URI’s Peckham Farm surprised by birth of baby guard donkey

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 24, 2015 — When University of Rhode Island senior Kathryn Voelkner arrived at URI’s Peckham Farm to feed the animals Sunday morning, she noticed that one of the farm’s two donkeys, Jenny, was lying on the ground and breathing heavily. Then she noticed why.


The 3-year-old donkey had just given birth to her first foal.


“When I walked over to Jenny, I noticed that her attention was focused on something behind me,” said Voelkner, an animal science major from Clarks Summit, Pa. “I turned and saw the baby trying to take her first few steps. She was still wet from the birthing process, so she must have been born just minutes before I arrived.”

According to Nick Miniter, the farm’s manager, no one knew that Jenny was even pregnant, since URI’s only other donkey, Rosie, is also female. Jenny must have been pregnant when the University acquired the animal last May. Donkey gestation lasts approximately one year.


Some of the student farmhands had speculated about a possible pregnancy, but none took it seriously.


“Over the winter we started to mention that she was getting kind of chunky, but we thought it was just that the extra food they get to keep warm in winter was sticking to her in unflattering ways,” said Sydney Day, a senior animal science major from East Greenwich.

Voelkner and Day agree that Jenny has been an excellent mother to the unnamed foal in its first few days of life.


“Jenny has been a super protective mom since the moment we found the little one, glaring at any cow who dares to look at her baby with even the slightest glance,” said Day.


“The baby is starting to get more curious around other people, but Jenny is very watchful,” added Voelkner. “In the past few days I’ve seen Jenny and the baby lying next to each other, Jenny grooming the baby as they soak up the springtime sun.”


URI uses donkeys as guard animals to protect its sheep and goats from attacks by coyotes or feral dogs. The first guard donkey at URI, Bonnie, arrived in late 2003.


Peckham Farm, located across Route 138 from the URI athletic facilities, has sheep, cows, pigs and goats that are used as part of the University’s animal science and pre-veterinary classes.


Photos by Nora Lewis