Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Caring for Donkeys

Donkeys are considered to be "easy keepers," meaning they do well on a high-quality hay and fresh water.


At the Kids’ Farm, each donkey receives one and three-quarter cups of herbivore pellets before 7 a.m. After breakfast, the donkeys are led from the barn to their yard—usually around 7:30 a.m. There is hay and fresh, clean water available throughout the day for them as well as enrichment items to stimulate activity. Learn more about Kids' Farm enrichment.

Cleaning the Stall

The keepers then clean their stall and remove any dirty shavings. Once the dirty shavings are taken out they are replaced with new, clean shavings. They also rinse and fill the water buckets with fresh water. Finally, fresh hay is placed in the racks and the stall is ready to go. All of this takes about 45 minutes to complete.


At the end of the day—around 4 p.m.—the donkeys are led back into the barn for dinner. Each donkey is secured to his assigned post and given one and three-quarter cups of herbivore pellets. We tie the donkeys separately to ensure each donkey gets a full meal. It also helps keepers know if one of the donkeys doesn’t finish his meal, possibly indicating illness. When they are finished eating, their halters and leads are removed and they are done for the night. Whew, what a day!

Cleaning the Yard

But it’s not over for the keeper—she heads to the donkey yard and picks up any feces and left over hay from the day. The water bucket is also emptied and hung to dry for the next day.

Hoof Care

The Kids' Farm donkeys have their hooves cleaned and inspected every evening while they are eating. Keepers pick out mud and manure that trap rocks and sticks in the tiny hollows of a donkey's hoof. Generally, hooves should be trimmed by a farrier every six to eight weeks.