Donkeys are intelligent, curious animals. In the wild, they spend most of their time exploring their environment in search of food and companionship.
Domesticated donkeys constantly search their space for novel experiences to replicate that level of mental stimulation. Without it, they may become bored, disinterested, and depressed.
Few of us can provide our donkeys with a natural environment where they can roam 20km a day. But, we can provide them with toys and activities to keep them mentally stimulated.
What kind of toys do donkeys like? Donkeys will play with anything. Leave your jacket hanging on the fence, and it will soon be tossed in the air and trampled on. Inexpensive items like old boots or a rubber bucket or tire will keep a couple of donkeys occupied all morning. Rope and balls are especially entertaining to donkeys.
Reasons Toys Enrich your Donkey’s Environment
Toys and other forms of mental stimulation encourage donkeys to perform different tasks. As they work their way through new challenges, they increase their behavioral diversity. This encourages them to perform natural behaviors and helps reduce the frequency of abnormal behaviors or vices, such as braying, pawing, biting, or eating wood.
The best field toys for donkeys will also encourage them to increase their range of normal behavior patterns. This will mean your donkeys utilize their environment more, finding more positive and engaging experiences within their enclosure.
As they interact with different objects, so they learn new coping mechanisms that will enable them to cope better with future challenges.
Playtime is also gym time for donkeys, and they’ll build muscle and maintain weight better when naturally stimulated. That means you’ll have a fitter, healthier companion to hang out with.
Toys and interactive activities don’t just benefit the donkey – they also stimulate you, the owner. Your imagination will be challenged as you invent new ways to enrich your donkey’s life. Interacting with your donkey is also a positive experience that boosts your sense of well-being. Watching a donkey engage with his toys is also great for the soul!
Given a new object to explore, donkeys will get others involved. Whether you’ve got two donkeys or 200, if you give them a length of knotted rope they’ll soon be engaged in an enthusiastic game of tug of war! Games like these encourage them to develop social relationships like those they would have formed in the wild.
You can also use the toys to create new activities for your donkeys, through which you can bond with them and enjoy their company. You’ll never win at a tug of war, but you might enjoy kicking an old football to one another.
To kickstart your imagination, we’ve put together a list of toys, activities, and games you can play with your donkey to stimulate him and enrich his environment.
10 Cheap Toys to Stimulate your Donkey
Keeping your donkey entertained doesn’t have to cost an area and a leg. These 10 inexpensive items will give your donkeys plenty of mental stimulation, exercise, and entertainment.
- Plastic traffic cone
- Rubber feed bucket
- Wellington boot
- Rubber tire
- An old football
- Tree stump
- Dirt pile
- Non-toxic logs
- Plastic drain pipe (slice it at one end and insert the other to create a hula hoop)
- Thick knotted rope
Donkeys will grab many of these items in the teeth and shake them around as they rear and cavort. They’ll clamber up dirt piles, paw at them, and roll in them. Logs will have every last leaf removed, along with the bark, while tree stumps make ideal rubbing posts.
All these toys encourage donkeys to perform natural behavior patterns. You’ll see your donkeys attack rubber feed buckets and footballs as they would predators in the wild.
A donkey that paws at a pile of dirt is mimicking the behavior of his ancestors. They pawed at the ground to dig out nutritious grassroots.
Approaching and sniffing new objects enables donkeys to work through the potential danger or reward posed by unknown items. They may even freeze or run away if startled, which, again, is a natural behavioral pattern.
Interacting with new objects stimulates the donkey’s problem-solving skills and encourages them to develop new coping mechanisms.
5 Great Field Toys for Donkeys
Toys designed for horses are just as stimulating for donkeys. They cost a bit more than our cheap toys but are a great way to treat your donkey to something new.
#1 Likit Tongue Twister
Attach this durable toy to the fence and give your donkey hours of entertainment and satisfaction. The smell of the treats inside will initially attract your donkey, who will then find the challenge of getting to those treats irresistible and absorbing. Check Price it on Amazon
#2 Jolly Horse Ball
Donkeys love balls. They kick them, chase them, push them with their noses, and fight over them. Once they’ve got used to a ball, you can start playing with them using the tips given below. Click here to see on Amazon
#3 Mineral Lick
Hang a salt block in your donkey’s enclosure, and you’ll boost his electrolytes at the same time as alleviating boredom. See on Amazon
#4 Ball Feeder
Enrich your donkey’s environment with a ball feeder. Stuff these multi-sided toys with your donkey’s favorite treats. The donkey needs to push the ball around until the treats pop out of the hole on one side. This game will keep your donkey’s mind engaged and encourage him to spend more time savoring his food. Check it out on Amazon
#5 Pas-a-Fier Stall Toy
This unusual toy is ideal for anxious or stressed donkeys. It consists of three rubber wheels that rotate when your horse noses or licks them. Donkeys will be attracted to it by the apple scent, as well as their natural curiosity. On Amazon
5 Enriching Activities and Games For Donkeys
Donkeys are naturally playful creatures. Given something to play with and they’ll soon make up their own games. Even if there aren’t any other donkeys around to play with, they’ll find another species to make up the numbers. Dogs, alpacas, and humans are all good substitutes!
We’ve based these five activities for donkeys around their favorite games:
#1 Tug of War
Donkeys will play tug of war with almost anything. I’ve seen (too many) YouTube videos of donkeys wrestling over Wellington boots, sticks, ropes, and balls. Tug of war is best left to the professionals. Any human trying to join in will only lose.
#2 Hide and Seek
Getting your donkey to hunt out hidden treats encourages him to use his legendary sense of smell and natural inquisitiveness. Don’t let your donkey see where you’re hiding the treats, but do get him started by showing him the first one.
#3 Follow the Trail
Similar to a game of hide and seek, in this activity you set a trail for your donkey using a different type of incentive and then ask him to follow it. Again, don’t let your donkey see where you’re placing the treats – let him sniff them out for himself
Fruit, like bananas, apples, and oranges are great for this activity. As your donkey follows the trail, not only will he get some exercise, but he’ll also get to experience new smells and tastes.
#4 Create an Obstacle Course
Strategically position a few obstacles in your donkey’s enclosure, making sure he’ll need to step over or around them to access his food. This will improve your donkey’s concentration and coordination while giving him a new mental challenge.
#5 Ball Games
Most donkeys seem to prefer biting and shaking horse balls rather than kicking them but, either way, it makes for some stimulating exercise. As they rear, push, and chase the ball, donkeys get to express their natural aggression in a non-dangerous manner.
Four Rules for Enriching your Donkey’s Environment
These four simple rules will help you enrich your donkey’s environment without constantly introducing new toys.
#1 Encourage Movement
Change the layout of your donkey’s enclosure on a daily or weekly basis. Put his food in different places or give him access to alternative water sources. Move him to a different location for grooming and training sessions. Shift the order of his toys around, or even hide them in a pile of straw.
#2 Renew Entertainment
Like children, donkeys quickly tire of new toys. Have a selection of toys and change them in rotation, giving your donkey a diversity of stimuli every few days.
#3 Refresh Toys and Tools
Replace any old, worn logs with fresh ones, and refresh your salt lick every few months. Give old toys a good scrub to reignite your donkey’s interest in them.
#4 Invent New Games
Think of new ways to stimulate your donkey. Hide a couple of carrots in an old boot, take him for a stroll, or give him new obstacles to negotiate in his enclosure.
5 Interactive Games to Play with Donkeys
Playing with your donkey doesn’t have to involve any special equipment or toys. Just spending time with him offers some level of stimulation and social interaction. Similarly, grooming and picking out your donkey’s feet is a great way to keep him engaged and entertained.
If you want to go a step further, the following activities and games give you the chance to interact with your donkey. It will teach him new skills using positive reinforcement.
They will stimulate your donkey mentally. Games also help you build a better bond with each other. Plus, it encourages him to move his body and use his muscles in different ways, making him more supple and flexible.
Follow these basic rules to keep your donkey games safe and enjoyable for both of you:
- Before starting any game with your donkey, be aware of his instincts and body language.
- Create a safe space for your donkey in which he can be confident about exploring new objects.
- Be patient and don’t pressure him for results. If your donkey’s not interested in a plastic traffic cone, replace it with a different toy that simulates his interest.
- Be prepared to adapt the games to suit your individual donkey.
- Your donkey should already be halter trained before you attempt any of these activities.
#1 Go for a Walk
Take your donkey out for a walk or even a run. This is a great way to bond with your equine buddy. It helps both of you to get some fresh air and exercise. A walk also gives your donkey mental stimulation. Introduce your donkey to new objects and smells along the way to make the experience even more gratifying.
#2 Follow my Leader
Start with your donkey on a halter and lead rope. Walk in front of him, putting a little pressure on the rope if he hesitates. Once he’s following you in a straight line, start throwing in the occasional turn or stop.
Your donkey should mirror your every move, using his muscles and improving his flexibility at the same time. This will also help establish you as the herd leader and encourage your donkey to trust you more.
#3 Step over an Obstacle
Take your donkey out for a walk, looking for natural obstacles like fallen branches, ditches, and puddles. Let him explore each new object. Use your clicker and treats to reward his natural curiosity. If you can’t take your donkey out of his enclosure, take the obstacles to him. Put some poles or cones in his enclosure and perform the exercise there.
#4 Play Ball
Bring an exercise or horse ball into your donkey’s enclosure and let him explore it. Once he’s used to the new object, try to engage him further by throwing or kicking the ball towards him.
Observe his reactions. If he runs away, leave the ball on the ground and let him approach again in his own time. If he runs towards it and pushes it, push it back to him and start an interactive ball game.
#5 Hide and Seek
Hide a selection of treats in cardboard boxes or under buckets and place them around your donkey’s enclosure. With their highly developed sense of smell, donkeys will quickly pick up the scent of their favorite treats and start seeking them out. Working out where the treats are and how to get them will stimulate your donkey and give you plenty of entertainment.
Domesticated donkeys need mental stimulation and the opportunity to perform natural behavior patterns. Enriching their environment with toys and obstacles helps stave off boredom and depression.
As social animals, donkeys relish the opportunity to engage with others. You can facilitate this by providing them with toys and activities that stimulate them mentally, socially, and physically.