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What’s On the Menu for the Donkeys at Oscar’s Place

At Oscar’s Place we often bray about the three things we provide for all of our donkeys—a happy, healthy, and safe existence for the remainders of their lives. “We got you,” we tell a donkey when we acquire it, primarily by outbidding others who likely have different intentions. Part of our mantra includes providing our 100-plus donkeys (as of Jan. 10) with the finest foods we find, so here is a list of what’s on the menu for our donkeys here at Oscar’s Place in Hopland, CA.

The most appropriate feed for donkeys is straw, hay and grass in moderation. Although you may not think it, horse and donkey dietary requirements are very different. Donkeys love to graze all day but will eat everything in sight if they can, so if you’re looking after donkeys, it’s important to feed them a healthy diet.

Donkeys have incredible digestive systems and are able to survive in some of the harshest environments on earth, including deserts. Their stomachs easily break down foods so that they can absorb the maximum nutrition from what they do eat. Therefore, it’s important to feed them the right type of foods, otherwise your donkey could easily become overweight, as well as facing a higher risk of laminitis.

Donkeys have a sweet tooth and can put on weight easily if they eat the wrong foods, or too much lush grass or rich hay, which can lead to potential health problems.

It is important for donkeys to eat throughout the day, rather than receive all their feed at once.

Top Donkey Foods

1. Straw

Barley straw is an ideal feed for your donkey. This is because donkeys need high fiber diets with a low amount of protein and carbohydrates. Straw should be the main source of feed in the summer, making up approximately 75 per cent of all feed, and in the winter, straw should be 50 per cent of a donkey’s feed. Wheat straw should only be given to younger donkeys with good teeth as it is more difficult to chew.

2. Hay and grass

The remainder of a donkey’s diet (25-50 per cent) should be grazing on grass, hay or haylage. Feeding on grass is great alongside straw for the majority of the year. In the winter and other colder months, donkeys should eat hay or haylage. Grass hay is a great feed, as it’s low in protein and good for your donkey’s teeth. Donkeys should eat hay or haylage two to three times a day.

Donkey teeth

It is not a good idea to feed straw or hay to a donkey with dental problems because these feeds require significant chewing, which may be difficult for a donkey with teeth problems. Instead feed them chaff, chop or grass pellets. These require less chewing and make choking less likely.

Minerals, Salt and Forage Balancer

Donkeys need salt and, if suffering from a salt deficiency, they may eat dirt or lick/chew objects. To avoid this, pour some loose salt into a separate container to other food or give a little at night. You can also buy equine salt lick blocks, but make sure you do not buy a cattle salt block by mistake. A donkey forage balancer is also a great product to add to your donkey’s diet.

What do donkeys eat for treats?

We know how easy it is to fall in love with a donkey, but don’t let that be reason to spoil them with delicious treats. You could very quickly land up with a rather fat donkey, as they are easily prone to obesity.

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

  • Turnips

  • Hay pellets

Foods you should never feed your donkey:

  • NEVER feed donkeys meat or dairy – animal protein can be fatal

  • Cereal grains such as corn, barley and oats

  • All cakes

  • Chocolate

  • All biscuits

  • Bread

  • Broccoli

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Eggplant

  • Leeks

  • Cauliflower

  • Tomatoes

  • Risotto

  • Peppers

  • Potatoes

Sources: SPANA and Wikipedia

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