Does your livestock need a livestock guardian donkey? Many smaller livestock animals, such as sheep and goats need a livestock guardian to keep them safe from predators. Poultry is also at high risk for predator attacks. Even horses might need protection due to their strong flight instinct.
You have several options:
- a livestock guardian dog (LGD)
- a Donkey
- a llama
- an ostrich
I’ve tried several breeds of LGD’s and Llamas. The donkey worked best for me for many reasons.
- Cost less to feed than an LGD breed
- More multipurpose than a dog or llama
- Easier to handle as long as the donkey has been properly trained.
- They did not try to eat my goats after birth (which leads to eating baby goats) and they do not eat my chicken and duck eggs! No fun raising poultry for eggs so the dogs eat them all. Talk about expensive dog food!
- They don’t roam put of their fences. At least mine never have. This is a huge problem for many Lgd’s.
- They live WAY longer than an lgd! Up to 30 years. I’ve seen 25-year-old donkeys still healthy and kicking and effective guardians. So long as they are properly cared for.
- NO barking ALL night long like lgds! So if you’re a light sleeper a donkey guardian (or a llama) is by far they are the best choice. Trust me on that! Although I was woke up in the middle of the night by a screaming dog that was attacked by one of my donkeys… the dog got out before he was killed, but never came back!
My husband would not allow me to try an ostrich 🙂 so I can’t compare them here in this post.
What Donkeys Need from You to be successful Livestock Guard Donkey
- All donkeys need a companion! And I’m talking about a companion from the equine family. Donkeys and horses are both herd animals and can get sleep deprived which can lead to bad behavior. There are exceptions to this. A few donkeys can and will bond with cattle or sheep alone. But mostly they will start to strike out at them, possibly from irritability and sometimes because they want to ‘play’ with something. If another donkey is available they will play with him but if not they may ‘play’ with your small livestock. Donkey play is ROUGH! Many small livestock animals have been killed due to putting them with a young donkey that has no play friends. Plan on two for the best chance of success.
- Shelter, water, and Feed in the form of lower grade hay or rough pasture. Lush pasture and protein-rich hay can cause a donkey to founder and develop many health problems. An unhealthy donkey that can not walk is not going to be a very effective guard. If you have rich pasture you may have to put a grazing muzzle on your donkey for a portion of the day.
My standard donkey only needs 3 flakes of lower quality hay a day in the winter. Honestly, my donkeys really cost much less to feed than the lgd’s did. In the summer my guardian donkeys do not have to be fed extra food. They live on our weedy pasture, brambles and brush. Unlike a dog that needs feed all year. So if you’re on a budget a donkey is a far better choice than a LGD. Nor do they require the monthly heartworm and flea medicines. They may require deworming and vaccinations if your vet recommends them.
Donkeys also eat weeds and brush that other livestock will not eat.
- Donkeys require a farrier but typically not as often as horses and they rarely need shoes. But a farrier is VERY important! They must have regular trims. A donkey with unstable and hurting feet will NOT be an effective guardian.
They rarely require de-worming as long as you have enough land. I typically only chemically de-worm rescues I take in for rehabilitation and training. The rest of my herd is on a mild herbal deworming system.
Note: Please keep in mind I am talking about standard donkeys here. They tend to make the best guardians in my experience.
Also Note: I’m talking about non-breeding jennies (female donkeys) or geldings (castrated males) breeding animals require more time and cost more to feed. Jacks are to unpredictable to be guardians.
Why do they make good guards
Donkeys also tend to be more fight than flight and they are naturally aggressive to canines they don’t know. This makes them good guards. I’ve watched many donkeys stand up to dogs at the fence line. The posture and may bray. Those dogs did not want to enter my pastures. Because Donkeys are herd animals they will naturally stay with livestock, unlike a LGD that will likely sleep all day in the barn and may or may not go out to the grazing areas at night.
When a Guardian Donkey attacks a predator it can be very aggressive, using their teeth and hooves. Most predators try to get out when the donkey comes charging through.
Guardian Donkeys also keep raccoons and other vermin out of my pastures.
Picking out the Right Guardian Donkey
- NEVER buy an unmanageable donkey unless you want to take a crash course in donkey training! They do not respond to training the same way horses do. So unless you want to learn to train a donkey, save yourself a lot of headaches and buy one already trained. I’m talking halter and lead broke at the very least! But realize the more trained a donkey is the more it will cost.
- Find a farrier. Make sure your local farrier will trim donkeys. Some farriers won’t if the donkey is wild. Another reason to buy one already trained. If you can tell your farrier that your donkey stands tied and will allow its feet to be picked up most farriers will be ok with trimming your new guardian donkeys. Expect to pay more for a donkey this well trained though.
- Do not get a jack unless you want to breed. Get jennets or geldings. Jacks can be unpredictable and dangerous so why risk it? You may pay more for a gelding or jenny but again save yourself the heartache.
Other Uses For Your New Guardian Donkey
You can check out this post here to get more ideas for things you may want to do with your new donkey! What Are Donkeys Used For?
A Livestock Guardian Donkey has been the best option for my farm. I’ve used them for many years now to guard multiple breeds of poultry and small ruminants.
If you are seriously thinking about guardian donkeys or just bought one I highly recommend my ebook on basic donkey care.
You can read it FREE if you have kindle unlimited! It’s only $4.99 without. Though it’s worth more I wanted to make it absolutely affordable to anyone thinking about getting a donkey. The worst thing that can happen is you bring a donkey home unprepared. Not good for you or the donkey.
Click the pic to see the book on Amazon!
Donkey Lovers List
I invite you to join my donkey lovers list if you want to know more donkey care information and get donkey training tips. I send out emails to my fellow donkey lovers every Friday.