Two of our taller donkeys have settled in to their new home at Erddig, a National Trust property near Wrexham in North Wales. The previous owners of the hall, the Yorke sisters, kept donkeys that they used to drive in a cart around the grounds, so it seemed fitting that donkeys finally returned. We struggle to find homes with the space and confidence to take our larger donkeys so were thrilled that the National Trust were happy to give two of our lovely taller boys a home.
Lofty and Tambo had come from one of our farms in Devon. They had been waiting for a few years to be placed due to their size, but their patience has finally paid off and not only do they now have a loving Guardian Home but they also have an enormous extended family of staff, volunteers and members of the public, who all make a beeline to see them.
Rehoming donkeys is never without a few hiccups along the way, Rehoming these boys was no exception. Although our farm staff do a fantastic job training and getting our donkeys ready for their new homes, they cannot prepare donkeys for everything they might encounter in their new home. Our advice when donkeys arrive is to give them a settling in period where they can adjust to all the unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells, and to give them time to learn to trust and bond with their new carers.
Lofty and Tambo had been on a farm in a herd for a few years so we knew they would take some time to adjust as absolutely everything would be new and potentially scary for them. There was also the potential to sensitise both donkeys by overloading them with so much new sensory information which might cause them to panic more readily about other seemingly little things. These boys had to get used to new handlers, lots of different staff, volunteers, and then meeting members of the public….who come with all sorts of weird and wonderful items for them to adjust to. Remember, what seems perfectly normal to us is a potentially frightening item for any animal until it learns that the item offers no threat to their wellbeing. Imagine seeing a pram for the first time, or a walking stick, even a crying child will be scary if you don’t know why this small creature is making this enormous noise.
I asked Medina, the head carer, to keep the boys in a quiet environment with just a few core people caring for them to begin with. This could then be increased gradually as the boys grew in confidence. When dealing with staff and volunteers with varying levels of knowledge, skill and confidence, it takes good management to ensure the donkeys are handled with care and all humans in contact with them are also kept safe. There were a few hiccups initially as the boys got used to their new environment but now they are settling in beautifully, I barely recognised them when I arrived. Absolutely nothing phased them, the boys looked on at all the passers-by with interest whilst steadily munching their straw.
Medina sent me a message recently: “I am totally overwhelmed by how these two boys have taken to life at Erddig. They are professionals now. They understand the routine and look forward to seeing the public, they stand there with their heads over the door and love the attention. I had taken them both to the field to turn them out, and a child was waiting at the fence. Lofty walked over to the child who then wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him then went to kiss the end of his nose. Tambo then walked over to the little girl for her to repeat the same process with him. I was so happy, they took it all in their stride.”