Here in Birmingham we are always looking for ways to enrich the lives of our donkeys and variety in their diet is a great way to encourage a healthy appetite. Donkeys are natural foragers, using smell and touch to seek out new taste experiences and they love to explore different tastes and textures.
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At The Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham we have been trying out new forms of enrichment to keep our donkeys stimulated, happy and healthy. Now the weather has got warmer and the donkeys have been grazing in the fields, our staff have tried out three new ways to give the donkeys novel and exciting tastes and smells in the fields.
Donkeys are primarily foragers, evolved from a long line of descendants who spent a long time searching and nibbling a variety of different foods. Here in Birmingham, our team has been coming up with different ways to mimic a donkey’s natural behaviour… and they have come up with the donkey forage box! A clever way of recycling an old toy box, the donkey forage box has a wide opening in the top covered by mesh so that herbs, plants and grasses can be grown through for the donkeys to nibble.
Here in Birmingham, our staff have been pleased with the results from trialling a new type of enrichment with the 21 donkeys who live at the Centre in Sutton Park. The donkeys were given paprika, scattered around the field, to smell and sniff – resulting in a host of positive behaviours. In order to find out what other new and interesting scents pique the donkeys’ interest, the staff having been trying the same technique with a variety of other herbs and spices… and the results were interesting indeed!
Have you ever walked into a shop and looked at a pair of shoes and thought “I like those” and you then look at the price tag and think “no that’s too much”?
I do, quite regularly and my husband will always say “oh just buy them if you want them” but still you walk out of the shop empty handed.
You may be thinking what my point is. Well, look down at the pair of wellies or yard boots you are a wearing and tell me how much they cost... thought as much.
Drive down a winding country lane in rural Warwickshire and you will find the idyllic setting of Northleigh House School. The school, based in a country house, was established in 2012 for children who cannot study in a mainstream setting. Those who have experienced bullying, anxiety or have been unable to cope in larger school settings can learn in this safe, calm and creative environment. The staff at Northleigh are dedicated to encouraging learning and development in their students in as many ways as possible – including meeting two of Donkey Sanctuary Birmingham’s fantastic donkeys!
One of the fundamental aims of any animal charity will be upholding the ‘5 freedoms’; these are the 5 aspects of animal welfare that determine how animals should be treated. These are: Freedom from hunger and thirst; Freedom from pain, injury or disease; Freedom from discomfort; Freedom from fear and distress and lastly, Freedom to express natural behaviour. It is the last of these, for species to be able to display behaviours that they would in the wild, that has got staff at the Sanctuary in Birmingham thinking of new ways to encourage natural behaviours in their 21 lovely donkeys.
One of the jobs of the staff at our farms and Donkey Assisted Therapy centres is that of informing and entertaining the public with stories and photographs of the lovely donkeys in our care. Here at the Birmingham centre we have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages where people can enjoy the anecdotes and pictures of the day-to-day lives of our donkeys. For those who don’t have social media accounts, we print off as many pictures as we can to display around our centre.
Life can be hard enough for a young boy journeying towards being a teenager but being diagnosed with autism can be especially difficult. Mahkai was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an aspect of autism that means he finds socialising and following instructions difficult. Things grew harder for Mahkai and mom Marlica when they realised that his school was not able to support Mahkai’s emotional needs – reluctantly Marlica withdrew her son from school, hoping to find ways to build Mahkai’s self-esteem and tackle his increasing withdrawal from social situations.
Members of the public got to see more than just plants and flowers at this year’s BBC Gardener’s World Show - they also got to meet some of our lovely donkeys! The show, lasting four days at the NEC Birmingham, is a haven for everything horticultural and hundreds of visitors flocked to see show gardens and meet celebrity experts such as Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh. Our donkeys went along as part of this celebration of all things in nature and the outdoors (not to mention the gardeners that may have been eyeing up the manure as fertiliser for their plots!).
The Donkey Sanctuary Birmingham’s fantastic Summer Fair is back on Saturday 18 June from 11am to 3pm, packed with plenty of fun for the whole family including the chance to meet and adopt the resident donkeys.
Join the centre for their annual Summer Fair where there will be many stalls and family friendly activities for all the family. They will also be holding a fun dog show starting at 1.30pm.
Some of the donkeys at the donkey assisted therapy centres and at Slade House Farm are trained to draw carts.
Long reining and driving are great activities to provide enrichment for the donkeys as well being a very effective way to keep them physically and mentally fit so they can carry out their donkey assisted therapy work better.