What's the Best Animal Bedding? Bedding Made With Wood Shavings!

With so many different types of bedding on the market, and a dizzying array of sizes and performance claims available, answering this simple question is not easy. In addition, not all animals are created equal, and many people have individual preferences. Put it all together and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.

In order to bring clarity to all of this, it’s better to start by asking “What DON’T I want in my bedding?” Of course owners of horses, livestock and pets all want to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their animals, while taking care to watch costs and minimize maintenance. But there are certain aspects of animal bedding that all would agree are undesirable. These include:

  • Excessive moisture
  • Excessive dust
  • Excessive large pieces (chunks, sticks, bark etc.)
  • Poorly filled bags
  • Bad seals, ripped bags
  • Avoiding certain species – e.g. Black Walnut can cause laminitis in horses and should be avoided

American Wood Fibers has a comprehensive quality control system which includes standardized specifications and rigorous testing to assure that each of the above undesirable characteristics is avoided in all our wood shavings products. All of our products are heat dried to ensure low moisture levels and to kill bacteria. We also triple screen all of our products to remove dust and larger pieces of wood.

Now that we know what we don’t want, what do we want? Let’s dig a little deeper, and look at some of the value points most often cited as important in animal bedding products. Research shows that the primary considerations when choosing a bedding are:

  • Consistency
  • Odor control
  • Absorbency
  • Comfort/Cushioning/Loft
  • Ease of use
  • Appearance

There are lot of different varieties and species on the market. The bedding most widely available and popular is screened, kiln dried pine wood shavings. Pine has naturally occurring, odor absorbing oils. These are what give pine its great aromatic scent and they also have antibacterial and ammonia reducing properties. In certain areas, other wood species such as aspen, cottonwood and poplar are offered and make very good bedding. These species are essentially scent free and some customers prefer them for animals with respiratory sensitivities. On the other end of the spectrum, eastern red cedar is used by many horse owners. This species is prized for its woodsy scent (think cedar closets) and odor controlling properties. Studies show that it also repels flies, fleas and other insects.

When considering absorbency, comfort/cushioning/loft, ease of use and appearance, it gets a little more complicated. Customers differ as to which is the most important to them, so American Wood Fibers offer a full line of bedding products. Here’s a comparison of the features and benefits of each:

Mini Flake

This is the smallest flake, and fastest growing product in our lineup. The specially sized small flake wood shavings means that there is more wood fiber by volume than with larger grades of shavings. Think of a jar of peas versus one with marbles in it – the smaller size particle has more surface area and less air between the flakes. More fiber means better liquid and odor absorption when compared to the same volume of larger shavings. It also means that when picking manure from the stall, most of the unused shavings fall through the fork (sort of like clumping cat litter), which means less waste and saved time and money. Mini-Flake shavings also pour more easily out of the bales, so are very easy to spread. Once a stall is set with the desired depth of Mini-Flake shavings, it can be refreshed with a bale or two of new product, rather than mucking the entire stall. An independent test of Mini-Flake versus other shavings showed savings of up to 50% in time spent cleaning the stall and monthly stall maintenance costs.

Eco Flake

This product is made from screened, kiln dried wood waste from manufacturers of windows, doors etc. Because it is essentially recycling fiber that might otherwise go to landfills, its use has a beneficial impact on the environment. It is a small to medium sized, all-purpose grade of wood shavings that combines excellent absorption with ease of use.

Medium Flake

This product is made using heat dried, screened fiber manufactured by shaving pine logs and sizing them to a medium grade.  It’s great for those who prefer better loft and cushioning than the smaller flake products offer and still want to retain the better absorption one gets with a smaller flake wood shaving.

Large Flake

This product has the largest wood shavings flake size we offer, designed for those who are looking for maximum coverage and loft. The bigger flakes take up more space, so the usable (expanded) volume is greater. This means the Flake product provides more coverage and loft in the stall. For those most interested in quickly cleaning out the entire stall (such as when using in a trailer, attending shows etc.), or prefer a fluffy appearance in the stall, large Flake shavings are the best bet. Cushioning is better too with the Flake product since there is more air between the shavings than with smaller flake products.

Bedding Pellets

Made of softwood fiber densified into ¼” diameter pellets, this product offers a lot of advantages. There is a lot of fiber packed into a small amount of space. The pellets fluff when exposed to liquid and, like the Mini-Flake product, unused pellets fall through the tines of the fork so there is less wasted product. There is more weight per cubic foot that any other product and more fiber means more absorption.

When choosing a product, it’s important to understand the difference between the grades, and to determine how the product will be used before making a decision. At first glance, it’s natural to assume the bale with the biggest number (e.g. 8 cubic feet on the Large Flake vs. 5.5 cubic feet on the Eco) is a better value. This is definitely not the case if the benefits of one of the smaller grades are most important.

To sum it up, American Wood Fibers is proud to offer an industry leading program that delivers unsurpassed quality, value and variety to our customers.