Seems I am always scratching my head about feeding the minis and weight gain and hay vs straw, etc. etc. And I think I work much harder than I need to plus the donkeys always seem so hungry ... hmm ... not so good, especially when thinking of adding more donkeys. I need to make things easier, not harder!
So what I have realized is that by withholding feed because I think they are too heavy, I am actually creating a feast and famine type of situation which slows their metabolism, makes them cranky AND causes them to gain weight! Gosh ...!
I recently read that by feeding infrequently and/or not enough roughage, we are causing their metabolisms to slow so that they can conserve energy and by doing so, they store fat. Then they eat too fast and their systems are empty before the next feeding, slowing their metabolisms even more.
So ... it follows that it's better for them to eat slowly and often and not constantly feel hungry. I have always fed often, but not enough at one time to satisfy them, it seems. So I have weighted them again and done the math. They are both the same height: 34.5" at the withers and similar in weight but I have averaged their weights out to 268 lbs. each. At 1.5% of their body weight, they should eat roughly 4 lbs of hay per day each.
This is easily divided into 4 feedings with some straw or grazing available in between. I got a fabulous new scale that I can hang and actually read the numbers. This scale only weighs up to 11 lbs, so it is sensitive enough to read 1 lb.!
I open a hay bag and place it inside one of those stands made to hold garbage bags open. The stand plus the empty hay bag weighs 5 lbs.
If I'm not going to be home, I can divide the portions into 1/2 lb. bags and hang them around so that they will wander and find them. I find the bags work best when they are rather full, but it would be great to have some even smaller ones that are full with 1/2 lb. of hay.
Three slow feeder hay bags, each filled with 1 lb. of hay ready to go! The black ones hang from pieces of baling twine on the fence and I drop the grey/ blue ones into a feed trough on the ground (mind you, they never stay in the trough!) I could tie them in but the donkeys have so much fun (I think?) tossing them around!
This has really simplified things - hay is pre-measured and ready to feed. My partner doesn't have to guess how much to feed, I don't have to give in to constant donkey whimpering. They eat more slowly this way and a pound of hay takes them about an hour to eat ... perfect!