Donkeys are part of the Equidae family and are found throughout the world. Unlike horses, they have long, floppy ears and a stockier build.

Domesticated donkeys require a high-fiber diet consisting of barley straw, grass, and hay. Given they are herbivores and do well on a plant-based diet, donkeys can eat hay, and it’s good for them.

Join us in discovering the donkey diet and other useful information, especially if you’re new to owning a domesticated donkey on a farm.

donkey-divider What Do Domesticated Donkeys Eat?

As we’ve stated, domesticated donkeys need a diet of barley straw, grass, and hay. Donkeys enjoy trickle feeding, meaning they eat small quantities at a time at frequent intervals. While donkeys can eat hay, barley straw is best. It’s recommended to restrict the amount of grass to maintain proper body weight.

Hay in a donkey’s diet should come from meadow hay or seed hay made from Timothy grass or rye and should only be fed in small quantities for grazing. Donkeys have a tendency to get obese, and a balanced diet is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight. Donkeys are also prone to hyperlipaemia, a condition meaning there is too much fat in the blood, and it can be fatal.

Barley straw should be the main source of a donkey’s diet, as it is high in fiber and low in protein and carbohydrates.

donkey eating straw
Image Credit: Nataliia Krasnogor, Shutterstock

How Much Should I Feed My Donkey Daily?

The appropriate amount to feed your donkey will depend on your donkey’s weight and activity level. Typically, a donkey will eat 1.5% of its body weight daily when given free access to foraging. To put into perspective, a 450-pound donkey will require approximately 7-pounds of forage daily.

If you’re a newcomer to owning a donkey, we recommend checking with a veterinarian to determine how much forage is appropriate for your donkey. As a general rule, hay should make up 25% to 50% of a donkey’s diet, depending on the time of year.

In the winter months, hay needs to be more abundant than grass because grass doesn’t grow in winter. Therefore, donkeys will have no grass to graze during that time of year.

Can I Feed My Donkey the Same Food as My Horse?

While donkeys are part of the equine family and have a similar digestive system to a horse, they require fewer calories than horses to maintain proper body weight. However, even though a donkey’s digestive system is similar to a horse, it functions differently in that it’s more efficient and digests fiber better and longer than horses.

Donkeys evolved from dry environments with poor-quality forage, and their guts have a microbiota that’s better suited to degrade fiber more efficiently.

miniature donkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Do I Feed My Donkey With Dental Issues?

For starters, donkeys should have their teeth checked at least twice a year by an equine dental technician or veterinarian to ensure the teeth are in tip-top shape. Donkeys with dental issues will require a different diet of grass, chop, or chaff pellets because these types of pellets are easy to chew.

Avoid straw if your donkey has dental problems because straw requires a significant amount of chewing for your donkey. We recommend consulting your vet for advice on feeding your donkey if it has dental issues.

Tips for a Healthy Donkey Diet

Donkeys require a diet high in fiber but also low in protein, sugars, calories, starch, and total carbohydrates. Avoid moldy or dusty feeds, and always provide fresh water at all times.

Always feed according to body weight, activity level, and age, and the feed should consistently be made up of barley straw. Lastly, keep an eye out for ragwort in hay due to its toxicity to donkeys.

donkey-divider Final Thoughts

While donkeys are similar to horses, they must be fed differently. Remember to provide your donkey primarily barley straw, with hay consisting of 25% to 50% of its diet.

Have your donkey’s teeth checked at least twice a year by an equine dental tech or vet, and always provide enough food daily to maintain a proper weight to avoid obesity in your pet donkey.

Featured Image Credit: www_slon_pics, Pixabay