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February 25, 2009

Picky Eaters?

So has your donkey or mule decided that certain foods or treats are not edible anymore?

I recently got an email from someone who's young jennet had suddenly decided she didn't like grain anymore. She was eating her hay, carrots and apples just fine, but refusing any grain.


Here are a few of my experiences with picky eaters. If you have a picky eater too, some of these ideas might come in handy.

In the case of this young jennet, I'd probably start with having her teeth checked, especially since she was eating this grain fine for a couple months then decided not to like it anymore. Baby teeth have softer enamel, so can develop sharp edges faster than adult teeth. I had teeth floated on a 9 month old a couple years ago because her baby teeth had already gotten quite sharp along the edge.

There are donkeys out there who have picky tastes while others seem to eat just about anything. I haven't had any turn down plain oats yet, but I do have a jennet who will usually eat grain feed pellets when I offer them, but will sometimes nibble at them and then turn up her nose. I've had two other jennets who didn't like carrots (unless their herdmates were gobbling the carrots up and they thought they were missing out on something). The same two jennets loved grain and apples - just didn't like carrots. Go figure! When I've mixed soaked beet pulp into their diet, it has always taken them a few days to get used to the flavor of the beet pulp. Some donkeys adjust to it faster than others.

A few years ago I had a new jennet that finally seemed to be eating her beet pulp/oats/supplement mix ok. I'd put her in a separate pen and give her the bowl of feed. She'd take her time slowly eating it, but would finish it all ok. Then after a couple months she all the sudden decided she didn't want to eat beet pulp anymore, and she'd get really cranky and pouty if I offered the same mix to her that she had been getting daily for several weeks. If I left the beet pulp out of her mix, she was fine with the rest. I finally figured out that if I put one serving of the mix (with beet pulp) in a larger pan and put one of her herdmates in with her, she'd eat the mix fine because her buddy was eating out of the same bowl and I guess she thought it was ok to eat or that she'd miss out if she didn't go ahead and eat it. If I'd feed her separate from the buddy, she'd turn her nose up at the feed, but with the buddy she'd eat it fine. Once she was back eating it well that way, then I started tying her buddy on one side of the fence, and putting her feed bowl on her side right next to the fence. Then she'd eat it fine - I guess I tricked her into thinking the buddy would eat it too since the buddy was tied up close to it. After a few months of that routine, I was able to gradually wean her back to eating by herself, and then she was fine with it after that. What a process!

She was pregnant at the time, so I wanted to make sure she got all her vitamins and supplements. Maybe being pregnant affected her tastes too? I know she was also the most easily offended donkey I have ever had while she was pregnant. Any little thing I'd do that wasn't to her like (scold her, not present her feed just right, even softly reprimand her for doing something I didn't approve of), and she'd go stand off in the corner, refuse to talk to me, and pout! But once she had her baby, all that moodiness disappeared. Amazing what hormones will do to their attitude!

So I guess some donkeys can have very unique tastes when it comes to their food and treats, and sometimes they can just decide for no apparent reason that they don't like a particular food. But the first two things I'd look at are making sure the quality of the food is good (not moldy or spoiled) and that your donkey or mule doesn't have teeth problems going on.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at February 25, 2009 06:27 PM