Donkey Enrichment Made Easy
One of the best ways to show your donkey some love is by providing them with Toys and treats!
Not only do these items help keep donkeys entertained and engaged, but they also provide crucial mental stimulation, which helps promote their overall health and well-being.
In this post, we will explore some of the best treats and toys you can give your donkey so they can stay happy, healthy, and well-loved.
A good approach for the domesticated donkey is a “do one thing” schedule (examples listed below).
What one thing can you do each day to change up your donkey’s environment and provide mental stimulation?
“Do One Thing” in a Nut Shell
- Develop a list of 7-14 enrichment activities, then rotate through them.
- These activities could include adding new stimuli to their environment, moving around existing items, creating puzzles for them to solve, or even building different obstacles to incorporate into your routine.
- Both toys and treats are effective in providing enrichment.
Toys and treats don’t necessarily need to be bought at a store—in many cases, you can make your own or utilize items around your house (with modifications for safety, of course).
This article includes treats and toys (some involve both) to keep your donkey occupied and entertained.
Donkeys are desert-dwelling creatures and have evolved to survive on the bare minimum. They have highly efficient digestive systems and can gain weight easily.
Be careful not to over-treat (or overfeed!) donkeys.
Just because something is safe for humans doesn’t mean it suits your donkey. Even treats or feed designed for horses may not be the right morsel for your donkey.
- Basic treats like carrots, apples, peppermints, bananas, watermelons, oranges, pears, grapes, celery, strawberries, and pumpkin are all safe for donkeys. But remember—everything in moderation, including treats.
- Donkeys like sweet flavors, like raspberry. These unique flavors encourage exploration via sniffing, licking, and drinking. You could steam or soak your hay in peppermint-infused water* or leave out buckets of cold herbal tea.
- You can add fruit to a bucket of water to make it more challenging to grab—think bobbing for apples, but with donkeys!
- Hay pellets or cubes are fair game; however, avoid alfalfa as this will likely be too rich and high in calories. Always soak hay cubes before feeding to prevent choke and colic.
- Animal crackers (the non-frosted variety) can also make for a good treat in small quantities.
*For peppermint-infused water, use two teaspoons of peppermint extract diluted in a 5-gallon bucket of water.
Many items can make for a good donkey toy, whether it was designed for that purpose or not.
When considering a new toy for your donkey, think about how safe it will be.
Does it have any sharp edges or metal parts that could cause injury? Does it contain anything that could be poisonous or harmful if ingested?
It’s best to supervise playtime, especially with new toys.
- Logs can be an excellent source of (natural!) entertainment for your donkey. They enjoy stripping the bark off the wood; willow bark has medicinal properties, as it contains naturally occurring aspirin. Be sure to select a tree that is not poisonous to donkeys. Safe tree species include birch, hazel, and poplar. A full list of donkey-safe trees and shrubberies can be found here.
- Equine play balls (or even larger balls designed for humans, like a yoga ball) can be a source of amusement. If you slightly deflate the ball, it will be easier to pick up. That said, ensure the ball has tough skin that can handle being bitten.
This video of a donkey playing with a ball is hilarious!
- Orange traffic cones can also be a heavy-duty toy for a donkey.
- In the summer, you could add a baby pool to the donkey’s paddock and fill it with water. Let the donkeys “bob for apples” or other produce in the pool.
- Speaking of pools, pool noodles can make good donkey toys! Just be sure they don’t tear off pieces of the foam and ingest it.
- Consider a dirt pile (or piles) if you have the means. Yes, donkeys love baby mountains and playing “king of the hill.”
- Some donkeys will play with a length of hose (with the metal connector ends cut off). Depending on your donkey, please be aware that this could look like a snake and take some desensitization.
- Pieces of cotton rope, similar to a dog tug-toy, can provide entertainment.
Two-Week “Do One Thing” Example
What can a strategic enrichment plan look like in action? Here’s an example of what I plan to do with my donkeys.
- Introduce the KONG Equine Classic Toy
- Add a log to the paddock
- Surprise with a “Bucket Treat” of cold herbal tea
- Hide carrots in cardboard boxes (first, ensure the box has any staples or tape removed to avoid injury or ingestion)
- Set up a tent right outside their paddock for desensitization
- Add an old tire to their paddock
- Expose them to bikes—first stationary, outside the paddock, then stationary, inside the paddock. Work up to riding bikes around the outside of the paddock
- Surprise with a hay snack soaked in peppermint water
- Puzzle Toy! Fill a few plastic milk jugs with carrots; string a rope across the paddock (high enough not to interfere with their ability to walk around) and hang the treat-filled milk jugs so the donkeys can figure out how to get the treats out
- Build a bridge and add it to their paddock for trail obstacle practice
- Add a mirror just outside the paddock for visual stimulation**
- Play music in the donkey paddock during daily chores
- Offer hay or straw in a slow-feed hay net
- Add a hula hoop to their paddock
**For safety, be sure the mirror is shatterproof and out of reach of the donkeys to avoid accidents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of toys do donkeys like?
Donkeys love to play with various toys, including balls, chew toys, and even interactive puzzles.
Balls can be stuffed or empty depending on the size of your donkey, but make sure they’re durable enough for them to carry around!
Chew toys and puzzles are great for helping donkeys work out their natural curiosity and providing them with mental stimulation.
Interactive toys like ropes and boxes also help keep your donkey entertained and engaged in a healthy manner.
These items can give them hours of playtime fun that will help strengthen their bond with you!
What is the best treat for a donkey?
Donkeys love treats, and there’s no better way to show your donkey some love than with tasty snacks!
Treats like apples, bananas, carrots, and other fruits make great snacks to keep your donkey happy.
For special occasions, you can also give them hay cubes or treats made specifically for donkeys.
No matter what treats you choose to give them, make sure they’re healthy and in moderation!
Too many treats can lead to weight problems and other health issues.
What should you NOT feed a donkey?
Generally speaking, anything that is toxic to a horse will be harmful to a donkey as well.
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) are toxic. Don’t feed anything from the brassica family. This includes root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, and garlic.
- Tomatoes and peppers are also toxic.
- Chocolate should be avoided.
- Never feed old, fermented, or moldy food or feed.
- Pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticides are all toxic to donkeys (and animals in general).
- Don’t allow donkeys to chew on wood that has been treated or painted.
Never feed grass cuttings to donkeys.
Do all donkeys like to play with toys?
No, each animal is different. What works for some may not work for others.
Try a few different things to see what your donkey prefers!
Why should you give your donkey toys?
Toys are an important part of a donkey’s life, as they provide them with mental stimulation and help keep them healthy and happy.
Toys can also help establish a strong bond between you and your donkey!
Moreover, toys are great for helping donkeys safely work out their natural curiosity.
This will not only make them more content, but it can also help reduce the likelihood of them becoming bored and developing unwanted behaviors.
Finally, toys provide donkeys with an outlet for their energy and a way to stay active – which is very important in promoting overall health and well-being.
Do donkeys get bored?
Yes, like many animals, donkeys can get bored when confined and lacking stimulation.
Toys and treats are just one way to increase your donkey’s activity and keep them interested in their surroundings.
What are low-budget toy ideas for a donkey?
Not all donkey toys have to be expensive!
One of the best low-budget toy ideas is to use old plastic milk containers filled with treats or hay cubes.
This can provide hours of entertainment for your donkey as they work out how to get the treats out!
Another great idea is simply giving your donkey a box or other container filled with hay cubes.
This can help provide mental stimulation as they learn how to get the food out!
It’s best to supervise your donkey when giving them new toys to ensure they don’t eat something they shouldn’t or put themselves in an unsafe situation.
Are donkeys easy keepers?
Yes, donkeys have a very efficient digestive system and don’t take much feed to maintain a healthy weight.
If you use treats to stimulate your donkey, be sure not to over-feed! Stick to low-calorie options like carrots or celery, and limit how many treats you feed.
If you use treats with toys for entertainment, increase the level of difficulty to get the reward, so your donkey has to “work” for it!
Or, spread treats out so the donkey must walk a distance to get them.
How do you adopt a donkey?
There are many adoptable burros available through the Bureau of Land Management and various donkey rescues across the country. Read more on adopting a wild burro here.
Physical and mental stimulation are critical for keeping donkeys (as well as any animal!) healthy.
A bored animal can become destructive. Treats and toys are both great methods for entertaining your donkey.
Additional stimulation can help donkeys exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and enrich their daily lives.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- How to Adopt a Wild Donkey: A Helpful Beginner’s Guide
- Owning Donkeys for Beginners (Pros, Cons, What to Expect)
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- Donkeys and Horses: Better Together or Bad Roommates?
- Donkey vs. horse nutrition: What’s the difference?
- Do Donkeys Bite? (And How to Keep Your Fingers!)
- 5 Simple Tips to Help An Abused Horse
- Dangerous Horse: The Result of Being Abused
- Why horses are dangerous (but worth the risk!)
- 3 Fear-Free Secrets to Gain Your Horse’s Trust & Respect
- Bonding 101: How to Make the Most of Your Horse Time
- 5 Simple Steps to Halter Training Your Wild Donkey
- Safety First: How Much Can a Donkey Carry?