Wood pellet bedding has always been an important part of the pellet industry. While during the winter months there is a strong demand for fuel for pellet stoves and boilers, what about during the warmer months of the year? Well, it became apparent that wood pellets are also an excellent bedding material for horses, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs as well as many other pets. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, its the reduced dust content of wood pellets compared to other bedding products. Secondly, its because wood pellets are highly absorbent. With this post, I wanted to provide a comprehensive guide with videos on the different types of pellet bedding. Plus, more details on their advantages and how to actually prepare and use them.
While wood pellet bedding is the most commonly available product, there is also a wide range of different materials used for animal bedding pellets: Image – Amazon
Introduction To The Benefits of Pellet Bedding
The basic principle of any pellet is that its a highly compressed form of the original raw material. Typically, there will be a reduction in the volume of 6:1 when raw material is compressed into pellets. Now, I started my interest and work into pellets back in 2007 focusing on how they are made and the equipment used to produce them. I’m not going to focus on that topic in this post. However, if you’re interested you can browse lots of relevant posts through my homepage.
Pellet bedding is becoming more and more popular with many pet owners, not just stable owners for their horses: Image – Amazon
With this post, I want to try and cover the various questions I have been asked over the years with regards to the benefits of pellet bedding and how they can be used. When I write my posts I like to include relevant videos when I find them, and this post is no different. The short video below provides a summary of the advantages of pellet bedding which is applicable to horses, cats, rabbits and any other animal and their owner.
Pellet Bedding Is Low Dust
As the video above discusses there are benefits to using pellet bedding not only for the health and wellbeing of the animal but also their owner. For instance, wood shavings or straw can be quite dusty. As the animals move around in their bedding this dust is lifted into the air and then breathed in by the animal. Due to the highly compressed nature of pellet bedding, there is very little dust. The pellets are sieved before they are bagged up ready for customers. If you keep pets in your home such as cats or guinea pigs the reduced dust of pellet bedding also has the advantage of keeping your home cleaner.
Pellet Bedding Is More Absorbent
Another advantage of wood pellet and other types of pellet bedding is their increased absorbency compared to uncompressed products such as straw and wood shavings. Typically, pellet bedding is two and half times more absorbent than wood shavings for instance. This increased absorbency compared to other materials has two direct benefits. First, it means the animal has a more comfortable/hygienic environment. Secondly, for the owner its easier to clean out the affected areas without having to clean out the entire horse stall/litter tray every time. You can simply remove the solid waste/saturated area of pellet bedding and top up with a sufficient amount of new pellets.
Pellet Bedding Saves Time/Labor
The increased absorbency of pellet bedding means the owner or the person responsible for animal welfare doesnt have to spend as much time on cleaning up. Furthermore, when clean up of used bedding is required the process is also quicker than standard bedding products. Pellet bedding really is a win-win for the animal and their owner.
Used Pellet Bedding Is A Compost/Soil Conditioner
Another benefit with pellet bedding is that used pellet bedding can directly be used as a compost/soil conditioner on gardens and farm fields. You would probably think that’s the case with bedding of wood shavings and straw, however, you would be wrong. That type of bedding needs additional time to break down, hence it has to be stored/composted first. However, interestingly, there is also a market for used horse bedding by processing it into pellets. Read more about it through the link above.
Bulk Buying Wood Pellets For Horse Bedding
If you own just a couple of horses ordering wood pellets in bags on a pallet is probably going to be how you would start ordering your bedding. Obviously the more pallets of bags you order at one time the better price per bag you will receive. However, long term or if you own more than just a couple of horses you are going to want to look into purchasing wood pellets in bulk/loose. This means you are going to need to set yourself up to receive a blown delivery. You will need to order or construct a pellet silo. The link above goes to my post on a guide to purchasing bulk wood pellets. I personally built my own wood pellet silo following best practice. I can hold at any one time around 15 tonnes of wood pellets. The larger silo you can install/construct the lower price per ton of pellets you will receive. So go big if you can.
If you own a lot of horses you really want to look into purchasing wood pellets in bulk/loose for your bedding needs where possible: Image – Amazon
In terms of moving the wood pellets from the silo to the horse stalls, you can do it manually with a bucket/wheelbarrow. Alternatively, if you have a lot of horse stalls to manage you could also consider a pellet vacuum system to move the pellets from the silo to the stalls for you. Obviously, if you are purchasing wood pellets in bulk for your horses you should obviously consider getting a pellet heating system for your home. The same pine pellets can then heat your home for a fraction of the cost of propane or oil.
Straw Pellet Bedding Is Also Worth Considering
While wood pellet bedding is what most people are aware of there is actually a wide range of raw materials which can be used. For instance, while straw bedding is a familiar bedding material, by compressing the staw into pellets it makes a far superior product.
A typical example of wheat straw bedding pellets for small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs: Image – Amazon
For instance, straw in its raw form is quite a dusty bedding product where that’s not the case with straw pellets. Below is a video from one of the leading straw pellet bedding manufacturers White River AG Products. In the video, they discuss how their straw pellet bedding is made and its advantages over other bedding products.
It is worth noting that in terms of sustainability, straw pellet bedding is much better for the environment than wood pellets made from pine trees. If the wood pellets are purely made from pine tree management that’s one thing. However, as soon as trees start to be cut down purely to make pellets that’s another. The point being, while you can obviously replant a pine tree, it doesn’t regrow as fast a wheat straw. The other benefit been with growing wheat straw you are at the same time producing a food crop. The same benefits apply to making pellets from hemp.
Bedding Made From Paper/Cardboard
Another raw material which is been used more and more for making animal bedding pellets is paper and cardboard. I very much encourage the use of this waste material for animal bedding pellets when it cannot be recycled to make more paper/cardboard for various reasons. Using paper and cardboard for animal bedding pellets is even more sustainable than straw bedding pellets.
A typical example of paper animal bedding pellets: Image – Amazon
From personal experience as someone who has made cardboard pellets, I can tell you processing these materials can be a real challenge. Also, if you can find a source of cardboard pellets in bulk for horse bedding for instance, please be aware they are a poor fuel pellet. Hence, you wouldn’t be using those cardboard pellets in your stove/boiler to heat your home. Cardboard pellets produce in excess of 7% ash, and most pellet stoves/boilers simply cannot burn them without issues.
Purina paper pellet pet bedding has been a hugely successful product for them with excellent customer reviews: Image – Amazon
How To Use/Prepare Pellet Bedding
Below I’ve included a couple of different videos on using various different types of bedding pellets for different animals. The videos discuss not only how to prepare and use the bedding pellets but they provide additional details on peoples thoughts and opinions on the advantages of pellets.
Horse Bedding Pellets
The video below provides an excellent summary of how to prepare pellet bedding for horses and their advantages. It may surprise you, but before the pellets are put into the stall you do want to add some water to them. After a couple of minutes, the pellets will expand. This will produce a much more comfortable bedding material for the horse as opposed to rock hard pellets as they come out of the bag.
As described in the video, the number of wood pellet bags required per horse stall will likely vary on the outside temperature. For instance, in the winter months, you would use more bags to provide a more comfortable environment for the horse. As you can see the clean up process with bedding pellets is very simple and straight forward. Its much easier than having to deal with wood shavings or loose straw. Please bear in mind that while in the video above wood pellets are used, straw pellets, paper or cardboard pellets can also be used as horse bedding.
Cat/Kitty Litter Pellet Bedding
When using pellets for cat/kitty litter unlike for horse bedding you would not pre-wet the pellets with water. Also, when it comes to cat pellet bedding you are using very small amounts, and a single bag should last you quite a while. This video below shows two different methods of using/cleaning a litter tray when pellets are used.
Conclusions On The Best Pellet Bedding Options
In terms of absorbency performance, you will find little difference between wood, straw, paper, cardboard or grass pellets. They all contain roughly the same amount of moisture to begin with (below 10%) and they are produced to roughly the same density. Hence, when any type of animal bedding pellets comes into contact with water it will perform pretty much the same way. I’ve also discussed this before in my post when pellets go bad in the context of fuel pellets. So when it comes down to it, your decision will be based mainly on cost and availability.
Wood pellets are the most widely available. If you can purchase in bulk either bags on a pallet or a loose blown delivery that will dramatically reduce the price your paying. Stay away from hardwood BBQ pellets for bedding, you will be paying far more than softwood stove pellets for no benefit. If there is a readily available supply of paper, straw or grass pellets you may actually be able to get these cheaper than wood pellets. However, if you do own a pellet stove/boiler, your properly not going to be able to use these pellets as fuel without issues.
If you care about sustainability and being efficient with resources (which I hope you do) paper, straw and grass pellets are the most sustainable option as bedding pellets. Therefore, if you have the option to buy these pellets as bedding, please consider it. That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post useful/interesting. Please browse the links below to my other posts to learn all about how pellet are made and their various uses. 🙂