Donkey Care at Airfield Estate

At Airfield Estate we have two wonderful resident donkeys called Connell and Carroll! They are looked after by our farm team however, our tour guides also take a keen interest in their day to day wellbeing.

All of the tour guides at Airfield Estate have taken a Stage 1 Donkey Care Induction course with the Donkey Sanctuary, Ireland. Some of the guides have even completed the Stage 2 course, an introduction to Donkey Health Care.

An introduction to Airfield Estate’s Donkeys from our Tour Guides

Hello, my name is Michelle and I am one of the Airfield Estate tour guides. As part of my job, we do a 3:30 pm animal feeding every day that can include the donkeys, hens, sheep, and goats.

Two of our animals that love a little bit of TLC are our two boisterous donkeys, Connell and Carroll. They are also a favourite of many of our visitors. Connell has a longer coat and Carroll has the lighter coat.

We are asked many questions about our two donkeys, from what they eat to where do they come from and how do we mind them. Well, I can answer these for you!

Some Basic Facts

Animal Name: Donkey or Ass

Male Donkeys: Jack Donkey or Jack Ass

Female Donkey: Jinny

Baby Donkey: Foal

Naoimi with donkey
Letitia with donkey

Airfield Estate has had donkeys for many years. Both Letitia and Naomi Overend who founded the Estate loved to keep donkeys. Many Irish Farmers believe that donkeys are a symbol of good luck because of the cross pattern on their back. Airfield Estate has two Irish donkeys called Connell and Carroll, who were entrusted to us by the Donkey Sanctuary in Cork. They are both under five years old and can live for as long as 30-40 years.

Most of the Donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary are rescued from bad situations and are in extremely poor condition. Part of my job with our donkeys is to train them to get used to handling (or interacting with people) so that they will let us mind them; check their health, check their feet and give them a good brush down.

Donkeys don’t need a lot around them to keep them fed and happy but one thing they absolutely need is a best friend to walk through life with. Although our two boys fight over their dinner, they are the best of friends and will keep each other warm and happy. Though it is still important that we give them hugs and attention too because they are companionable creatures and pack animals

Connell with a wet coat
Conall (Long Hair) & Carroll

Feeding

Donkeys originally came from Africa. They are used to hot arid (dry) temperatures and are used to feeding on the sparse vegetation of deserts. Their small diets mean that farmers are particularly fond of Donkeys as working farm animals as they don’t require as much food as horses or mules. They can also carry and pull heavy loads.

Donkeys can happily live on small amounts of straw or grass and occasionally they are given a feed mix that will give them some extra vitamins and supplements. This feed mix includes Soya bean hulls, Barley Flakes, Wheat flakes, Maize flakes, Molasses, Soya bean meal, Alfalfa and Sunflower Meal.

Unfortunately, because they are used to having little food, Irish Donkey’s find it quite easy to put on weight and we must watch this very closely. Donkeys love ginger nuts but these are only a rare treat which we use to encourage them to let us check them over.

Caring for our Donkeys

Though Donkeys are similar to horses there is some difference to how we care for them. With both horses and donkeys, we must make sure we give them a cosy stable and a safe pasture to eat in and run around in.

Plants to look out for.

When the farmer is putting donkeys out in a field to pasture it is important that we check the field for flowers and plants that are poisonous to them.

Some plants we check for are nightshade, yew trees, buttercups, foxgloves, holly berries, linseed, potatoes and rhododendrons. If the donkeys eat these, they can become sick.

Shelter

Along with checking for plants we also must make sure that donkeys have a nice dry stable in their field to keep them out of the rain. The farmers clean it regularly and put clean sawdust on the ground to keep them dry. Unlike a horse who has a waterproof coat, donkeys have a dry dusty coat that does not protect them from the wet Irish weather.

donkey grooming kit
donkey foot

Health and Grooming

There are many ways a tour guide can check the health of their donkeys. When grooming their donkey, the guide will brush out knots from their mane but will also check their coat for fleas and cuts and they will spray the donkeys with fly repellent to stop the bugs from biting them.

Some donkeys will wear a summer jacket if they are older to stop flies from biting them. The guide will also feel along the body of the donkey. They will look at their neck and back to feel for any hard parts as this will tell the guide if the donkeys are gaining too much weight. They will also check their eyes and ears if they are runny or crusted this is a sign that the donkeys are not feeling very well, and we will need to keep an eye on them.

We do not wash our donkeys because of their coat and if we must wash them we do it only once a year and on the hottest day of the year.

Foot care

After they have checked the general health of the donkey, the guide looks after their hooves. The hot climate of Africa helps to keep donkeys’ hooves clean and dry. When they are in Ireland in muddy fields, donkeys are more likely to get hoof problems and because of this the guides regularly check and clean the donkeys’ hooves.

We will feel along the side of the donkey, chatting to them and praising them to help keep them calm. Then we will slowly feel down each of their legs encouraging them to bend their leg slightly so that we can look at their hooves. We will use a hoof pick to clean out any excess mud. We will also check for problems such as Thrush, seedy toe and hoof abscesses.

Visit Connell and Carroll at Airfield Estate! Our guides do a daily animal feeding at 3.30 pm which varies between the donkeys, hens, sheep and goats.