When Do Foals Start Eating Grass? Solved! Facts & Tips

A foal is a freaking amazing animal. Immediately after it is born it tries to stand up and just get on with life. The speed of their development is something you need to see to believe. It’s almost as if they fly through different stages just to get to their version of adulthood as quickly as possible.

But when do they actually start eating grass?

A foal is generally going to start eating grass around a week after they are born. At this time they will have been drinking their mother’s milk for the first seven days of life. They do not transition immediately onto eating grass but will continue with milk and grass for a period.

So the whole thing is a process and a transition. In this article, I’ll take a look at what foals ingest over their first few weeks of life, so that you can help them grow as happily and healthily as possible.

When do foals start eating grass
Foals start nibbling grass at around 7 weeks, but then spend a couple of months before they transition over to solely eating grass

A Foal’s Diet For The First Few Days

As soon as a foal is born, they want to suckle on their mother, and for good reason.

They have the need to do this as the milk, which is called colostrum, is packed full of nutrients and goodness that acts like a real booster shot to the foal.

This milk is essential as it will help increase the immunity of the foal and hopefully prevent them from developing disease. That is because the foal is basically born with very little immunity, and that can be a problem.

But for the first few days, the foal is going to do nothing else apart from feeding off its mother (from an eating perspective). But as I mentioned at the outset, it will not take too long before they decide to venture over and eat some grass. [Source]

The Beginning of Eating Grass

So a foal is going to begin its grass-eating journey after around a week. However, even at that point, it’s not going to be something they overindulge in.

Instead, see it as them simply nibbling away every once in a while. They are also going to be still drinking from their mother from time to time as well.

This is really where they simply have a taste. They don’t overindulge in eating grass at first as they still love getting all those nutrients from their mother.

At this seven-day mark, you are really looking at them checking out what it is like to eat grass. They will still prefer their mother, but it shows they are beginning to open up their horizons.

Indulging in it More – Day 10 Onwards

By around day 10, a foal will be looking at eating a bit more of grass rather than the little nibble we mentioned earlier. However, the balance is still more in favor of their mother and her milk as opposed to just grass.

This is a sign that their nutritional needs are changing. The milk from their mother becomes less important, and they move their attention elsewhere.

That is when you need to start providing them with access to more grass (or hay is a good alternative), and do so over an extended period of time.

Here is a beautiful and short video of a two-week-old foal attempting to eat grass:

The Foal’s Diet – From Two Months Onwards

By the time a foal gets to around the two months mark, the length of time they spend drinking from their mother is almost nil. There may be some exceptions to all of this, but generally speaking, they will have moved almost completely away.

This is something you do need to pay attention to, and also focus on the overall health of the foal.

Are they acting like they should be?

Do they appear to be as strong as they need to be in order to survive and thrive?

It may also be worth getting them checked over by a vet if you are concerned. You certainly do not want them to be eating the wrong things, and then getting the wrong nutrients this early in life.

Their Full Dietary Timeline

Time From BirthKey Diet At this Point
Birth to 7 daysMother’s milk
7-10 daysSome grass, and mainly milk
10 days to 2 monthsAn increasing amount of grass alongside milk
2 months onwardsGrass is now the predominant element of their diet

A Foal’s Diet – Key Things to Look Out For

There are several things to look out for that are important here, and they could determine the future health of your foal.

They Are Born Without An Immune System

First, be aware that a foal is not born with an immune system.

That is why they need to suckle on their mother within the first few hours after birth. If they have not suckled within the first 24 hours, then you may have a problem on your hands, and you need to deal with it.

2. Timeline Is Different For Each Foal

Also, as we said earlier, don’t stress if they are not indulging in some grass by the time they get to a week old.

This timeline can even depend on whether or not you are keeping them more indoors in this first week, or if you are allowing them out to pasture.

3. Milk Is Prefered Even In A Lush Green Field In The Early Days

But understand that even if they are out to pasture they will still have that preference for their mother and her milk in the first few days. It’s almost as if they do not even see the grass that is around them at this point.

Why Grass is So Important

And finally, a quick explanation as to why grass is so important for a foal.

When it comes to horses in general, then grass is packed full of various nutrients that they need in order to remain healthy.

Also, it is known that grass helps their digestion, so not providing them with hay in the winter months is a bad idea. In fact, you will be storing up trouble for them in the long term.

For horses, grass is very high in fiber, but that’s not the only key thing here. It is also very low in both sugars and sodium, and that is also essential for their diet.

A horse cannot deal with too much salt or sugar, and the grass is the perfect solution for them.

Also, they will nibble away whenever they want to, or feel like it, so as long as you have them in a good pasture or access to good hay, then there should never be a problem. [Source]

Key Facts

  • A foal is going to start eating grass around seven days after being born.
  • It would be unusual for a foal to take longer than that to have its first nibble, but even if it is eight days and they have not shown they want to try, then it’s not a big deal.
  • The most important thing is they start to move over from drinking from their mother and eating more and more grass. It is something that will take a number of weeks as their immunity and general strength grows.
  • However, as they get bigger, they will move on only wanting to eat grass, along with some lovely treats.
  • This all happens as the digestion and nutritional needs of a foal change while they grow.
  • The body of the foal is clever. It knows the right time for them to move over from one thing to the other. 
  • Allow them to do this in their own time, and you will see your foal growing and developing into a strong and healthy horse.

Brigitte Cave

Bridgitte grew up on a farm and eventually spent 5 years on Mahe Island in the Seychelles during her teen years. Her time living on a farm was spent mostly around animals including dogs, cats, cows, horses, and all sorts of fowl (chickens, ducks, and geese included). You can find out more about Bridgitte at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/ Bridgitte is a keen horse rider and has competed in many showjumping competitions. She loves writing about pretty much all animals, and particularly dogs, cats, small mammals, horses and reptiles.

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