Bird Food Recipe: Suet

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How to Make Your Own Suet for the Birds

Bird food recipe-suet-Thinkstock
Photo by Thinkstock

Suet is the perfect bird food recipe for the winter months when birds’ food sources dwindle. Suet is loved by nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, and most insect-eating birds.

  • You can use almost any seed or grain, mixed with beef fat, lard, or natural peanut butter. A basic suet combines equal parts of beef fat and assorted birdseed.
  • Put it in a tuna or cat food can to chill (or freeze) until it’s hard enough to hold its shape, then release it into a wire suet cage or sturdy mesh bag.
  • For a fancier suet, add natural peanut butter to the mix. You can also bind cornmeal or oatmeal with natural peanut butter and spread it into holes drilled in a post or log.
  • Birds also like dried fruits, so consider adding raisins, currants, apricots, or citron.

Here is a suet recipe from our archives: 

 

Suet Cake

  • 2 parts melted fat (beef fat or lard)
  • 2 parts yellow cornmeal
  • 1 part natural peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together and cook for a few minutes. Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are good), and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Mixture can also be stuffed into 1-inch holes drilled in small logs to hang from trees. The recipe can be made all year long as long as you accumulate fat. Fasten containers securely to trees or feeders.

Enjoy watching your feathered friends warm up by your window!

Source: 

This article was originally published in May, 2009 and has been updated.

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suet-loving raccoons...

any ideas to keep 'coons away from suet? suppose I could build a cage around my suet log...
j

deterring raccoons

Make sure the feeder is at least 5 feet off the ground. Is your suet hung from a pole? If so, try installing a baffle cone on the pole (at least 4 feet off the ground); make sure the pole is away from trees or buildings. Found at garden centers and wildlife  stores, or online, these prevent squirrels and other animals from climbing the pole and reaching feeders. Or, you can try hanging the feeder on a thin cable between two trees or buildings (if the feeder is far enough away that animals can’t jump to it from the tree or building); one suggestion goes further, and adds short segments of PVC pipe on the cable to make footing unstable for animals trying to reach the feeder. Some gardeners take in the suet feeder at night, and clean up any food that falls on the ground each day. There are also a few “raccoon-proof” suet-feeders available. Word of caution: Some tips mention greasing the pole or cable, making it hard for raccoons to climb (and they don’t like it on their paws); avoid doing this, as it can harm birds - the grease, oil, or petroleum jelly gets on their feathers and the birds can’t easily get it off.

Lard

Commercially available (supermarket) lard is hydrogenated. Why? Hydrogenated lard has a longer shelf life. Instead of becoming rancid about three months, it becomes rancid at six months. As most of us now know, the hydrogenation process makes lard into a trans fat, and thus unhealthy for our human hearts.
Will hydrogenated lard hurt our feathered and furry friends? I don't know, but if it isn't good for me, why would it be good for them? And considering that the producers of commercial Lard only Hydrogenate it for an extended shelf life, and not for taste, or our health, I for one refuse to use it.
Make your own easily! Save you fatty scraps. Visit your butcher and ask for a good price for scrap fat. Put you fat in an iron skillet or another sturdy pan or pot. Stir occasionally on medium heat until the fat begins to melt out of the fat. Lower the heat when necessary and cook all the fat out of the rinds. Scoop out the rinds, drain. Return any liquid drainage to the pot. When this hot liquid cools, you will have lard.
Technically, I think this is "Tallow", not lard. Lard refers to a specific type of Pig inner abdominal fat that is rendered into lard. Widely prized for culinary applications, it is hard to get and priced accordingly. The same applies to organic lard, tallow or whatever name they give their melted fat.
A last note: There is a running argument over whether or not Lard in you died is unhealthy. Proponents argue that Lard that IS NOT Hydrogenated, is a welcome addition to a balanced, healthy diet. They argue that it's the hydrogenation that makes it unhealthy. What is your position?

Bird suet

I just Crisco shorting. I use lots of peanut butter, oatmeal, sunflower seeds. All the birds enjoe it. I use peanuts also. I buy my peanuts, sunflower seeds at the dollar store. It's cheaper. I have a problem with the squirrels, though. I usually feed them peanuts. I just saw some comments about using Cayenne pepper. I will have to try the pepper.what is wrong with using Crisco?

Crisco

Dear Kathy, Crisco vegetable shortening is a vegetable oil that has been "Hydrogenated". A process invented in 1903, where hydrogen is injected into liquid oil to make it solid at room temps and delay rancidity.
Your use of this has me curious if it is healthy for the birdies. Hydrogenated Lard is bad in my eyes and hydrogenated oil seems like it's the same.
I'd like to ask vet and ask if substituting animal fat with Crisco is safe.

"Some nutritionists argue that while the formula of Crisco has been changed to remove some of the trans fatty acids, the fully hydrogenated oil used to replace them may not be good for health. Crisco and similar low-trans-fat products are formed by the interesterification of a mixture of fully hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils. The composition of the resultant triglycerides is random, and may contain combinations of fatty acids not commonly found in nature."

Suet

I've been making my own suet cakes for years ... Here in Virginia, it attracts a huge variety of birds. In my opinion and for what it's worth, I would never use shortening or chocolate ... It's not good for our feathered friends. Instead, I always melt beef suet (not beef fat) and add raw peanuts (inexpensive because I shell them myself), black oiled sunflower seeds (in the shell), dried cranberries, raisins and oats. I put it in muffin tins w/ an ice cream scooper and freeze it. Three cakes fit perfectly in the square suet cages. I store the little cakes in zip lock bags in the freezer then straight into the cages as needed. Their being frozen makes no difference to the birds .. They love it!

"Suet" or "Fat"?

Dear Lori, are you using Beef "suet" or beef fat to make your suet? The definition of beef suet is the distinct fat from the back area near the kidneys. Fat from anywhere else is just "Fat".
Next, if you're using true suet, where do you get it ?
Thanks!

Suet bird feeder

Do you think that bacon grease would be too salty and would be harmful to the birds.

Yes, I do, but I have no

Yes, I do, but I have no facts to back that up ...

bacon and birds

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bacon and bacon fat are not recommended because it usually has nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic compounds formed from some preservatives, especially when cooked at high temperatures. This may affect the long-term health of the birds.

In addition, foods high in salt, such as bacon, are said to be harmful to backyard birds, as they may lead to dehydration and perhaps kidney failure.

Peanut butter is expensive.

You can buy suet cakes for 97¢ at the grocery store. I can see using bacon fat or fat from a roast, but I would not buy food at retail to feed to birds.

Bird Suet

Does anyone know if you can use dry chilli powder in homemade suet to keep squirrels away?

It’s fine to use cayenne

It’s fine to use ayenne pepper or dry mustard for birds. As you said, it keeps the other wild critters away.

Keeping squirrels away

Squirrels and other mammals don't like red (hot) pepper, but birds don't seem to notice it. I've used commercial suet cakes containing hot pepper, sprinkled ground cayenne on the bird food, and made my own red pepper water from dried serranos, which I then sprinkled on the bird food. In all variations, the squirrels hate it, birds eat it. I was considering adding a little sriracha to my suet (in addition to squirrels, we have voracious raccoons and opossums).

Been using this as a basis

Been using this as a basis for my recipe for years. I us the lard, cornmeal,peanut butter and when cheap enough whole peanuts. I spread the mixture in baking pans like an 8x8, score the filling, then freeze. once frozen it is super easy to break apart the scored pieces. The pieces fit perfectly in the standard size suet holder.
When I first started the cake would be too crumbly so I added more peanut butter and now its perfect. I've already started on this winter's stock!

How do You keep the squirrels

How do You keep the squirrels away....

Hang the suet at least 8 feet

Hang the suet at least 8 feet up away from structures and trees. You can also add baffles below the suet. Go to our squirrel page to find more hints.
http://www.almanac.com/content...

I use a quart milk container

I use a quart milk container and just cut it to match the size of the suet container. We make it in bulk. LOL

How can I make suet that

How can I make suet that doesn't melt in the summer months?

We generally don't do suet in

We generally don't do suet in summer because melted soft suet can coat belly feathers which can be dangerous.
There are commercial no-melt suet cakes; they generally add lots of flour or meal to bind them together and keep them from melting. 

Suet that doesn't melt

I don't think it's necessary to feed birds in the summer. There is usually ample natural food available. I don't feed at all in the fall so that any birds that normally migrate won't be tempted to stick around and risk freezing to death. Once they have left, I feed the ones that tough out our winters.

Almost every time I make suet

Almost every time I make suet it falls apart. I have only made it once successfully. I used this recipe just yesterday, added bird seed and raisins and yup it fell apart too. I used Vegetable shortening is that the problem? I read in several places that it would be fine.

Thanks

Barb

If you've modified the recipe

If you've modified the recipe a bit, perhaps the proportions of ingredients need adjustment? If it's too crumbly, try adding more sticky stuff, such as peanut butter.

Thank you, I will give it a

Thank you, I will give it a try. Is there much of a difference between the Beef lard you would buy and Vegetable shortening beyond taste that is.

Thank you much

Barb

Do not use veg shortening! It

Do not use veg shortening! It is hydrogenated veg fat, which is not a natural product and is certainly not part of any animal's diet and not what they are looking for.

help stop melting

You have used 'corn starch ' for other meals! why try it in suet cakes?

Suet

3/4 c flour,1/2 c water, 3Tbl. Corn syrup, 1 pkg. plain gelatin. Mix together...add to 4 cups seeds. Press into molds. I use cookie shapes with a string put inside the mix to hang in trees for decorations. This needs to be used soon or frozen because it will mold after a week or so.

would suet mixed with

would suet mixed with Planters Nut-trition peanut butter containing semi sweet chocolate, cherries and cranberries be OK to feed the birds. I'm worried about the little specks of chocolate in the peanut butter mixture. Thanks Kathy Y

Never feed birds chocolate.

Never feed birds chocolate. It is poisonous to them.

Easy attractive recipe! We

Easy attractive recipe! We live in Vermont and the birds just love it! So enjoyable to see life in anotherwise dreary long cold winter! Thank you

I love your suet recipe. I

I love your suet recipe. I live in Southern Arizona desert and I put the suet in containers because it will definitely melt in the heat. The Thrashers, Cactus Wren and all others, including the Doves, Woodpeckers and even the Pyrrhuloxia empty the containers fast! I also put out orange halves stuck on a stick.

Don't need to melt the

Don't need to melt the lard,just shape into balls and freeze...

I'm thrilled to find the bird

I'm thrilled to find the bird food recipes! Can't wait to try the suet. Keep the recipes coming!

I'm definitely going to try

I'm definitely going to try this with my grandson who is coming for the Christmas holidays.

This is a good suet. I add

This is a good suet. I add rasins, ground orange peels and honey. also if you use the hard plastic sandwich containers, they are perfect molds for the suet feeders. The citric acid from the peelings is a minor preservitve.

Thanks for the tip about the

Thanks for the tip about the hard plastic sandwich container! Fits perfectly in my suet feeder.

I love the bird food recipe.

I love the bird food recipe. My only problem is i live in Southern California And it's not practical to use suets. (It's just not cold enough) But if you hang Many Hummingbird feeders you will get an amazing show everyday! Especially in the evening, I get at least 20 or more fighting at once for a quick sip! What a show!!!!

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