The good and the bad about having a free-range donkey.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023 | Filed under Norma Jean

As most of you know, my 30 year-old donkey, Norma Jean, is now a free range donkey during the daytime.

This is mostly good, but sometimes, not so good.  Like the image below… this happens daily.  Not only is it potentially bad for our porch to have a free-range donkey clunking about, but this vision tugs at my heartstrings and I want to stop all I’m doing and run out to see what she wants.  This is not so good.

This is a daily thing.


I’m letting her roam because she’s old enough now where she doesn’t cause a lot of damage when she’s out, and she’s old enough to not get herself into trouble.  Earlier this year, her paddock mates were intimidating her… so I felt it best to separate her.  However, separating her made Norma Jean unhappy.   Hmmm, what should I do?

Well, I decided to let her be a donkey in the wilds of our home in Grass Valley.

Norma is quite respectful.  She knows when it is time to go into the barn for the night and she puts herself away.  She does have a daily pattern of roaming, but she also breaks away and does whatever she wants, when she wants.

Mostly, she will roam over to her old paddock and spend time, eating fallen bits of hay or brown grass on the other side of the fence from her old friends.  Then she usually meanders to the green weeds of the new tree (which is watered daily) and up the hill to the upper pastures.  It is about mid day that she wanders up to our porch, and sits at the front door.

I’m not complaining (OK, I am a bit complaining) because she is healthier than she has been in a few years since she’s been free-range.  She looks good for an older girl.  Norma is bright and reasonably happy – for her – Norma is not very emotive, however she gets her point across and is able to tell me what she wants and what she doesn’t want.

Versely, though, when I tell her what I want or don’t want, Norma becomes deeply offended.  For example, if I shoo her off of the porch, she pouts an inch off the porch for an hour or so.  If I need to get her back into the barn for some reason, she will greatly resist until I raise my arms behind her – and then she’ll literally RUN back to the barn, as if I am the worst/scariest/meanest human ever to be behind her.

I cannot tell in words you how much I relish watching her move about and make choices daily.  I find her life decisions fascinating.  For me, stealthily  watching her from my office window is a total joy.  I always stop what I’m doing when I see her down there, and watch.

If you have the opportunity to have a free-range donkey, you should.  However, they might be a (a little bit of an ornery porch ornament).  But, they might just fill your heart with the magic of donk.

I came out, of course, and gave her a treat, which made her smile.

HERE IS A VIDEO OF NORMA ON MY PORCH and me trying to figure out what she wants…

Norma Jean loves to sit on the porch and take a nap.  She also looks in the windows.  Usually she wants a treat.  Any fruit, please, and she loves cold cucumbers.

Click here to watch video.

Click image to watch Norma Jean at my door… begging for treats.

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Only one comment so far...

  1. Bunny

    Love donkeys — more donkeys, please, and especially Norma Jean. If she likes to free graze, why not consider among those green weeds planting some equid-friendly herbs? For further info you could reference A Modern Horse Herbal (older book still in print). Planted along fence lines which tend to have slightly damp soils due to condensation drips off the fence boards or wires even in drought. They will seek out what they need. And don’t dig out the dandelions which are loaded with vitamin C – that seems to be especially delicious to them. They also like chamomile.

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