One of the things I enjoy doing is feeding the birds that frequent our feeders. Today is one of those days that we knew the birds would be seeking extra food with the snowstorm making its way in. Plus, I had some pine cones I wanted to fill with the suet along with some old onion bags I wanted to fill and hang on the trees for them.
This morning, after spending time in the kitchen creating some suet filled pinecones, round suet balls and suet cakes – within minutes we had our first visitor 🙂 Many feathered friends took advantage of their new delicious treat before the storm!
Sometimes one can find suet on sale, but we have found it to be less expensive to make it on our own. Plus, we usually have plenty of the ingredients required already on hand.
Making your own suet is easy:
Your basic recipe is 2:2:1 mix
- 2 parts melted fat (bacon fat, suet, lard, and you can even use shortening)
- 2 parts yellow cornmeal (you can also make it with half flour and half cornmeal, although cornmeal is the healthier option)
- 1 part peanut butter (for some reason no one seems to get to the bottom of the jar of peanut butter prior to opening a new one, so with a rubber spatula, I have been putting the different ones together in one jar, just for this purpose – okay, as you can see, I really do not like to see things wasted.)
We melt the basic ingredients together, so that it can easily be mixed together, then once mixed through, we add berries and seeds. It should be thick enough where one can mold it together into containers such as old suet squares (of previously purchased or gifted suet cakes), tuna cans, made into round balls and hung in used onion bags, etc. Use your imagination.
We have even made wreaths with suet, but we found that the entertainment of squirrels swinging on them, resulted in it becoming more beneficial to the squirrels than the birds. Yes, it landed on the ground in pieces with the squirrels enjoying their party, while the birds were left with nothing.
NOTE: I found that the easiest way to make the round balls was to put the mix into a plastic sandwich bag, then mold it. This kept my hands from getting messy with seed and oils.
NOTE: A nice benefit of using cotton string is that the birds will use it for nesting in the spring.
I really enjoy making these treats for the birds. Today was very beneficial for us, because we were able to harden these suet items quickly in the garage, due to the extreme cold outside. Otherwise we would have put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Since we use them mostly in the winter months, we keep them stored in a sealed container (to keep the mice away) in the garage.
Please NOTE some things one needs to understand is that there are some items that should NOT be included in your homemade suet.
- Bread – it is fine to feed them small quantities of bread yet bread is not really full of the nutritional value they need. Yet, if you decide you want to feed them some bread, be sure it has healthy grains with peanut butter and seeds added – sure, create them a sandwich and cut into small pieces.
- Junk Food – such as potato chips, cookies, cheese puffs, etc. They have very little nutritional value, and are certainly not designed for animal consumption. Plain popcorn strung with fruit is a much better option.
- Honey – Although honey is a natural sweetener, it can still harbor bacteria, which makes it a home for mold growth.
- Raw Meat – these foods can spoil very quickly and should not be given to our flying friends.
- Old Nectar – again, if it is old, if showing signs of floating objects or is discolored, it is spoiled and now harbors bacteria – TOSS IT!! This is an easy item to make, so you do not even need to purchase it, saving you the concern of it going bad. Here is a recipe for making your own nectar for orioles and hummingbirds – Homemade Hummingbird & Oriole Nectar
- Pesticides – Be very careful about the seeds and berries you feed your birds. Some are treated with pesticides, herbicides and potentially other toxic chemicals.
~ Enjoy ~
Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor