Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why do I have donkeys?

Why do I have donkeys? Well... I raise pygmy goats and several had been killed by neighborhood dogs and/or coyotes, foxes, raccoons, whatever.... So about a year and a half ago, I bought a jenny donkey and her 4 month old foal to be guard donkeys for my goats. (I also just really like donkeys.) My husband, Foxfire, immediately named the foal, Tessla, after his favorite scientist, Nikolai Tessla. So I named the jenny, Marie, after Marie Curie. Now, although these donkeys were not completely feral. They were not exactly tame either. They'd been running loose on this person's property, and as far as I could tell, no one had ever tried to train either one. Frankly, you couldn't get within 10 feet of Marie, much less touch her. But she didn't seem truly scared or angry at humans the way some feral donkeys do. She just seemed very wary. Tessla was more curious and less wary, and if you stood still, he'd come almost within touching distance looking and sniffing at you. I'd looked at other donkeys, better trained donkeys, one that was even broke to ride, but there was something about these two that told me they were the ones. So I bought them and brought them home. And thus the adventure began.

I'd been taming and training animals since I was a child. But I'd never really worked with donkeys before. They are a lot bigger than the dogs, cats, goats and chickens that I'd worked with in the past. And although the basic tenets of training work for pretty much all animals, when you're working with something that outweighs you by several hundred pounds, things are a little different. There have been some scary moments, but I think I've done pretty well with Marie and Tessla. And also with Kanemura who arrived on the scene 10 months after I brought Marie and Tessla home. (Apparently, Marie was three months pregnant when I bought her.) I love my donkeys and look forward to sharing stories about them with you.


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  2. We have been debating whether to get a guard donkey or a guard dog (possibly Great Pyranees) for our 7 goats and 5 sheep. How well have your donkeys worked out as guard animals? What do they do to protect your flock?

  3. My donkeys have worked out well as guards, but they've really only had to deal with neighborhood dogs, foxes and racoons. I don't think that there are any coyotes nearby. Plus they had the advantage of being half feral to begin with. A previously trained donkey might have been taught to ignore dogs and might not prove as good of a guard against coyotes and other predators. A great pyranees would certainly be cheaper and easier to maintain.