Breeder of Registered Miniature
Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets
ARTICLE: Signs of Foaling
SIGNS OF FOALING
BY Carolyn Christian
There is nothing more exciting than the
anticipation and arrival of a newborn
miniature donkey foal. There is also nothing
more fearful to the owner whether it's your
first or your 50th. I've compiled this list
of things to know and do prior to your
jennet having a foal. You will want to
familiarize yourself with the signs of
foaling so that it won't be such a scary
experience for you. Donkeys are hardy
animals and in most every case, will have a
normal, healthy, and happy foal without any
interference from humans. Although foaling
is an exciting time for you, try to be as
invisible as possible. This isn't a time to
bring the family to the barn with cameras
and talking. In nature, these things are
done in private, away from the herd, and
usually at night when animals sleep and mom
doesn't have to worry about predators.
Your job is simply to monitor the birth to
make sure everything is occurring normally.
There will be plenty of time to enjoy the foal
once he or she is up and nursing well. Consult
your veterinarian if you have any question
regarding the information below. I hope this
helps you to feel more comfortable with the
process. We breeders choose to bring jennets and
jacks together to create these little ones. We
need to always be mindful of the importance of
being responsible caretakers and breeders of our
precious jennets who give us this special gift.
We are truly in their debt.
PRIOR TO FOALING
There are some things you will want to do
before foaling occurs. They are:
1. Make sure your jennet has had her
Rhino-Pneumabort shots at 5, 7, and 9 months.
This is the vaccination to prevent the flu that
causes equine abortions. Consult your
veterinarian in case he prefers not to give them
to pregnant jennets.
2. It is also advisable to give the jennet
her vaccinations and worm her 30 days prior to
foaling. This will insure her to be at peak
immunity when she delivers and produces her
3. Move the jennet from the jack at least 30
days prior to foaling.
4. Move the jennet to the foaling pasture
where she will give birth at least 30 days prior
to foaling in order for her to get used to the
area and conditions that she will encounter.
5. Be sure there are no sharp objects in the
foaling stall and/or pasture, and that there is
no way a little donkey baby foot can get under
anything that could break a leg or injure the
6. Try to prevent the pregnant jennet from
becoming too fat during her pregnancy. It's not
necessary to do supplemental feeding in the last
trimester of pregnancy unless the jennet appears
to need more weight. That simply puts more
weight on the foal which can cause birthing
problems. Consult your vet regarding this
7. Make sure the foaling area is clean and
free of drafts that can cause respiratory
problems for the new foal.
8. Especially important for first time moms,
GENTLY tug and pull the nipples during her
pregnancy to get her used to being touched in
that area. Stop just prior to foaling.
DETERMINING WHERE TO FOAL
Different owners have differing ideas of
where foaling should occur. Some think the
jennet must be in a closed environment like a
birthing stall. Many have installed cameras to
monitor the birth from inside the house. (If you
choose to purchase a camera, remember that you
could view the jennet, go to sleep for 30
minutes and wake up to find a little one at
their mother's side. Be sure you will use it or
it will become a wasted expense.) Others prefer
to follow the instruction of nature and permit
her to foal in a pasture or small paddock.
Either is acceptable as long as you observe
certain rules for the safety of the jennet and
We tend to let the jennet tell us where she
wants to be. Our preference is the birthing
stall but some jennets become overly worked up
when left in the stall. Muffin DEMANDS to be in
the birthing stall. She has actually stood
outside the stall area when she was ready to
have the baby just begging to be let in. Then
there is Red Roni who HATES a stall. She digs
and digs to the point of sweating and becomes
extremely agitated. Once, we opened the door to
the small paddock outside the birthing stall and
let her out thinking she would stay in the
enclosed area. She immediately ran across it and
jumped over the 4' fence to get to her friends.
She actually bent the top metal rail which is
still there, a testament to her determination.
It scared us to death. We thought this would
surely abort the baby but she had the foal the
next day with no complication.
If the weather is nice (not cold or raining),
we will let them have their foal where they
like. If the weather is inclement or
unpredictable, they will just have to get a grip
because they are going to be stalled.
If you permit your jennet to have her
foal in the pasture, your pasture must be:
Out of the range of predators
Easy to monitor
Fencing should not be of a type that
a foal can become entangled or even get
lost on the other side
No jack closeby
Free of nosey jennet buddies
Free of equipment or items that
could danger the newborn
Whether you foal in a paddock, pasture or in
a stall, make sure the area is safe and clean.
New owners and breeders often ask what type
material should be used in the birthing stall.
In some parts of the country, people use straw.
Some use shavings. We prefer to use shavings as
a base in the birthing stall and put our coastal
hay on top. That protects foals from getting
shavings in or around their wet noses, and will
let the shavings absorb the urine while momma
and foal are there. Remove all urine patches in
the stall regularly. The foal is much closer to
the ground and will be forced to smell the
amonia laden urine if it's not removed which
could cause potential respiratory problems.
ACTUAL SIGNS OF FOALING
The following USUALLY occurs, either all or
in part, prior to actual foaling. The key word
so don't be alarmed if your jennet
doesn't experience most of these. Each jennet is
an individual and nothing in nature is an
The bag will become hard. Some jennets don't
produce a big bag so size is not necessarily an
indicator. Firmness is. The bag will feel tight
and inflexible in most cases. She will begin
bagging anywhere from 1 week to 2 months prior
to foaling with the average being 3-6 weeks. The
bag becomes full, then the nipples will fill.The
nipples will go from pliable and empty to full
and triangular. You may even see a crystallized
excretion at the tip of the nipple a few days
prior to foaling. Don't remove it. That is the
colostrum on its way down and the crystal
"stopper" is just that.
If you think the jennet is ready to foal in
the next few days, you can squeeze a very small
amount from the nipples to check for color. If
it's clear, you still have a way to go. When it
becomes milky, foaling is within 12 to 24 hours.
Check for milk no more than once a day and only
just prior to foaling. There are differing
opinions regarding this procedure. Some say that
it can allow bacteria to enter the teat if the
crystallized stopper is lost. Others disagree.
If you have concerns about this, check with your
The outside of the vagina will become swollen
and puffy. The inside of the vagina will become
red as opposed to fleshy pink starting from the
inside of the vagina and working its way
outward. This is the blood moving to the rear of
the jennet in anticipation of foaling. Check a
jennet that is NOT pregnant to see the
difference in color. When the inside of the
vagina begins to look red, foaling is just few
days away. When the vagina is FULLY red (the
color of red meat), foaling is just hours away.
When it's fully red, you are within a 6 to 12
hours of foaling.
The pelvic area will become sunken and
The jennet may walk with her tail elevated.
The jennet will stand off from the herd.
She will start getting up and down and
rolling caused by the contractions and her
When she goes down, stays down, lies on her
side with legs extended, she is having
contractions and full labor has begun. The foal
should be produced in 20 minutes. Don't panic if
it's 30 minutes. If the foal isn't forthcoming
after 45 minutes, call a vet.
In most instances, the “bubble"
first. You should be able to see the 2 white
hooves through the bubble with one hoof slightly
forward of the other. The correct position is a
diving position where the foal's head is resting
on his legs as if he were diving into a pool.
It's important that one leg is slightly forward
of the other in order for the shoulders to
easily pass through the pelvic area at an angle
rather than straight on where it can get stuck.
Sometimes, the bubble will burst during birthing
or the jenny will stand up and cause it to
The correct position of the foal for delivery
is where his back is positioned at the top of
his mom's back. If his back is toward her
stomach (meaning the foal is upside down) or his
bottom and/or hind legs are presenting
themselves first, call the vet immediately. Your
vet will need to turn the foal in order for
deliver to occur.
If you feel the need to break the bag and
pull the baby out, do not break the bag until
the nose is completely out and you can grab both
legs to prevent the foal from going back into
the birth canal and drowning. If you ever pull a
foal, do not pull it straight out but aim it
down and toward the dam's underbelly. You can
injure the foal's back if you pull out and up.
After the foal is born, the jenny will rest.
Everything is OK. Don't interrupt her because
she needs to rest and more importantly, the
umbilical cord is still connected and the foal
is receiving blood during this time. She will
usually stand at which time the cord will break.
Newborn foals need to have their navels
treated and need to be given a tetanus antitoxin
shot immediately. Treatment of the navel
consists of an application of iodine (7%
tincture) or another veterinary recommended
solution such as Nolvasan. Nolvasan is preferred
because it doesn't dry out the navel cord as
quickly and trap bacteria in the navel area as
iodine can do. Consult your vet for his
recommendations. We apply the solution by
pouring it into a shot glass, hold it over the
foal's navel, then turn the baby upside down to
saturate the navel.
We don't feed the jennet a supplemental or
high protein grain immediately after foaling.
and most grains tend to stimulate milk
production. If the jennet is lacking in
production, it's advisable to give her some
supplemental feed. If she is producing an
adequate amount of milk for the nursing habits
of the baby, feed her grain for the first week
only sparingly or not at all. You don't want her
to be producing so much milk that the newborn
can't keep up with production. That will cause
the bag and nipples to become engorged and
painful to the touch. She may even refuse to let
the foal nurse because of it. Should this occur
in one or both chambers of the bag, it is
advisable to milk the jennet to relieve the
pressure, but only after 12 hours following
delivery. The foal receives the necessary
colostrum in the first 12 hours of life.
Spend a lot of time with your newborn for the
first few days to imprint the foal and make
him/her unafraid of humans. This is the easy
part! I hope this article has proved helpful to
you. Now, enjoy your newborn. He or she is a