse, is often just fine for a donkey.

How often do donkeys need shots? ›

Most donkeys will need a rabies vaccine once yearly, and a combination vaccine twice yearly including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), West Nile Virus (WNV), and tetanus.

Can ivermectin be used on donkeys? ›

Ivermectin has an excellent efficacy for an important range of gastrointestinal nematodes of equines (CAMPBELL et al., 1989). Although not registered for use in donkeys, Ivermectin injection is currently used by many donkey owners who are claiming excellent results and no adverse side-effects.

How much apple cider vinegar should I put in my horses feed? ›

Daily dosages are 50ml per day for Adult Horses, or 100ml for Adult Horses in heavy work making it an economical supplement with many benefits. Not all Apple Cider Vinegar products are the same!

How can you tell if a donkey has worms? ›

A faecal worm egg count test (FWEC) records the number and type of worm eggs seen in a sample of your donkey's dung. A positive result indicates the presence of adult (egg-laying) worms. The count indicates whether your donkey is shedding a low or high number of eggs in its dung.

What kills lice on donkeys? ›

Clipping and bathing your donkey can be an effective alternative to using chemical baths. о Removal of long hair with clippers will allow the shampoo to reach the skin. Bathing with shampoo can work by drowning the adult lice and killing them.

What causes colic in donkeys? ›

The causes of colic in donkeys are very varied and commonly include blockage with partially digested food material (impaction), muscle cramps of bowel wall (spasmodic) or a build of gas within the bowel.

What do donkeys need? ›

Donkeys must have a clean, dry barn, or, at the very least, a three-sided shelter. You'll have to remove waste from this area daily. Your donkey will also need access to some sort of pasturage, as they really need space to wander and nibble.

Do donkeys need bedding? ›

Ideally, you should provide a lot of dry and clean straw in a donkey's indoor living space. Donkeys like to use straw as bedding, and it's important to give them extra bedding material in much colder weather. Barley straw makes great bedding.

How many bales of hay does a donkey need? ›

Feed them roughly 3-5 lbs of hay per day each – roughly! This is not absolute due to the factors I stated before. Now watch to see if your donkey's weight increases or decreases. This will tell you how much hay is appropriate.

Is Timothy grass pellets good for donkeys? ›

If an aged donkey -- the species often lives 40 to 50 years -- has trouble chewing hay because of tooth issues, substitute soaked timothy or grass hay cubes or pellets. Make sure the product you choose contains only timothy and grass, and isn't an alfalfa mix.

How much grain should I feed my donkey a day? ›

What should I feed my donkey? An average sized (175 kg) healthy, adult donkey needs 2-3 kg of fibrous food per day to satisfy their appetite. In the majority of cases this should be solely provided by straw, hay/haylage or restricted grazing plus a vitamin and mineral balancer.

Do donkeys need supplements? ›

Donkey Supplements are an important part of a donkey diet. Hay and/or grass is just does not provide a compete diet for donkeys. Limiting pasture grasses and feeding a low sugar hay is the bulk of what my donkeys eat but supplements play a big role in their complete donkey nutrition.

Can donkeys eat banana skins? ›

Bananas are another fruit that is very popular with donkeys.

Some of these essential minerals (namely potassium and magnesium) are an important part of a donkey's healthy diet. What is this? Also, no need to take that peel off! Banana peel is safe for donkeys and they love eating it (source).

How many flakes of hay should a donkey eat per day? ›

For a medium-sized, 450-pound donkey, this would equate to about 7 pounds of forage per day. Conversely, horses with free access to forage will consume nearly 3% of their body weight per day. Thus, the ideal amount of hay a donkey should be given is recommended at 1.5% of their body weight per day.

Can donkeys survive on grass? ›

Forage Preferences

Donkeys, however, are both grazers and browsers. This means that in addition to grass, they can eat shrubs and woody vegetation; their digestive systems can handle low-quality forage that a pony may not be able to digest efficiently.

What is the best wormer for donkeys? ›

Donkey Wormer
  • Eqvalan Horse Wormer Paste. Eqvalan horse wormer paste works for 8 weeks and treats 600kg body weight of horse. ...
  • Strongid P Horse Wormer Paste. ...
  • Panacur Horse Wormer Granules. ...
  • Panacur Equine Guard Horse Wormer 225ml. ...
  • Panacur Horse Wormer Paste.

Can donkeys eat all stock sweet feed? ›

Powell All-Stock can be fed to all species of animals (Horses, Cows, Goats, Sheep, Deer, Donkeys, Mules, etc). It still maintains proper amounts of protein, grain, vitamins, and minerals to maintain good health. It can be fed free choice to cattle on pastures in good conditions or with proper amounts of hay.

How do I put weight on my donkey? ›

Fibre pellets, unmolassed beet pulp and/or unmolassed chopped fibre (chaff) products can all be fed to encourage weight gain. Alfalfa, in short chop or pellet form, can be a useful addition to the diet as long as the donkey has good teeth and is not suffering from liver or kidney problems.

Is molasses good for donkeys? ›

What do donkeys eat & drink – can I feed them? Donkeys usually eat barley straw, hay, grass (pasture) and various other things like bread, molasses & sugar beet which are mixed in with their feed, as well as carrots, apples, pears, turnip & swede.

How much grain does a donkey need? ›

Left to their own devices, donkeys have an appetite to consume between 1.3-1.8% of their body weight per day in dry matter.

What is the best grain for mini donkeys? ›

Barley straw is very high in fiber and also low in sugar – perfect for mini donkeys because it mimics what the donkey would most likely seek to eat in the wild.

Do donkeys get attached to their owners? ›


Donkeys form very strong bonds with their owners and other donkeys. They are very cautious of strangers (a vet or farrier visit is stressful).

What do donkeys do when they are angry? ›

Donkeys will bray, or holler, when they are excited or upset. Incessant braying with other signs of agitation is another way that donkeys show aggressive behavior. What is this? Donkeys will often bray when they are happy to see their owners, but they will also do it to yell at other animals or alert others of danger.

How do you motivate a donkey? ›

Donkeys can be motivated most successfully by things that they would naturally find enjoyable such as food or scratches, social interaction with other animals or perhaps being turned out into a field of grass.

What are donkeys not allowed to eat? ›

Avoid feeding potatoes, anything from the brassica family, onions, leeks, garlic, stoned fruit and anything which is old, fermented or mouldy as these are toxic to donkeys. Carrots, apples, bananas, pears, turnips and swedes are all safe and usually very popular with donkeys.

Are cucumbers good for donkeys? ›

Yes! Donkeys can eat cucumbers and they often love them! What is this? Cucumbers are extremely healthy and can be fed to donkeys as treats.

What plants will donkeys not eat? ›

Animals often spit out fuzzy or prickly plants, simply because they are uncomfortable to eat. Plants like barberries, cacti, cleomes, devil's walking sticks, dusty millers, globe thistles, grape hollies, lamb's ears, rose campions and strawflowers can, therefore, remain relatively unscathed.

Will sweet feed hurt donkeys? ›

You should never feed Longears (donkeys, or mules) any pre-mixed sweet feeds, or products high in alfalfa. Equines in general and especially pregnant equines, should never be turned out in a pasture with Fescue grass.

Should donkeys eat hay or straw? ›

Straw should make up the majority of most donkeys' diets, with grazing and hay or haylage being considered a top-up only. Feeding a donkey on grass and hay without providing any straw will end up over-supplying them with calories and energy, causing them to store the excess calories as fat.

Can donkeys eat horse treats? ›

Even treats, or feed, designed for horses may not be the right morsel for your donkey. Basic treats like carrots, apples, peppermints, bananas, watermelon, oranges, pears, grapes, celery, strawberries, and pumpkin are all safe for donkeys. But remember—everything in moderation, including treats!

Can donkeys have cracked corn? ›

You should avoid feeding your donkey any cereals or grains such as oats, barley, wheat and corn (maize). These products are too high in starch and sugar and have been implicated in the development of diseases such as laminitis in donkeys, as well as a leading cause of obesity.

Can donkeys eat alfalfa pellets? ›

Most donkeys will do well on a plain diet of timothy or grass hay, with access to clean water and a salt block. The American Donkey and Mule Society warns against feeding donkey rich hays, such as alfalfa.

Can donkeys eat dry corn? ›

What is this? Corn is a plentiful vegetable and is safe for donkeys. However, corn is also a grain and a high source of starch; so this is one vegetable that should be given only as a source of additional energy if needed. In addition, corn cobs are hard to digest and may cause colic.

Why can't donkeys eat alfalfa? ›

Donkeys have the ability to recycle nitrogen, so they do not need to consume the same levels of nitrogen in their diet as horses. This is why it is inappropriate to feed alfalfa, which has very high protein levels, to donkeys.

Are oats good for donkeys? ›

Oat straw is higher in calories than barley or wheat straw, it needs to be fed with caution to avoid weight gain so may be a good option for slimmer donkeys. Oat straw is also highly prized by the feed manufacturers so it is often in short supply and more expensive.

What happens if you give a horse too much sweet feed? ›

Too much starch and sugar in a horse's diet may directly (via digestive tract overload) or indirectly (insulin resistance) negatively affect a horse's health and place the animal at risk for laminitis.

What is a donkey's favorite treat? ›

If you have to give a treat, then the best donkey treats are fruit (except stoned fruit) and certain vegetables (see vegetables to avoid in section below) cut into wedges with skins and rinds left on, such as: Carrots (cut lengthways) Pears. Swedes.

Can donkeys eat potato peelings? ›

This donkey was brought to the unit for treatment after eating potato peels, which are toxic to equines and result in ataxia and breathing problems.

Can donkeys eat grapes? ›

Grapes are a delicious treat that you can safely feed your donkey whenever you want to give them something sweet. Donkeys can eat green grapes, purple grapes, and grapes with seeds.


1. What Do Donkeys Eat? Foods That You Should Feed Them
2. Donkey Starts Licking Owner's Face When He Questions Him About Breaking into Feed Shed - 1189217
(RM Videos)
3. Steve the Donkey tried to kill me!
(Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary)
4. Donkeys are gigantic toddlers part 11,000,000
(Hayden Kristal)
5. Donkey health and welfare | The Donkey Sanctuary Webinars
(The Donkey Sanctuary)
6. THEY TRIED TO KISS ME!! Scare Cam Drive Thru + Paqui One Chip Challenge (FV Family Vlog )


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Neely Ledner

Last Updated: 22/09/2023

Views: 6478

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Neely Ledner

Birthday: 1998-06-09

Address: 443 Barrows Terrace, New Jodyberg, CO 57462-5329

Phone: +2433516856029

Job: Central Legal Facilitator

Hobby: Backpacking, Jogging, Magic, Driving, Macrame, Embroidery, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Neely Ledner, I am a bright, determined, beautiful, adventurous, adventurous, spotless, calm person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.