Donkey fencing

No, this is not an article about swordsmanship by Morris donkey! It is a response to a reader’s enquiry regarding donkey fences. Robin in the Algarve, commenting on Rubí’s earlier post, says he found the blog while searching for information about donkey fencing, “after yet another breakout by the three year olds in search of my young trees.”

We know all about that kind of behaviour, don’t we Morris?

By happy coincidence, item #Number 3 on my “to do list” was to tension the electric fencing which was sagging in various places or shorting-out on metal fencing. So I made the fencing item #Number 1 on the list, in order to provide some photos and product specifications of the system I have used in these past years. Hopefully this will help Robin and also any others who come to this blog while searching Google for “fencing + trees + naughty + donkey”

1. Solar-powered electric pulse units

The best solution for managing equines is a solar-powered electric pulse unit. A good unit can cost a few hundred euros but a basic set-up can be bought for under a hundred. My first unit was a simple 6-volt 1000 Solar Pastormatic made by DFV (Spanish) and I bought two of these in my first few years of donkey keeping: they only functioned for about two years each, which seemed a short life-span to me. The unit is the size of a car battery and has a built in fold-down solar panel. It will power up to 7 kilometres of electric fence. The blue electric wire in the photo is 200 metres long (13.30 euros in my local equine supplies shop Tot d’Animals, La Nucia).

After the second one of these stopped functioning, I decided to invest in something more long-lasting and I bought a ZAR Solares unit which also has its own solar panel – much bigger than the above unit – and mounted independently (see second photo). It can also be connected to the mains circuit (the Neon charger alongside in the photo.) The manufacturer is https://zarcudeyo.com/ which is also a Spanish company.

The ZAR unit failed once – after about 18 months – and I took it back to my regular animal feedstore to complain that the guarantee had run out but an item like this should not fail after such a short life. They agreed and as I am a regular customer (spending over a thousand euros a year on cereals for the donkeys!) they phoned the manufacturer who agreed to replace it, which took about five days. The replacement has now run trouble free for about five years, so I would recommend the ZAR unit. (I have not been able to access their catalogue online from the above link, but the cost of the unit a few years ago was about 220 euros, I think.)

Accessories

Fibreglass poles and isolators are the standard electric fencing support and the wire usually passes through a breakable section of the plastic isolator, so that the fibreglass poles are not broken if an animal gets entangled in the fence, but the breakable part is the only damage. Isolators are best purchased in a whole box of 100 or more: you will eventually need that many, and they are cheaper bought in bulk. (I bought a box of 100 for 24 euros last week.) The donkeys will respect the fence once they know it gives them a shock, but accidents sometimes happen at night. Two strands of electric wire are sufficient: one strand at donkey knee height and one at nose height. Use 1.5 metre poles. Around trees, 2 metre poles are needed, with a third strand of electric wire positioned above donkey head height, as they will reach up like giraffes to gret the upper branches of trees (see video below.)

A warning regarding electric ribbon:
Another type of electric wire which is a white ribbon threaded with electric filament (which I first used ten years ago) is not as effective as the thin wire. (1) There is too much surface area with no electric charge and donkeys will frequently push through it; and (2) the fencing with wide ribbon will be subject to wind damage in high winds in winter time. And an additional aesthetic factor: white ribbon trailing all over your field looks scruffy! I stopped using it after three years and switched to thin blue wire.

In my experience over the years, electric fence alone is an unsafe way to contain donkeys: they need to have a physical metal fence or wooden paddock barriers, or you will eventually end up chasing them across the countryside! The electric fence is a disincentive to eat trees, or push at physical fencing and trample it (which donkeys will do if the metal post holes are too shallow!)

YouTube video: “Donkey fencing”

In the following YouTube video I explain the fence arrangement here at El Parral and lessons learned over the years, with advice on tree protection too. At the end of the video we discover that Morris donkey has been listening intently to see if he can learn any new tips for getting around tree defences. Naughty Morris!


8 thoughts on “Donkey fencing

  1. Looking after those lovely cretures takes a lot of time, commitment and expense. The reward is the pleasure that they give to you

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  2. Thank you Gareth for the detailed video tour of your enclosure. For a couple of years two strands of ribbon and green poles worked well over a sprawling 35,000m2 of overgrown orchards, but now they are confined to smaller more secure paddocks (last year four donkeys and three horses went for a herd day out to a neighbours garden 500m+ away. Conclusion – a 60 yr old man cannot easily round up 7 equines in 35 degrees heat and dense undergrowth) bar tight three lines of white rope lines with isolators screwed into trees work *most* of the time when combined with some other boundary.

    Chicken wire wrapped and secured around trees can get ripped out within a night so I will follow your example to wrap with chainlink with high wire links and outer deterrents where possible, but riding tall horses complicates matters a tad (yet another way to harm myself on the farm). I have recently caught an older (9yro) donkey standing up fully on back legs to reach 8ft branches laden with fruit … they can be determined.

    Like many donkey herd owners I dream of winning the lottery just to fence off precious trees and boundaries. The daily games continue. The autumn plan is to set up a large irrigated shade house to grow scores of saplings to replace the dying ones they have already bark ringed..

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  3. Well Jabba, that’s tough. I don’t think donkeys should be allowed anywhere near The Guardian and they should just try living in Belarus under the fascist dictator Lukashenko or Clapham Common under Boris Johnson.

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  4. It seems that you have a good plan to limit the area the donkeys are “invited” into and you must be clear about the boundaries. Of my 9,000m2, the donkeys only have access to about a quarter of the land, and that is tightly managed with mostly chain-link fence. I was lucky that the site was suitable for donkeys with pre-existing chain link fence when I bought the property, so I’ve only had to install internal fencing.

    Donkeys will always push the boundaries; it is in their nature and they are very intelligent people! I’ll NEVER forget my first learning experience with Dalie the donkey loaned to me by my friend Barbara (who warned me but I didn’t take it seriously)… Donkeys will even unzip your tent! https://brotherlapin.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/the-donkey-unzipped-my-supper/

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  5. Donkeys will get close to the fence and not quite touch it while they wait for the next pulse. They can feel if the fence is on without getting a shock. If you run an earth wire at low level you can make the fence give a stronger shock and surprise them, as they will sometimes test with a hoof before moving forward. The hoof in contact with an earth wire completes the circuit very nicely.
    That said, Filou thé mule and Rosie mostly stay in despite my ratty fence. Last week Filou got out then spent some hours (judging from the amount of poo) looking for the way back in. In the end Rosie summoned me to open the gate for him.

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  6. Ha ha, yes, I know exactly what you mean Barbara! I have had some serious jolts of electric current when I have been earthed while touching metal fence and electric circuit! Worst ever is when you get the electric wire on your head while touching metal fence! Like a full psychiatric lobotomy but without the post-operation counselling!

    I like the idea of Rosie looking after Filou… Gosh, it’s ten years since I saw Rosie. 🙂

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