Basically, if we’re being honest, there’s two “types” of wood chippers that’ll be what you’re really choosing between here.
And by that, we don’t mean gas vs electric. We mean:
- The “professional” wood chippers that usually (but not always!) require a tractor, and are what you’re almost certainly looking for, for reasons that we’ll get into in a second.
- The freestanding, significantly cheaper ones that are really just all the same. Not great build quality, and come with a caveat that you need to be aware of.
The big thing that distinguishes these two is that the second type, the much cheaper ones around the $500, can only be used on branches or other woody material under 1″ in diameter.
Some of them do claim to be able to handle more (even though their horsepower and other specs are no better than other ones which say they can’t), but if you just check the reviews on Amazon, for example, you’ll see that they really can’t without clogging up or getting damaged.
That also brings us onto the second issue with these ones: their build quality is just not great to begin with. Each model has its own different problems, like the rubber flaps tearing on the first use, or even the whole machine just breaking down after only one use.
There are also a couple of limitations about those cheaper wood chippers that you should know about. Firstly, that they’re no good for seasoned wood either, for the same reason that they can’t handle wood greater than 1 inch in diameter. They just aren’t built for it.
Secondly, they don’t work well with dry leaves, because they tend to clog up the insides of the chipper. Wet leaves are fine though. You’d think it’d be the other way around, but strangely enough, it isn’t.
However, instead of making this guide incomplete, we’ve still decided to recommend the best ones to go for if this kind of wood chipper is still, despite these pretty significant caveats, what you’re looking for. We’ll be adding more to the list whenever we find more widely available ones that fit the bill, but for now, the ones we recommend further down in this article are the best designed ones of the lot.
That’s everything you’re going to need to know to choose between one type or the other. The main part of this article will be looking at the professional wood chippers which are much better suited to farm work, but if you do want to skip down to the section where we look at those cheaper ones, then you can click here.
As for the ones we do recommend, they’re all summed up in this table below. If you want to skip all the other talk and you just want to know which specific wood chipper are currently the best to go for as a farmer of a small farm, then they’re all right here in one place for you.
|Best Freestanding Option (No Tractor Required)||DR-CS-15HP 5″ Capacity 15HP 4 Stroke Motor 420cc Wood Chipper|
If you don’t have a tractor, or don’t want to have to always use it with your tractor, then there’s really no contest. This is the clear winner.
Suitable for branches up to 5″, it’s a huge, huge improvement over the 1″ limit of practically every other freestanding wood chipper.
It also features an adjustable deflector vane for the discharge chute, and has an electric start option using the built-in battery.
|Best Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper||Farmer Helper 16HP+ 3″ Wood Chipper & 1″ Shedder|
For a true wood chipper shredder combo, you can’t go wrong with this one.
It’s built to last, and has an adjustable feed height. If you need a shredder function to produce fine mulch from leaves and such rather than just wood chips, then this machine offers that.
|Alternative Best Pick for a Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper||NorTrac PTO Chipper – 5 1/2in. Chipping Capacity|
The widest capacity of the lot. This high-power wood chipper can chip 5 1/2 inch thick pieces of wood or branches.
It doesn’t have a shredder function, but they really aren’t necessary at all. Leaves go through a wood chipper just fine.
Essentially, this is the wood chipper to go for if you have a tractor and you’re thinking you’ll need to chip anything wider than 3″.
Click to jump straight to each topic.
- The 3 Reasons Why Wood Chippers Are So Useful for Small Farms
- What to Look for in a Wood Chipper as a Farmer of a Small Farm
- The Best Wood Chippers for Small Farms Reviewed
- Cheaper Ones You Can Get Away with if You Meet These Certain Criteria
The 3 Reasons Why Wood Chippers Are So Useful for Small Farms
There are three main reasons to invest in a good wood chipper for your small farm or homestead. These are:
- To create nutrient-rich, moisture-retaining mulch for your crops that composts in place.
- To produce a large quantity of wood chips and shredded leaves as composting material.
- To get rid of your waste garden / farm material more easily.
Now, the third one is a complete waste of perfectly good organic material, but unfortunately it’s perhaps the most common reason why people buy wood chippers. Sure, wood chippers are perfect for the job, since they do make a drastic difference in reducing space needed to transport all that waste material, but there’s something else we’d recommend instead.
Wood Chip Compost
What we’d suggest instead, is that you take option no. 2 and dedicate some (honestly small) space to creating a wood chip composting pile or compost trench. It’s by far the easiest solution, and it’ll even save you money with the large quantities of rich compost that you’ll be getting out of it.
If your farming style or tradition doesn’t find use for mulch, then that’s the way to go. However, if you like to take the permaculture approach of using heavy amounts of mulch on top of the soil (but never ever mixed into the soil) to almost eliminate all need for weeding and cultivating and irrigation, then option no. 1 is where getting a wood chipper or at the very least a large supply of wood chips becomes essential.
However, for most people, composting your wood chips is going to be the most straightforward way to make use of all that rich organic matter you’re making from chipping leaves, twigs, branches and so on. It’s so worth it, and for so little effort too.
A Bonus Use for a Wood Chip Composting Pile
All that heat that builds up in a large wood chip compost pile can actually be put to some seriously good use. All you have to do is capture it.
Jean Pain figured out the best way of doing this. He invented the “compost heater,” and his own attempts at creating one were so successful that he was able to supply 100% of his energy needs. He used a 50 ton pile of compost to heat water to 60 °C (140 °F) (which is the usual temperature a compost pile reaches) at a rate of 4 liters per minute (1.1 gallons per minute), and he used it for washing, heating and everything else, just like you normally use hot water.
He also distilled enough methane out of his compost pile to run an electricity generator, his cooking appliances, and power his truck. We recommend just sticking with the water heater design though, because capturing gas out of a compost pile is much more complicated.
For an idea of what a compost water heater like, start by take a look at this eye-opening video by Tom Bartels from GrowFoodWell.com:
As for how to build one, all you need is:
- A long 1″ wide black semirigid plastic hot water tube / pipe
- Wire fencing
- A whole lot of wood chips. That is, chipped wood, branches, leaves and other green material. Manure would be good to add too if you have it.
That’s it. There’s nothing else you need. And the design is simple too.
- Build a circle of wire fencing and fill it with wood chips.
- Wrap the pipe around it. The bottom end will be where cold water goes in, it’ll wind around that core fence, and then the top end coming out will be hot water.
- Build a another circle of wire fencing, leaving much more space around that pipe-wrapped “core,” you made.
- Fill it with wood chips.
That’s it. As for rules of thumb, you can size it how you want, but the bigger the better, and the outside layer should be a circle roughly twice as far from the center than the “core” circle of wire fence with tubing wrapped around it that you made and filled with wood chips.
The biggest thing to note, is that you should have as much tubing as possible winded inside the pile. If you can manage that, and your compost gets hot like compost piles usually do, then it will work.
What to Look for in a Wood Chipper as a Farmer of a Small Farm
Now we’ve gone over all the benefits that come with having a good wood chipper, let’s quickly break down the few important things that you’ll need to consider for when choosing one.
Tractor Mounted Wood Chippers vs. Freestanding Wood Chippers
Essentially, if you have a tractor you’re going to be best off with the kind of wood chippers that require a tractor to use them. That’s because it’s unlikely you’d be able to beat the performance of a tractor’s motor powering one of those tractor-mounted wood chippers, compared to how much horsepower the motor of a freestanding one can put out.
Besides, using a tractor mounted one makes transporting it easier, and makes use of equipment you already own. So, if you have a tractor, I’d definitely recommend one of those.
However, many small farms, and definitely most homesteads won’t have a tractor at all, so that’s why we’ll start by looking into the best freestanding one when we get into product recommendations part after this.
Horsepower and Maximum Diameter Capacity
A good freestanding one will be kind of expensive, especially so compared to the cheap wood chippers you see everywhere that can’t even handle wood at a 1″ diameter, however, despite what we said about not being able to beat a tractor mounted one’s level of power, these professional-use freestanding ones are still seriously powerful.
Quite often they’ll be even twice as powerful as the cheaper ones, or even more powerful than that, and they’re much less clog-prone to boot.
So, putting all of this together, let’s look at our recommendations for the best wood chipper for small farms out there right now.
The Best Wood Chippers for Small Farms Reviewed
Best Freestanding Option (No Tractor Required): DR-CS-15HP 5″ Capacity 15HP 4 Stroke Motor 420cc Wood Chipper
Best Freestanding Option (No Tractor Required)
If you’ve done your research, you’d come to the same conclusion that this is the one to go for.
It handles branches up to 5″ (a huge, huge improvement over the 1″ limit of your average wood chipper), and it chips into 1/4″ size pieces.
You might have also noticed that this wood chipper is also towable (but not for towing on streets of course).
That’s a big plus in our book, because that’s something that very few freestanding wood chippers have thought about.
You’re given the option of not having to wheel it to where you want it and back by hand if you have a tractor or other vehicle you use to transport stuff around your farm.
As for other features, this 420cc wood chipper has an adjustable deflector vane for the discharge chute, an electric start option using the built-in battery, and included 14″ diameter tires with a 23-inch wheel base. It also comes with a 1-year parts warranty.
If you’re looking for something that will actually do the job, and you either don’t have a tractor or don’t want to be limited to only using it with your tractor, then this is the one to go for.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Best Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper: Farmer Helper 16HP+ 3″ Wood Chipper & 1″ Shedder
Best Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper
A seriously powerful wood chipper and shredder, featuring 24 heavy 1/3″ hammers pulverize brush, leaves, corn stocks, and more.
The 3″ capacity for this wood chipper is plenty, and the additional 1″ shredder is perfect for the more green material that you have on hand, like leaves and so on.
This is the one to choose if you like the idea of a wood chipper shredder rather than just a wood chipper, and you have a tractor you plan to use to power it.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Alternative Best Pick for a Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper: NorTrac PTO Chipper – 5 1/2in. Chipping Capacity
Alternative Best Pick for a Heavy-Use (Tractor-Mounted) Wood Chipper
Another seriously powerful wood chipper. This one chips wood and branches up to 5 1/2in. The widest capacity of the lot for sure, but the caveat is that it doesn’t come with an extra shredder function.
If you’re looking for a tractor-mounted wood chipper that can handle much thicker pieces of wood, and you’re not really interested in an (honestly unnecessary) shredder function, then this is the machine for you.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Cheaper Ones You Can Get Away with if You Meet These Certain Criteria
This part is where we look at the “normal” wood chipper machines you see everywhere.
They’re “designed” for home use. I say, “designed” in quotes, because they’re almost always not very well designed at all.
They do the job for chipping branches up to 1″ thick of course, but reliability, clogging, and overall build durability is almost always a problem.
The upside? They’re significantly cheaper than the farm-use wood chippers above, but as they say, “you get what you pay for.” Except, they’re still not particularly cheap. We’d still argue, like many others say, that they’re overpriced for what they can do.
After going through all the wood chippers we could find in this price range, this is the one we recommend the most.
It’s more powerful than a lot of other options out there, but more importantly, it doesn’t have any glaring durability problems.
Just remember, you can’t put seasoned wood through this, or any other wood chipper of this kind. However, if you’re looking for a light-use wood chipper for chip branches and leaves up to 1″ in diameter, then you can get away with going for this one.
We hope this list of the best wood chippers for small farms has been helpful.
If there’s anything good that you think we’ve missed, or if you have any questions about anything, then let us know down in the comments below.