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Pros And Cons of Owning a Donkey

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Owning a donkey can be a truly rewarding experience for farm owners. It can have its downfalls as well, and it is important for anyone considering owning a donkey for the first time to understand both the good and the bad.

Donkeys are not always the easiest farm animals to deal with and anyone that plans on getting one should first weigh the pros and cons of owning a donkey. If you want to be prepared, you need to know exactly what you are getting into.

Most farm owners love having a donkey or donkeys on the farm, however, it is not always sunshine and rainbows.

Here are the pros and cons of owning a donkey.

A worm view of six donkeys in the field

Pros of Owning a Donkey

Donkeys Are Excellent Livestock Guard Animals

Donkeys tend to fight when cornered, so they are often used as livestock guardians on many farms. They have no problem standing their ground against predators like coyotes and dogs that may come after them and other livestock in a pasture.

Donkeys are able to kick, stomp, and even bite intruders that enter their space. Many farm owners across the country own donkeys strictly to protect their livestock against predators.

They Are Affordable

Donkeys are pretty easy to find and there is no such thing as a donkey registry, so they are usually pretty cheap to purchase. Most donkeys only cost between $50 to $200 depending on their size, age, and color.

Apart from their initial cost, overall, owning a donkey is fairly affordable when compared to other farm animals like horses or cows.

Donkeys Are Easy Keepers

Donkeys are relatively easy keepers and do not usually cause a lot of issues on the farm. They do not tear down fences nor do they require lush, grass-filled pastures.

Donkeys enjoy eating dry vegetation and can thrive eating only hay. They only need grain in limited quantities, if at all, and eat significantly less than horses or cows.

A donkey eating while its wagon is on its back

They Can Help Out On the Farm

Donkeys make great pack and work animals, so many farmers actually use them on the farm to help with chores. They can carry heavy supplies, pull small carts or wagons, and can be ridden if trained.

Donkeys come in handy on farms with rough terrain or narrow areas that four-wheelers or other all-terrain vehicles cannot access.

They Are Very Smart and Trainable

Donkeys are extremely intelligent animals that can be easy to train when they trust their owners. Many donkey owners feel that donkeys are easier to train than most horses.

Owners often use positive reinforcement, target luring, and negative reinforcement training techniques to train their donkeys. Castrated males as well as young, calm donkeys are usually the easiest to train.

They Are Easy to Bond With

It may take a little time at first, but once a donkey is at ease and trusts its owner, it will bond quickly with them. Donkeys are herd animals and enjoy the company of others, including humans.

Donkeys that bond with their owners will be very sweet, often preferring them over strangers and sometimes even other animals.

They Make Great Companion Animals

Donkeys make great companions for lonely farm animals. They can get along with almost any animal, as long as it does not pose a threat to them.

Donkeys need at least one friend in any pasture so that they do not get lonely as well. Many farm owners use donkeys as companion animals for horses, cows, ponies, miniature horses, and other farm animals.  

A donkey eating a hay together with cows inside the farm

Cons of Owning Donkey

Donkeys Can Be Aggressive or Stubborn

It is no secret that sometimes donkeys can be aggressive and stubborn. Often, this is just a result of them being scared or wary of new people, places, or animals.

Occasionally, a donkey’s aggressiveness cannot be remedied, but that is extremely rare.

Before giving up, try a few remedies like having any aggressive males castrated, feeding donkeys separately from other animals, or keeping females separated from the other animals during ‘heats’.

They May Be Too Smart

Sometimes, a donkey can be so smart it can learn how to escape by opening stall doors, feed room doors, or even gates in a pasture. Like some horses, donkeys use their mouths to turn doorknobs, lift stall latches, or pry open gates.

The good news is this can be solved by using better lock mechanisms on all doors and gates, but it could lead to some problems beforehand. It is important to never underestimate a donkey and assume they cannot get out or into an enclosure that is not secured properly.

They Can Be Prone to Kicking

Donkeys use their hind legs to kick at anything that upsets them or scares them. It is their best line of defense against predators, but sometimes they will kick other farm animals or even their owners.

It is important not to surprise or try to scare a donkey because they will likely kick in the direction they sense the ‘danger’ is coming from.

Donkeys Often Overindulge

Donkeys tend to overeat foods like grain and rich grasses because they are so used to eating dry vegetation. Donkeys can easily become overweight if fed too many treats as well.

Donkeys have unique digestive systems that allow them to extract extra nutrients from dry vegetation.

When donkeys are overfed richer foods like lush grass and grains, it overwhelms their digestive system and they gain weight so quickly they can founder, or become lame.

A donkey eating dried grass inside the pen

They Can Be Selective With Bonding

Donkeys can be extremely selective with who they decide to bond with. Sometimes, a donkey will prefer a male person over a female, even if the female is the one that feeds them most often.

Just because you are their main owner, it does not always mean that a donkey will bond with you the best.

The same is also true with other animals; just because you meant for the donkey to be a companion for a specific animal, it does not mean they will get along right away, or even at all.

Their Hooves and Teeth Must Be Cared For Regularly

Donkeys need to have their hooves picked and trimmed regularly. Cleaning out their hooves often will help avoid abscesses, hoof injuries, and other hoof-related issues.

Donkeys have to have their hooves trimmed at least every two months or so to keep them from overgrowing. If a donkey’s hooves get too long and unlevel, it can cause debilitating leg and body issues.

Donkeys also need their teeth checked often, especially if they are showing signs of teeth issues like weight loss, tilting their head, trouble eating food, or aggression when getting near their mouths. Regular dental checks can prevent tooth overgrowth, overcrowding, and infection.

Donkeys Can Be Loud

Donkeys can be very loud, especially when they are excited or agitated. Their notorious ‘hee-haw’ bray can be a very piercing sound that many people do not enjoy, especially neighbors.

Although it takes a little getting used to, most donkey owners come to love their loud hollering, but it can be a little much for some people. If you have neighbors very close by, you may want to take that into account before you get a donkey.

close up photo of a donkey

Things to Watch Out For

Before buying, observe the donkey in its previous environment.
Ask the owner if you can stop by to see how the donkey acts on their farm. Observe how it interacts with them, you, and any other animals in the enclosure.

Take ads at face value.

Understand that the owners are trying to sell the donkey, so they may not be completely honest about its negative habits. Although it may not deter you from buying, it is important to accept that they may not tell you everything.

  • Be skeptical of free donkeys

Often, farm owners will give away problem animals because they want them off the farm as soon as possible. Now, this does not mean the donkey is a lost cause, but it can be an indicator that it may have some bad habits that may require extra patience on your part.

5 Tips for New Donkey Owners

  1. Have a vet look over the donkey as soon as possible.
  2. Quarantine the donkey from other animals on the farm for at least a week or two.
  3. Be extra gentle and extremely cautious around the donkey until you learn its habits.
  4. Introduce the donkey to other farm animals slowly to make sure they get along.
  5. Make sure your new donkey has a safe, comfortable shelter to rest in.

Final Thoughts

Owning a donkey really does have significant pros and cons, so it is important to give it some serious thought before taking the plunge. Donkeys can be great farm animals, however, there is a downside to every good idea.

If you understand and accept the good and bad aspects of owning a donkey, you should be just fine to make the right decision for you and your farm.


Discovering the real pros and cons of owning a donkey was a rewarding adventure. Here are the sources used in constructing this article.