Donkeys and horses are grazing animals - they should be eating on and off during the daytime. There is increasing evidence that intermittent feedings can cause all sorts of stomach upset - from colic to ulcers. Knowing this, I have been feeding my donkeys four times a day and hanging hay bags filled with barley straw overnight.
Although great for the donkeys, it's quite a commitment of time for us! While we work at home and can feed regularly most of the time, going away for the day or overnight means finding someone to come quite often.
I became aware of something called a slow feeder - this is some sort of container with a mesh grid across the top that the animal has to pull strands of hay through. The idea is to slow down eating, stop gorging and allow the donkey to pick away at small bits of hay whenever they feel like it.
Donkeys need lots of fiber. Supplying that fiber through hay, gives them too many calories so barley or oat straw is also fed. Some people suggest unlimited access to hay and/ or straw but I haven't been able to bring myself to do that! Dorica needs less food than Ringo and competition for food means that they scarf everything down in a big hurry.
Slow feeders, I think, are the answer! Here is the first prototype. It's a big round tub of heavy plastic with a rolled lip at the top. A plywood rim was screwed into the lip with notches cut out to allow a heavy lid to be angled in and placed on top of a pile of straw and hay. The lid is made from a grid of 1/8th steel rod, sandwiched between another circle of plywood and a round of thicker, heavier wood. The openings between the grid are 2" x 4".It slides down inside the tub as the donkey eats.
Pros and cons to this model:
Pros: Tub is a good height - donkeys can't step in it. Without the lid on, tub is portable and easy to move.
Lid is heavy and can't be tossed out. Tub holds a lot. I don't think the donkeys can hurt their teeth on the metal grid since the top circle of wood is thick, they can't grab onto the metal.
Cons: Tub needs to to anchored against a fence, as they can knock it over. As they eat between the grid, divots or holes get made in the hay, possibly making the strands harder to pull out. I have fluffed up the hay several times but can't see any way to avoid this. The steel grid makes the hay rusty if it rains.
I will look for something in stainless steel for the next models.
You can see the notches cut into the top rim- the lid lifts up through the notches - humans can do it - donkeys can't!
I have used it for several days now and I like it. Each donkey needs its own though as they tend to fight over it (Deenah wins!)
For the next models, I'd like to find rectangular containers that will fit in each stall.