Bedding: Bedding Pellets vs. Shavings. The Pros and the Cons.

by Ami Calo
14 July 2022 | [email protected] | 845.990.2079


There are a lot of differing opinions in the bedding world. A lot of this comes down to preference and experience. I have personally talked to horse owners that prefer and larger flake because it is “easier to clean,” and I have also talked to other horse owners that claim the larger flakes are much more difficult to clean and they prefer a smaller flake because they are easier to clean in their opinion. There are also a lot of owners who claim pellets are the best option.

So, since bedding comes down to preference, how do you decide which is going to work best without committing to a large purchase? The most important factor when deciding which bedding option will work best for you is your horse’s comfort and health. However, the owners’ opinions, access, and budget will take a toll in deciding which option is best for you and your farm. Hopefully, this article will help make that decision or maybe help with considering another option.

Through my experience, I have learned that the biggest factors in an owner’s decision on bedding come down to availability and affordability. The agricultural markets and construction industry directly affect the availability and price of bedding. When the construction industry is down (like it has been recently), less sawdust and pellets are produced due to the lack of demand in construction. This, therefore, decreases the availability of bedding and increases the cost simultaneously.

Depending on the location you live in, access to shavings and/or pellets can vary. Thankfully, the option of shipping large quantities of bedding can help decrease the overall cost, however, if you live a far distance from a plant that produces quality bedding, the price can increase.

Taking all these factors into consideration, making the decision on which type of bedding to use on your farm can be stressful. That’s where we come to help in guiding you through this decision.


Let’s start with shavings.

There are many options to choose from in shavings. The flakes vary from mini to large flakes, and the expansion of the shavings will increase with the size. Shavings have many advantages, but also have disadvantages in comparison to other options. Here are some of the pros and cons that we have heard from our farmers:


  • There are many different sizes to choose from. This can help with the horse’s comfort level, the amount of shavings used in a stall, how the flake falls through the fork, and the amount it can absorb.
  • The price is generally cheaper. In comparison to other bedding options, shavings prices are cheaper per bag than pellets.
  • Volume: depending on how deep you choose to bed your stalls, shavings can go a longer way than pellets can.
  • Instant usage: Once you lay shavings down for bedding, they can be used immediately. There is no wait time for the shavings to fluff up (no water is needed to expand).
  • Can be used in all climates – There is no water needed to expand shavings, therefore, if you live in an area with freezing temperatures, you don’t run the risk of the water freezing before the expansion of the bedding.


  • Large bags = more storage space needed: in comparison to pellets, bags/bales of shavings are much bigger than bags of pellets, therefore, you will need a large space to store the bags of shavings or make sure they are not exposed to the elements.
  • Varying sizes – Shavings are made in mills where the size of the flake can vary, leading to rare occasions of inconsistent flakes.
  • Dust – shavings can be very low dust, but they are seldom dust free. This can lead to allergy issues for your horses if they are sensitive to dust.
  • More maintenance time – Shavings must be mucked out frequently to avoid the buildup of ammonia.


Pellets are an option that is relatively new in the bedding industry. They can take some getting used to in your barn, but can also have a lot of benefits once you are comfortable with them. Accessibility and affordability of pellets also depend on the agricultural market and construction industry.

What are bedding pellets? Bedding pellets are made of compressed fibers that turn into sawdust when wet. Let’s go through the pros and cons of pellets:


  • Less storage space needed – pellets are much smaller than shavings, which means the bags used to store them are also much smaller, meaning you do not need as much storage space for these.
  • Use less – One 40 lbs. bag of pellets can absorb up to 11 gallons of liquid. They are also easier to clean as once you lay them down, you can add small additional amounts of pellets as needed.
  • 5x more absorbent than shavings
  • Less dust – Pellets are compressed and expand with water, meaning there is much less dust than in shavings.
  • Texture consistency – one of the biggest complaints about wood shavings is the varying sizes of the shavings. With pellets, you will receive the same consistency within each bag which makes it less frustrating to handle
  • Compost friendly


  • Can be more expensive – Bags of pellets can be more expensive per bag, however, since you will be using fewer amounts than shavings, the cost can be less over time even though the initial purchase can be more expensive.
  • They take time to fluff out – The expansion of an entire bag of pellets can take anywhere from 20 minutes to upwards of an hour. However, we have learned that using warm water instead of cold will speed up the time of expansion.
  • Climates – if you live in a colder climate (during the winter) you can run the risk of the water freezing before the pellets are completely expanded. And if you live in an extremely dry climate, they can become dustier as they are stepped on if not absorbing moisture.


Shavings and pellets can also be used in combination. We have spoken with some owners who like to use pellets to build the amount of bedding in the corner of the stalls while using shavings throughout the rest of the area.

Deciding which is better for you and your horses will come down to the trial and experience. Weighing all the pros and cons of shavings vs. pellets can be difficult without the assistance of a market expert. Bedding can either help the overall health of your horses or can be detrimental if they are not receiving the right amount of care. This decision can help the longevity of your horse’s life.

What are your thoughts?



Ami Calo is an Account Manager for Aden Brook.