ONARGA, Ill. — For the Willis family, the 21st day of the 21st year in the 21st century was a lucky one.
A rare set of twin donkeys was born on Carrick Hill Farm in Iroquois County in eastern Illinois.
“It was a lucky day,” said Kieran Willis.
His parents Michael and Tricia, both born in Ireland, own the 200-acre beef farm near Onarga. The Willises emigrated from different parts of Ireland in the 1980s and met in New York. They later moved to the Chicago area and bought their farm in 2006, where they raise cattle and grow hay.
The making of this special event started in 2017 when the family bought a male donkey at a local sale in Milford.
“He cost $25. He looked abused and we wanted to make a better life for him,” Kieran said.
They also liked the idea of having a donkey around to protect their 50-head Angus herd, chickens and a miniature horse.
“He’s like a big dog, honestly,” Kieran said of the donkey they call Elmer.
They were gifted a female donkey, named Molly, from an elderly friend in Iowa who wasn’t able to care for her any more. She gave birth to Elmer’s foal in 2019.
Molly is 27 years old and the family intended to retire her from breeding, Kieran said. But she presented them with twins donkeys this winter. Now they will have five donkeys roaming the pasture with their cattle.
“It was a nice surprise,” Kieran said. “They are soft and cuddly.”
Donkey twins are a rarity, happening less than 2% of the time with only 10% of the twins surviving, according to University of Illinois Extension.
Since the twins were born during inauguration week, the family named them Biden and Harris in reference to the new president and vice president.
“It’s not political,” Kieran said — just a matter of timing.