Environmental enrichment helps animals in zoos, sanctuaries, on farms and in our homes to carry out their natural behaviours, providing mental stimulation and physical activity vital to their health and well-being. Here are 10 easy, fun and inexpensive enrichment ideas for donkeys:
- Take an old bucket and drill some holes in the bottom. Place donkey treats inside it and hang it from the barn ceiling (or other high place where there is room for it to swing). Trying to get the treats out of the bucket will keep your donkeys amused for hours!
- Donkeys love stripping the bark from willow logs. Older donkeys often enjoy eating the leaves as they contain naturally occurring aspirin. Other trees that are non-poisonous to donkeys are beech, hazel and ash. You can also carve little wells in the logs and fill them with treats or scented oils.
- Donkeys are very nimble. Place logs or other obstacles on the ground where they walk for them to step over. You may need to lead your donkeys gently around the obstacle before walking them over it. This helps to build trust and increase their confidence.
- Hide treats in old cardboard boxes (removing any staples first), rubber tyres, wellington boots or piles of willow branches, so they have to ‘forage’ to find them.
- Rubber buckets, tyres or boots make popular tug toys, especially for male donkeys, as do pieces of cotton rope tied in knots (about the size of a tug toy for a large dog).
- Leave a choice of donkey-friendly mineral licks around the barn or shelter so your donkeys can select essential oils and minerals according to their needs, much as they would in the wild.
- Donkeys are very inquisitive and they like to investigate new smells. Equine play balls can be scented with peppermint or ginger to make them more interesting.
- Steam hay with peppermint infused water or leave out buckets of cold herbal tea. They like sweet flavours such as raspberry and will sniff, lick or drink it.
- Tie a piece of rope so it hangs across one area, like a washing line (hang it high enough that the donkeys won’t catch themselves as they walk past). Take some large, empty milk bottles, fill with treats and and tie them to the string by the handle to keep them upright. The donkeys have to work out how to turn them upside down to make the treats fall out.
- Equine play balls or yoga balls provide plenty of amusement for donkeys. They are best slightly deflated so that they can lift them. For some reason they also love orange traffic cones!
Remember: Make sure toys are safe for donkeys and not likely to cause injury. Remove any sharp or metal parts and don’t allow your donkeys to eat anything that is harmful or poisonous to them. Always consider the age and physical health of your donkeys.
Thanks to: Alice ‘Queen of Enrichment’ Robinson, RSPCA Lockwood Centre for Donkeys and Horses.
Copyright 2016 Amy Swift