TL;DR Gate left open, smart donkeys take advantage, but not too much advantage…
Roxy and Maria always do the sideways hustle as I walk through their paddock, positioning their bodies hopefully. They usually get the scratch they’re asking for; I find it pays to keep the donkeys on my side. Maria curls her neck around my legs and gives me a hug while I scratch ❤️, Roxy just stands and enjoys. They like grooming each other too; a donkey is happiest when they have a donkey companion.
Smart and curious, donkeys investigate whenever they see something new. Not like horses, whose first instinct is to shy away, flashing a stink eye and dancing off. Donkeys are real thinkers, and like all domestic animals, very food motivated.
Our grazing land is fenced into five tiny fields, mostly wood, but some temporary wire electric fence too. The fencing helps us rotate use and keep overgrazing down. The donkeys know the routine, and where they should be grazing at any given time. More than once, we have caught the little brats “guerrilla grazing” in a forbidden field. When they see us coming, they just nip under the fence wire back to where they belong and look all innocent.
That’s another big difference between George and the donkeys. George would just keep eating till I haltered him and put him away, but the crafty donks try to cover up their misdeeds.
This morning, as the dogs and I headed out to do the morning feed, we surprised the donks in the winter field, where no equines have been allowed for weeks. Uh oh, I’d screwed up and left their paddock gate open last night. Sometime in the night, they’d left, wandered through Babe’s field and along behind the barn, ducked under the wire and sashayed right into the winter field, where the grazing was still sweeeeeet. George was charging around his paddock having a fit, securely penned and jealous.
I walked through the wide open bridge gate, stayed the dogs (Liza was itching to herd them back where they belonged) and asked the donks what the heck they were doing. They just tossed their heads and headed out through the barn gate, dipped under the electric fence, trotted around behind the barn and back into their night paddock.
All three winter field gates had been wide open all night. The donkeys could have left at any time, plundered our gardens and wandered the neighbourhood. But why bother causing all that trouble? Smart donkeys know where they have it good.
They spent most of today sleeping off their night’s wander and good feed, and even spurned their breakfast hay! That’s gotta be a first.