THE OFFICIAL BLOG
Have you seen those baby miniature donkey pictures online and just thought they're too good to be true? You were wrong. They are just that good.
Kittens are cute, yes. But newborn kittens? Well... not so much. I mean you can stretch your imagination enough to remember that in a couple of weeks they will be adorable kittens. It takes patience. Same goes for puppies. And, furthermore, both kittens and puppies (and bunnies and don't get me started on baby birds...) are definitely eventually cute - but they do not look exactly as they will as adults.
Baby donkeys? Within an hour of birth they are just tiny donkeys. Tiny, perfect, bouncing, bucking donkeys.
Yeah. I'm partial.
So, our 2020 babies have arrived right on time and mothers and babies are doing great! I was happy to have this foaling set to avoid cold nights - but I really had not thought ahead about the flies in summer... So the next couple of days will be spent setting up fly traps and doing everything we can to make it super comfy in the stalls. In the meantime... Cuddles and pictures!
I am particularly grateful that we had it ready in time for foaling. That was the plan, but there was this virus and a lot of crazy shut-downs and delays and it seemed like we were going to have to make-do for another season. But miracle of miracles - it was ready for Guadalupe and her baby. They have a safe, dry, and well-lit stall which allows the rest of the herd to check in and interact any time of day. (In the meantime, Fatima is waiting for her turn in the adjacent stall.)
Not only do we have a good grooming station but we have room to set up stations for all of them at once. Finally, proper daily grooming and training is not only possible, but rather pleasant - especially with plenty of light and all of the necessary supplies within arm's reach.
My initial request for a 20' x 30' building with the long side completely open was met with some... uhm... confusion... skepticism... maybe looks of 'Okay, lady. That makes no sense, but you're paying.' But I had donkeys in mind! I needed a structure that would be large enough to not only house stalls as needed, but also to serve as a run-in for the rest of the donkeys. And it was really important to me that this be more of a run-in than a barn - as donkeys don't care much for being enclosed. That's also why I was happy to accept the standard 10' walls for our 30 inch donkeys -- lots of air-flow and a high-ceiling that helps the space feel wide-open while still being protected. The raised clay and gravel pad is high enough to keep the ground as dry as needed for donkey hooves and the building itself is situated so as to face away from prevailing winds and sun all day long.
We still intend to rearrange and add more stalls for the future - though the current configuration is perfect for this summer. We also plan to add a lot more hardware for hanging and storing supplies on those high walls. Also in the works is a solar lighting kit for late night check-ups. That's going to be super cool.
We will probably be adding some seating for humans that is unlikely to be chewed by donkeys and plenty of decor to make the place homey. But for now - it just feels nice to finally have what we need to keep our little donkeys happy.
When we acquired our first donkey, we thought we would keep her in a barn stall overnight and then set her out to roam and graze our property during the day. She was such a tiny thing and so cute and would be a joy to halter every morning for the routine. Except. The first problem was that she was as wild as any ass in the desert and wouldn't let me anywhere near her to halter. The second problem was that this tiny little donkey managed to kick down the stall gate within the first 48 hours of her time here.
Such problems continued with our plans as we acquired more donkeys. For quite a while they were housed in a large fenced area behind our main barn with access to the barn itself for shelter. But our jack, Loreto, is prone to boredom and bored toddler type destruction. The boy wrecked our barn. Then he turned his attention to our chickens and goats.
We spent several weeks over a previous summer building a low barbed wire fence around the immediate perimeter of the cleared area around our house and barn so as to give the donkeys more room to range and play -- and curb frustration and boredom. It worked. They were no longer bored. They were completely entertained by eating all of our trees and shrubs and accessible outbuildings. Oh.. and grass. Every. blade. of. grass.
So then came the Okay. New Plan. part of this story: we bit the bullet and hired a good company out of Tulsa to build us a pole-barn type building. It was a slightly strange request as I was looking for a run-in or loafing shed - but wanted it to be large enough to take care of future needs including weather-safe stalls if necessary. The result was a 20 x 30 foot steel building totally enclosed on three sides and totally open on one long side -- an over-sized loafing shed.
We also enclosed a little less than one half acre of a nice wooded area with cattle panel for them to play in when they aren't out with us. There are tweaks to be made to the fence as we put it up as quickly as possible to get them moved in. We also have a few frustrations to work out on the building itself as the pad takes on all of the drainage from our driveway and is staying pretty wet -- too wet for donkeys -- during all of this rain. Some more grade work and ditch-digging will take care of that.
We are using the corral panels that we had already purchased to make barn stalls inside the shed. We are short one gate panel before we can put together two stalls which will do for the time being as we are expecting two foals this summer. Ultimately, we would need four more gate panels and $360 more dollars. And, honestly, after all of this construction that's not currently in the budget.
I think maybe our barn-building guys thought I was a little touched in the head to be having all of this built for these tiny little donkeys. And I may actually be a little touched in the head, but I think it will all work out just right when it is done. I mean, the donkeys are here to stay and they are well worth it.
And once the tack hooks, solar lights, and decorations are all in place - we will be able to move on to all of the other little projects we have neglected for years - such as planting trees without having to build fences around them. Maybe someday we will even buy a park bench ... and then we will sit on it... and relax and enjoy all of the work we have done. Maybe. I can dream anyway.
Things are getting serious. We finally gave up and had several round bales of hay delivered for the donkeys. The square bales we were buying were running out too quickly for us to keep up and hungry donkeys will eat your shrubbery and trees and scrap lumber and outbuildings.
All of this hay-buying mayhem has led to a few more wild ideas for our place in the future, which I will be revealing soon.
I am working on putting together a chicken coop kit today (there will be blog posts to come on that topic) to serve as a new and inevitably great grow-out pen for our young chickens, but it's too hot to stay out there the whole time uninterrupted. I decided that while I am here in the air conditioning with a laptop in front of me, this would be a good time to introduce our readers to our donkey, Fatima.
I have mentioned it before - maybe here on the blog - but I always wanted a donkey. I have no idea why. I had absolutely no experience with donkeys. I am not even sure that I had ever even seen one in person before the day we brought our first donkey home. The only childhood donkey memory I have is that there was a book called "Donkey Donkey' among those in my book collection. I believe it had belonged to my sisters before me, as it was missing pages and had scribble marks. I don't recall ever having read it as, even as a child, I was a bit of a stickler and the missing pages rendered the book unappealing. I remember the cover pretty well though. So maybe that was all it took to leave me with a lifelong desire to own a donkey? Are we humans really so simple?
Once in Oklahoma permanently, we immediately began our search for a donkey. We scoured Craigslist daily and I even checked newspaper classifieds. At that point, we had no idea how to find what we were looking for. It isn't like you can head on down to the donkey department in Target or order one on Amazon. We slowly learned about small animal swaps and auctions and began attending the ones we discovered just to get a feel for the area and how things worked. Of course, there are not any donkeys at small animal swaps, but there are people. Dave managed to get a number from a nice stranger at a swap for a man in Inola who sold mini-donkeys... and we were finally off.
It was October, 2015 when we finally made the trip to Inola to meet some donkeys. We were led to a pasture around the back of the house that seemed to be full - at least to my memory - of little donkeys in an assortment of colors. They all pushed in close and crowded around us, sniffing our pockets and our hands looking for a treat or a pat. All of them except one, that is. There was a young spotted donkey, smaller than the rest, who spent her time maneuvering around the edge of the pasture in such a way as to always be at least 300 feet from us and the rest of the donkeys.
I had already told Dave on the drive home that he could pick our donkey for us. And so I knew what was going to happen. Scratching a fluffy, friendly baby donkey under the chin, Dave signaled with his other hand toward the wild donkey and said: "I want that one." The nice man with the donkeys took care to inform both of us that the little spotted donkey had not been handled at all and would take some time to tame down. This seemed only to encourage Dave. And so it began.
On the feeding of donkeys... and other creatures.
I am just going to jump right in and say it: We people tend to feed our animals too much. Maybe it is an American thing. I have no experience anywhere else. But it is a thing. That is not to say that I do not know people who follow their veterinarian's advice to the letter and measure out their dog's food with great care. The fact that I know anything at all about the details of how and when acquaintances feed their pets -- because they went out of their way to explain it to me as if it were a matter of importance -- tells me that this is something that is hard for them. Not hard for them to do, but hard for them to wrap their mind around.
I was the same once upon a time. I would read the suggested feeding amounts and schedules on the back of the dog food bag and scoff: "What? My dog eats a lot more than that!" Not that he should have, just that he did. As if that makes sense at all.
Of course, my own eating habits were much the same. I am pretty sure from the barrage of news headlines about Americans and obesity that I was not exceptional.
Then I moved to Oklahoma and bought a donkey. I recognize that the things that motivate me to self-improvement are often a little unusual. But caring for a donkey changed a lot about how I viewed diet and health.