The Donkey Sanctuary has produced this guide to help with stable measurements for your donkeys, find out the optimum stable sizes and layouts to ensure your donkeys' safety and well-being.
What is the ideal stable or shelter size for my donkey?
For a standard/average sized donkey allow approximately 4.7 square meters (50 square feet) of covered area per donkey for their bedded area. That is approximately 9.4 square meters (100 square foot) for a pair.
Make sure there is sufficient headroom for both animals and humans. Your donkey should be able to rear without hitting their head.
Consider that your donkeys need indoor space that provides enough bedded space to rest, but should ideally have more room to move around indoors if unable to go outside.
The stable door should be low enough for your donkey to lean over to see out, but high enough to prevent them jumping out.
Stable doors made for horses at 4’ 6” (132cm) are too high for standard donkeys, but may be suitable if you have a large donkey breed.
Doorways should be a minimum of 3’11” (1.2 m) wide for an individual or pair of donkeys. Larger groups will need bigger doorways, or more open doorways to exit through.
It is advisable to have a bottom bolt as some donkeys can learn to undo the top one. A bottom bolt will also prevent the donkey from getting their foot caught in the door should he kick it. Kick bolts are the easiest to use as they can be operated with your foot.
Floor level feeder
Provide a floor-level feeder that has no sharp edges, so your donkey can eat from the ground as they would naturally. The top edge of the feeder must be low enough to make sure the donkeys can reach the floor without obstructing their windpipe. Avoid using haynets and hayracks. These encourage your donkey to reach up to eat, which can dislodge particles of hay or straw into your donkey’s ears and eyes. Breathing dust from a feeder can make respiratory problems worse. In addition, the safe height for tying a haynet is likely to differ between individuals in a mixed-size group, which could pose a risk of injury.
Make sure there is enough space for all donkeys in a group to feed at the same time. Donkeys need a minimum head space width of 2’5” (0.75 m) each for feeding from a trough.
Where possible, position the feeder so your donkey is not standing on their bedding while eating. This prevents their feet becoming saturated by damp bedding, particularly during the winter months.
Place enough straw in the feeder to allow your donkey to browse through it. If your donkey does not eat all the straw provided, use it as bedding the following day.
If the feeder is deep, fit a false bottom. This will reduce how far your donkey must stretch to reach the forage, helping to prevent injury.
Fill your donkey’s feeder to the height of their shoulder; any higher and straw could get in their ears or eyes.
Straw feeder measurements
Ideally this should be 2' (61 cm) wide by 3' (91 cm) long by 2' 3" (69 cm) high. False bottoms should be fitted to floor feeders to help prevent injury to a donkey's throat while reaching in to eat. If your donkeys are fed a vitamin and mineral balancer there is no need to supplement with a mineral lick as well.
Donkeys should always have access to a clean water supply. They are very fussy about what they drink, most donkeys do not like drinking very cold water. Add some warmer water to your donkey’s bucket in cold weather.
A securely supported bucket or a self-filling trough should be constantly available and should be cleaned out daily. The use of buckets allows the accurate monitoring of water intake but a self-filling water trough does mean that the donkeys’ water will not run out during the day or night. As a rough guide, the trough should measure approximately 1’8”-2’ (50-60 cm) from its top edge to the floor. It will need to be lower if your donkey is a miniature donkey.
To help prevent troughs from freezing during winter months a small floating football can be placed into the trough to keep the surface water moving or a float heater can be purchased, other more sophisticated antifreeze devices are also available. Plywood can be used to cover and insulate part of the trough leaving a smaller space for the donkey to drink from, and the trough, if mobile, can be sited somewhere it will catch the winter sun during the day, therefore making it less likely to freeze. If you are not at home during the day consider placing a bucket of water in their stable where it is unlikely to freeze.
An equine mineral lick should be hung up inside your stable or shelter so that the donkeys can supplement their diet as they wish. Molasses treat licks are not encouraged due to the amount of molasses that they contain which can cause the onset of laminitis. If your donkeys are fed a vitamin and mineral balancer there is no need to supplement with a mineral lick as well.
Separation between the location of the mineral lick and the water supply will decrease competition for access to each.
Electric lights are highly desirable in the winter months and the facility for a heat lamp is useful, especially for old or unwell donkeys. All wiring should be encased in rat-proof tubing and all switches should be weatherproof, donkey proof and positioned outside the stable. Lights should have plastic covers and wire mesh guards.
It is important to fit tying-up rings at your donkeys eye level. Do not tie the donkey up directly to the tie ring. Spliced baling twine or specially designed elasticated ties should be used so that they will break in an emergency, should the donkey panic and pull back.