Donkeys – environment

Environmental conditions for donkeys.

Fences, gateways, gates and all facilities used to secure donkeys must be constructed and maintained to reduce the risk of injury.


Donkeys are grazing animals, eating small amounts often of highly fibrous food throughout the day. They need space to roam and move around and environmental stimulation. They mostly like to eat grass however they will also eat shrubs and other plants. Donkeys typically have huge appetites and can consume as much as 2,722 kg of food per year. Due to this, donkeys' feed intake in domestic situations may have to be monitored or restricted to avoid them becoming overweight or laminitic.

Donkey grazing in a paddock Donkey grazing in a paddock
Image: Donkeys are grazing animals and eat small amounts often.

Donkeys have hard hooves like horses and are therefore hard on the ground especially in intensive environments or if they are kept at a high stocking rate.

They should be kept at similar stocking rates as horses. Access to shade throughout the day is essential and sprinklers or a water source like a dam during hot periods helps donkeys to stay cool.


Donkeys originated in deserts and savannas and are therefore fairly resilient animals that can handle tough conditions. However, they are not as resilient to wet, windy or cold conditions as they are to hot and dry conditions.

Shelter is essential to protect donkeys from wind, rain and extreme heat. They prefer shelters where they can look out and protect their herd. Shelter can be provided with purpose-built shelters, trees and bushes. Where bedding is required in small pens or shelters, straw, wood shavings or sawdust can be used.

Fencing and enclosures

If there is a need to yard donkeys, their pens need to be kept clean, dry and well ventilated. Manure should be removed regularly and bedding changed or freshened regularly.

Water troughs and feeds bins should be regularly cleaned and checked.

Tethering is acceptable as a routine husbandry practice if donkeys have been properly and safely trained to be tethered. It is not acceptable to tether an animal that has not been trained to do so. Where animals are penned or tethered at shows, they must be accustomed to the practice and be given adequate exercise each day.

Sheep fencing, 1.2 metres high, is adequate for donkeys, however they can jump if stressed or seeking a mate. When handling donkeys in yards, they should be kept with their herd or at least a mate unless they are used to being handled alone. Barbed wire should not be used and fencing should be checked regularly and kept in good condition.


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