Using a Guardian Donkey

Does your livestock need a livestock guardian donkey? The donkey worked best for me for many reasons. PLEASE keep reading though… because they do not work out for everyone or in every situation. Many smaller livestock animals, such as sheep and goats need a livestock guardian to help 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 llamas didn’t quite fit in here. The Lgd’s sometimes killed more livestock than the predators I was dealing with. Please consider carefully before you get a donkey and hope it will keep your livestock safe.

This is just my personal experience.

Guardian donkeys

  1. Cost less to feed than an LGD breed
  2. More multipurpose than a dog or llama
  3. Easier to handle as long as the donkey has been properly trained. They can be harder to handle if not trained.
  4. Donkeys 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 eats them all. Keep in mind ‘dogs ARE predators themselves!’ It is natural for them to want to chase and kill. They need training too! LGDs have killed more of my livestock than predators ever have.¬†
  5. Donkeys don’t break out roam outside of their fences. At least mine never have. This is an enormous problem for many Lgd’s. We had many LGD’s that would not stay in fencing. Some never came home. And we have great fencing.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 ūüôā so I can’t compare them here in this post.

Guard donkey
Guarding Sheep and goats at GB Farm

What Donkeys Need from You to be successful Livestock Guard Donkey

This is important! Not all donkeys are cut out to be a guardian donkey just like not all lgd’s are good guards.

To help ensure success, you have to set them up for success and address ALL their needs!

Read this article about a rescue who has developed a training program for livestock guard donkeys. Where wild burros learn to be guardians

  • 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 lone donkeys will 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 donkeys for the best chance of success.
  • Shelter, water, and Feed in the form of lower grade hay or rough pasture/brush. Lush pasture and protein-rich hay can cause a donkey to founder and develop many health problems. An unhealthy donkey that can not walk will not 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 eats 3 flakes of lower quality hay a day in the winter and 2 cups of timothy pellets. 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, though I still offer some hay pellets mixed with their minerals. 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, IF you have enough space and resources for them. They do not require the monthly heartworm and flea medicines dogs do. They may require deworming and vaccinations if your vet recommends them.¬†

Donkeys also eat weeds and brush that other livestock will not eat.

ALL Donkeys including Guardian donkeys need hoof care! Do not skip this!

  • Donkeys require a farrier! A ¬†farrier is VERY important! They must have regular trims. A donkey with unstable and hurting feet will NOT be an effective guardian.¬†

Other Things You Need To Know if you want a Livestock Guard Donkey

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. 12 hh at least. They tend to make the best guardians in my experience. Never mini donkeys unless your predators are foxes or raccoons breaking into your chickens. They are too small to be effective against canines. 

Mammoth donkeys are a lot more expensive to buy, to feed and maintain. 

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. Most Jacks are too unpredictable to be guardians.

*****ALSO NOTE: Keep in mind what predators you are dealing with. If you are dealing with mountain lions, wolves, bears, packs of coyotes or packs of domestic dogs, a donkey is not a good choice! Neither is a llama or a single LGD. You need MULTIPLE LGDS, well trained and aggressive, to deal with predators on this level. Basically, you need your own dog pack to protect against these predators and hope they don’t turn on your own livestock and stay in fences.

Why do donkeys make good guards?

Donkeys 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. They posture, stomp 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 probably sleep all day in the barn and may or may not go out to the grazing areas at night.¬†

Donkeys guard because they are concerned with their own safety and territorial. They do not guard livestock because they ‘love’ or bond with it.

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.

Picking out the Right Guardian Donkey

  1. 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 but the easier it will be to manage.
  2. Find a farrier. Make sure your local farrier will trim donkeys and understands them. 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 and will allow its feet to be picked up most farriers will be ok with trimming your new guardian donkeys. Finding a donkey trained to pick up feet is a wonderful thing!!!!¬†
  3. 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. Unless you plan to have the jack gelded by a vet. There are programs in some states that help with the cost of gelding surgery. Here in TN the University of TN will geld for $100! 


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?

In Conclusion

A Livestock Guardian Donkey was the best option for my farm. I 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 care book

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.