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8 Reasons Farmers Keep Donkeys: Full Guide

A donkey grazing on grass.

If you’re planning to try farming or homesteading, you may be wondering why farmers keep donkeys. I had the same question when I was just starting to explore farming. Now, my farming and homesteading experience allows me to see the advantages of keeping donkeys.

Some of the reasons farmers keep donkeys are:

  • Herd protectors
  • Hardworking
  • Extremely smart
  • Great companions
  • Full of character
  • Therapy animals
  • Inexpensive
  • Low maintenance
  • An asset on the farm

This article will talk about how donkeys help maintain your farm, get along well with other farm animals, and make farming or homesteading lighter and more fun… 

Related: To learn How Wild Animals Become Domesticated, check out my article here.

#1: Donkeys Protect the Herd

One of the major reasons farmers keep donkeys is that they’re great herd protectors. In particular, they keep your barns safe from:

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  • Dogs
  • Coyotes
  • Foxes
  • Other predators

Donkeys also get along with different types of animals, including:

  • Horses
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Smaller barn critters

Thus, keeping a donkey gives you the confidence that your barn is well guarded.

#2: Donkeys are Hardworking

Donkeys are hardworking animals with impressive strength. Whether in agriculture, vineyards, or petting zoos, they make for great pack animals. I’ve trained a few donkeys to help pull my cart and cultivate my little garden, and they do a great job!

You can also let them carry the tools and supplies you need when taking overnight camping trips. Donkeys play an important role in several countries because of their ability to work. They help get water from wells and transport goods to the market. Thus, they contribute greatly to people’s livelihood.

2 donkeys packed with supplies on their backs.
Donkeys are great pack animals

#3: Donkeys are Extremely Smart

Donkeys’ high level of intelligence is also one of the reasons farmers keep donkeys. I can attest that they’re easy to train. You just have to earn their trust as their owner. Several donkey owners would also say that compared to most horses, donkeys can be trained easier. In my case, I applied various techniques in training my donkeys, such as:

Positive reinforcement: This is one of the most effective training methods for donkeys. You reinforce their positive behavior through rewards by giving them:

  • rest periods
  • petting
  • brushing
  • treats
  • happy talk

Negative reinforcement training: You can help correct donkeys’ negative behavior by depriving them of something they want, like feed. For instance, if you see them kicking at the barn door during feeding time, you can delay the feed until the donkeys stop kicking. Then, give them what they want once they wait patiently.

Among the donkeys, castrated males and the young ones are often the easiest to train. When talking about the pros and cons of keeping donkeys, you might hear about them being described as stubborn.

NOTE: Donkeys are quick to detect danger and respond properly. Unlike horses, they will evaluate the situation first before running away. Then, they’ll alert the herd.

#4: Donkeys Make Great Companions

One of the top advantages of keeping donkeys is that they’re amazing companion animals. They can be obedient, easy-going, and loving.

If you’re looking for a great companion for your horse, donkeys are a practical option. They’re less costly compared to getting another horse.

NOTE: Aside from horses, farm owners make donkeys companion animals for ponies, cows, and other farm animals.

Here are other important points about donkeys when it comes to companionship:

  • They bond well with any animal, so long as they don’t see any threat from them.
  • Donkeys need at least one friend to keep them from being lonely or depressed.
  • Donkeys of normal size have the ability to carry up to 20% of their body weight, so they’re also ideal first-time riding companions.
  • Donkeys are a great starting point for kids who are afraid of horse riding.

#5: Donkeys are Full of Character

Each donkey that I had was different, from their looks to temperament they were all unique. For instance, the female donkey would follow me everywhere, while the male donkey was loud.

Breeds also make a difference. Other than the height, a majorera donkey is significantly different from a miniature donkey. They differ from horses in physical, emotional, and mental aspects too.

2 donkeys with cute faces peeking over a fence.
Donkeys have charismatic personalities

#6: Donkeys are Therapy Animals

In the United States, donkeys are useful in several therapy programs. Patients can get their therapy by petting a gentle donkey, talking to them, or taking therapeutic riding classes. With their calm behavior, donkeys are also great for schools and nursing homes. 

#7: Donkeys are Inexpensive

When it comes to farm animals, donkeys are relatively affordable. You won’t worry about their food because they’re usually satisfied with hay.

Donkeys can be bought at lower prices than horses. Then, you won’t have to spend that much on the vet or farrier than horses.

FACT: When well taken care of, donkeys can live for 30 years and remain a great addition to your farm.

#8: Donkeys are Low Maintenance

Compared to other farm yard animals, donkeys require relatively low maintenance. For instance, shearing, corralling, or herding are not necessary. I can simply let them be on the pasture, and they’ll do their own thing.

Moreover, I won’t have to keep thinking about their safety. Donkeys can protect themselves against snakes, coyotes, dogs, and other predators. They’ll often tell you by braying if another animal in your barn is in danger of predators.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in homesteading or farming, it’s normal to have questions like, “Why do farmers keep donkeys?” and “What are the pros and cons of keeping donkeys?” While donkeys can be stubborn and feel lonely at times, they’re effective herd protectors, hardworking, smart, great companions, therapy animals, low maintenance, and more. Thus, you should consider donkeys a valuable addition to your farm.

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