Breeder of Registered Miniature                 Donkeys, Quality Breeding Stock, and Lovable Pets

ARTICLE: 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.



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 colostrum.

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 donkey.

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 matter.

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.



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 foal.


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:

  • Clean
  • 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.



The following USUALLY occurs, either all or in part, prior to actual foaling. The key word is “usually" 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 absolute.


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 veterinarian.


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 concave.


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 discomfort.


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" comes out 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 burst.

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. Protein 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 gift.


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Quarter Moon Ranch
4674 Bucksnort Road
Franklin, TX  77856
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