Donkey Guardian Sue made the phenomenal commitment to take on the mini-herd of closely bonded donkeys, after hearing that they needed to be rehomed together – and she hasn’t looked back since.

The journey to a new start: Oakley, Captain, Benson, Dudley, Rio and Teddy

The six donkeys had come from a good home. They were all healthy and well loved, however a change in circumstances meant their owner could no longer care for them and she feared for their future. Privately selling them would have almost certainly led to the separation of this closely bonded group, which could lead to severe compromises in their welfare.

Their owner was sad to have to give up her donkeys, but happier knowing that by relinquishing them to the sanctuary they would remain together.

When the group arrived into our care in the summer of 2018, staff knew that the group of lively youngsters would benefit immensely from being in a Guardian home. We thought finding the right home would have been an impossible task – committing individual care and attention to 6 donkeys is no mean feat.

6 miniature donkeys running at Trow Farm
Miniature donkeys at Trow Farm
6 miniature donkeys grazing at Trow Farm
The mini-herd stretching their legs at The Donkey Sanctuary's Trow Farm, Sidmouth.

Their ages ranged from three to 13, and although their temperaments were good they were still quite nervous and needed someone with experience and confidence to handle them. When Sue came forward, having been involved in our rehoming scheme for many years, there were no doubts that they were the perfect match.

Little donkeys with big personalities

In December, the six made the journey to their new home with Sue and her family. After spending a few weeks letting them gradually settle in, she and her husband have been able to get to know their mini-herd well.

“They are full of it, and always keep you on your toes,” says Sue. “I’ve never had miniature donkeys before – they are bright, and so intelligent.

“They all have such different personalities. Captain is a really sensible, calm little donkey. We’ve had a constant stream of people come to see them, and we’ve noticed how Captain adores children. As the sensible one, he seems to just put up with the other five and their antics. My husband made a feeding trough for their stable that they could all eat from together, but Captain often gets pushed out – so we give him a ‘secret feed’ in the stable around the corner.

“Benson is quite a sparky donkey – he and Rio are quite a pair. Teddy has a strong character. Every day I give them their treat ball toys, which are filled with forage balancer. It’s great to watch how each of them has their own technique on how to get the feed out. However, I have to make sure they are spread out, as Teddy would eat everybody else’s! He’s so confident, and doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone. Dudley often pinches Oakley’s treat ball, but she lets him – he is her son after all.”

Living and learning with 6 new friends

Sue talks about how having a mini-herd, as oppose to the two larger donkeys she used to keep, is quite different - she’s had to make some adjustments.

“I’ve learnt a few tricks now I’ve had them a few months - like spreading them out whilst they are tied up for grooming, to avoid any argy-bargy. Now everybody stands nicely, no one eats the other’s head collar - you live and learn!”

Our welfare team worked together with Sue to make sure she was fully prepared to care for the six donkeys before they arrived, and will also provide ongoing support should she ever need help or advice.

It is clear that Sue gets a lot of enjoyment from her mini herd - she speaks with such fondness about them, and their antics. The joy and fulfilment of living with donkeys is hard to beat.

“I’m so pleased I got them,” she adds. “They are so much fun."

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