Donkeys are the easy keepers of the equine world, and that holds true for pregnant jennies, both minis and standards. Unlike a horse mare, who carries her foal for 11 months, donkey jennies are pregnant anywhere from 11 to 14 months, with 12 months the average. If you are considering breeding your donkey, that's an important fact to keep in mind, since you should aim for your jenny to give birth in warm weather with several months of good weather to follow for the health of the foal.
If your donkey has previously foaled, it's likely subsequent foals will arrive after a similar gestation. For example, it's uncommon -- although certainly not unheard of -- for a donkey who generally carries for 12 months to deliver at 13 months.
Feeding Pregnant Donkeys
For most of her pregnancy, feed your jenny the amount you normally give her. Her diet consists primarily of pasture or timothy or grass hay, unless she's in considerable work. Then she may need some grain. It's not until the final quarter -- the last three months -- of her pregnancy that she may require feeding changes. That's when the fetus starts growing rapidly. Feed her too much, too soon, and you'll end up with an obese donkey who can have delivery problems. Your vet may recommend giving your donkey grain during the latter months of her pregnancy. You might give her additional hay, but it's quite possible she can thrive on her steady diet.
During her pregnancy, up until the final three months, keep your jenny on a regular deworming schedule. That helps keep her healthy and parasite-free while she's expecting. Ask your vet before giving her any deworming medications during that last three months. Also ask the vet about a vaccination schedule for your pregnant jenny.
Signs of Impending Delivery
Donkeys usually give birth easily and independently, but it's always wise to know the signs of impending delivery and secure her in a safe place prior to the birth. That might mean a large stall filled with straw or a small paddock. About two weeks before delivery, the jenny may shun other herd mates and want to stay by herself. Here are some signs of when to expect delivery:
- The udder starts enlarging about a month prior to foaling.
- The teat tips enlarge a few days before delivery.
- The teats wax up -- secrete wax -- about two days prior to delivery.
- When her vulva swells enough to be even with her hindquarters, delivery is imminent.
Avoid breeding your jenny before she is at least 3 years old. If bred at a younger age, especially before the age of 2, she may never reach her full genetic height. Those breeding miniature donkeys may think allowing a young jenny to have a foal will produce a desirable smaller baby, but that's not the case. The young mother passes on her genetic size to her foal -- even if she herself doesn't reach it.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.