ADOPTING A BURRO
FROM THE BLM
There are several things to consider when
adopting a burro from the Bureau of Land Management. First are the
stabling requirements. The BLM requires a minimum 400 sq. ft.
corral (20í x 20í) with a shelter. Pipe panels work well, as long
as they stand at least 4 Ĺ feet high.
Barbed wire is not acceptable fencing for any
equine. For those adopting a wild horse, the requirements for
fencing will be at least 5í high, for burros, 4 1/2 feet high.
Burros are less likely to jump, but more likely to try to push their
way out, especially if tasty green grass is just on the other side!
A shelter is required for inclement weather.
It must have at least two sides to it, and good drainage. When the
rainy season arrives, itís important your burro has a dry spot to
get out of the elements and dry footing to get out of the mud. Base
rock makes a good foundation, followed by rubber mats to help
eliminate the mud. Hoof problems will likely result when a burro
is forced to stand in wet mud 24 hours per day. Further, a burro
occasionally will lie down, making it difficult when surrounded by
mud. Some owners even go the extra step to supply a good bedding
such as straw or shavings for their shelters. Occasionally a burro
straight from the range will be reluctant to stand under a shelter
during a storm, but if you feed your burro inside the shelter daily,
he will become familiar and safe within the shelter after a short
Good quality grass hay, fresh water and a salt
block should be provided for your burro. Any other supplements for
a burro would be at the recommendation of your local veterinarian.
A financial commitment must be realistic. To keep a burro, one must
have the land, fencing, shelter, and the resources to feed and care
for the burro, and time to train the burro.
Besides the stabling and food requirements, one
should also consider the amount of time one should spend with their
burro. A burro arriving from the BLM is a wild animal. They
generally do not willingly walk up to a human and are not halter
trained. Their predator/pray instincts are quite intact.
Thereís no substitute for working with your
burro daily and soon they realize they donít need to fear a human.
Initially their interactions with humans were not positive. Humans
rounded the burros up from their land which had no boundaries.
Suddenly they are placed in trailers, fenced corrals, chased into
smaller chutes, vaccinated, wormed and freeze branded. Quite
traumatic for an animal who probably never saw a human or a fence
If one adopts a mature jennet (female), and she
is at least 15 months of age and over, quite often they may be
pregnant. In the wild a jennet may start cycling and get bred as
young as 14 months of age. Quite often people do not realize their
jennet is pregnant after they get her home. The gestation for a
jennet is about 12 months.
If one adopts a jack (an intact male), it will
need to be castrated. Jacks do not make good pets! Although their
demeanor at times appears pretty laid back, their instinct to breed,
climb through or over a fence, or fight off a rival male will seem
unstoppable and is potentially dangerous. Castrations should be
performed by an experienced veterinarian familiar with castrating a
donkey and ligating the large vascular cord (usually not performed
on horses). Donkeys tend to bleed during/after this procedure, so
an experienced veterinarian will ligate to help lower the risk.
Here in California, castrating a donkey is usually done in the
cooler winter months when the flies and risk of infection is
significantly lower. The cost of castrating a jack will vary, but
on average it should run from $175. to $250. Some veterinarians
will come to your stable and perform the surgical procedure, others
may require the jack be taken to the veterinarianís facility.
Ideally the jack should be castrated between the ages of 6 to 12
months of age.
Mature male burros coming from the BLM are not
castrated before they are adopted out to the public, while mature
horse stallions are. This is due to the increased difficulty and
risk involved in donkey castration. BLM is just not normally
equipped to provide the special care needed.
Most burros cost a minimum of $125. If you
adopt a burro at one of the advertised adoption sites, the first
day usually starts out with competitive bidding. Some animals adopt
for a higher amount during the competitive process. You can also
adopt a buro over the Internet, using
quarterly Internet Adoptions.
Once your burro has settled in at his new home,
usually within a week you should start the daily training routine.
Remember, the burro will generally show fear of humans. When
cornered, he may kick or bite, or even bolt and run off. Start out
quiet and slow. Sometimes just a daily routine of cleaning his
corral, filling the water trough and feeding his hay will be enough
activity to initially let him observe. With time, one will
eventually begin the process of grooming and teaching your burro to
lead and tie. Proceed with caution and keep safety in mind. Fast
movements will often startle a burro who is not accustomed to having
a human in his space. With time one will need to start picking up
Remember, baby steps at first! Your burro
will not have the tolerance to stand on three legs initially.
Simply picking up a leg and holding it for a few seconds is a
start. Picking up each leg should be done with caution. Standing
and positioning yourself (and your head) in a safe spot is
recommended. Quite often this part of the training is better left
for a trainer, so donít hesitate to call in a professional or send
your burro out for the initial training.
Some people prefer to start training their
burros with food as a motivator. Many burros will need to acquire a
taste for apples and carrots. One may need to slice up a carrot and
apple and leave it with the burro for a day or two before he will
eat it. Soon, they will love these treats, and one can use them as
part of the reward for training.
Eventually when your burro is standing
comfortably on three legs for 30 to 60 seconds at a time, and does
not appear to be startled with the repetition of picking up each
foot, it may be time to have your farrier out to trim the hooves.
Be aware, a farrier is not a trainer. Do not expect your farrier to
teach your burro to stand on three legs as each hoof is trimmed.
Burros usually require a farrier from two to four times per year,
although some may require more visits per year, some less. Seldom
does a burro require shoes.
Over the next few weeks and months your burro
will learn from daily repetition. Work slowly and quietly and your
burro will gain confidence and trust. The sooner your burro is
taught to accept a human near him and is easy to catch, taught to
stand tied to a hitching post, and will allow you to pick up his
feet, the better off you are in the event your burro needs medical
care from your veterinarian or routine hoof care from your
farrier. There are not many veterinarians or farriers who are
willing to work with a wild burro. Further, if you live in a fire
prone area such as California, occasionally your immediate area may
require evacuations of both humans and livestock. If possible,
teach your burro to load into a trailer and have an evacuation route
planned in advance.
A burro can live well into his thirties and
more. They can be extremely patient and affectionate animals and
make great pets. But like any herd animal, two burros are better
than one. Once you establish a bond with your burro, you can teach
him to pull a cart, carry a pack saddle or ride him under saddle.
Donkeys are great on trails, whether you are leading him or riding
him. They tend to walk slower than a horse, which can be perfect for
keeping the same pace as a human. They are a wonderful companion
for day hikes, camping in the mountains, and parades.
For more information on adopting a burro or
upcoming adoption sites,
For additional reading
regarding health concerns and donkey castration, the following book
Donkeys: Miniature, Standard, and Mammoth.
A veterinary Guide for Owners and Breeders by Stephen R. Purdy, DVM.