Donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary’s hospital have recently benefitted from a wealth of individually tailored enrichment activities designed to boost their mental wellbeing.

At Brookfield Hospital near Honiton, our veterinary team don’t just treat physical illness – they ensure that the mental health of the donkeys and mules in their care is given just as much specialist attention, too.

Even when domesticated, donkeys still enjoy activities akin to those they would be undertaking regularly in a wild environment. Our purpose-built hospital facilities mean that all of the donkeys who come to the hospital have access to a diverse range of enrichment activities in order to ensure that they receive the highest standards of care possible.

Donkeys each have different personalities, likes, dislikes and medical conditions. As Honey and Chloe experienced during their recent visit, our veterinary team are able to tailor-make activities for individual animals in order to make their hospital stay as pleasant as possible.

Box rest made fun for Honey and Chloe

All seemed well when Honey arrived with best friend Chloe in tow for a foot operation. While recovering from surgery, Honey seemed to settle in to hospital life very quickly. It soon became apparent, however, that Chloe was growing increasingly bored and restless due to her change of routine and restriction to box rest.

When Chloe started pacing and even picking on her friend Honey, our staff knew that something had to be done in order to keep both donkeys comfortable -  and to ensure that Honey’s injury was given the best possible chance to heal.

Honey enjoys forage box at Brookfield
Chloe plays with treat balls
Honey plays with 'Donkey Pinata'

Thankfully, our veterinary team were on hand to come up with some ingenious enrichment activities for the frustrated pair. As Honey could not be too active on her feet, grooms made her a ‘forage box’ – a vegetable box filled with smaller boxes and an assortment of objects, snacks and grass to prompt her to use her natural foraging instincts to hunt out rewards. She was also made a ‘Piñata for donkeys’ – a bottle with holes filled with nutritious feed balancer that would be scattered about the floor once she had given the Piñata a good jostle with her muzzle.

Chloe’s frustrations manifested in a more physical form, so our team ensured her enrichment programme featured plenty of physical activity without removing her from her best friend Honey. While Honey tackled her tasty puzzles inside their stable, Chloe was able to enter the hard-standing pen outside with an array of treat balls to kick and chase.

Thanks to our veterinary team’s enrichment programme, both Honey and Chloe settled fantastically well into their new routine. Chloe in particular showed a marked difference in her all-round mental health, and both donkeys are happily cohabiting once more.