How to Make Suet for Birds

Try These Homemade Suet Recipes!

November 17, 2019
Suet Recipe
Cornell Labs

Suet is the perfect bird food for the winter months, when birds’ food sources start to dwindle. Here’s how to make suet for your backyard birds!

Suet is especially loved by nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, and most insect-eating birds.

What is Suet?

Suet is essentially a solidified mix of fats, which birds eat to stay warm. Particularly in winter, suet is a valuable bird food.

  • 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.

Suet Recipes

Suet Cake Recipe 1

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

Suet Cake Recipe 2

  • 1 pound melted fat (beef fat or lard)
  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raisins 
  • 2 tablespoons honey (optional)

Instructions for Both Recipes

Melt the fat in a saucepan until completely liquid. Next, remove from heat and let sit for several minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes.

Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are good), and refrigerate until they start to harden and then store them in the freezer until ready for use.

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.

When Should Suet Be Put Outdoors?

Homemade suet should be used only in very cold weather so that it does not melt and become rancid. If you live in a warm climate, we do not recommend using homemade suet because it will spoil too quickly. In this case, it is safer to purchase commercial suet cakes (which are treated and won’t spoil).

It’s also a good idea to hold off until at least December, as suet (and other bird food) can attract bears and other critters if put out too early. 

See more wintertime bird food recipes and enjoy watching your feathered friends warm up by your window!

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Reader Comments

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Suet

I can. I'd like to use my pieces of fruit that have been cooked or heated in my suet. Is that possible. And if so please send me a method of making a suit with fruit only suet for making canned fruit. No sugar involved nothing. Just what to do with the leftover fruit that wasn't processed out. Help!

Suet feeder

We go through at least 25 pounds of suet per winter and have found the best feeder is a lobster bait bag. (I'm from Maine, by the way) The bags are rugged, expandable and can easily hold a 4 pound chunk of suet. They are inexpensive and should be discarded come spring. Any good marine store should carry them.

Making suet

Can pitted dates be used in suet?

Suet for birds

Can bacon fat be used in your recipes?

safe feeding of fats like suet

Reality is fats can get on birds' feathers and harm their ability to stay dry and warm. This is deadly in the winter. And its why feeding soft or liquid fats, or fats that melt easily at low temperatures is very unsafe. This rule leaves out all but true suet, as veg fats and animal fats (non-suet, subcutaneous fats, drippings) melt at low points like 70 degrees for veg fats. Making soft fats hard with ingredients (that the birds don't eat like wheat or oats) is not a solution. True suet is the fat around the loin of a cow. It is used in commercial suets because it is nearly dry, thus it crumbles when you handle it. Peanut butter melts at 104 degrees, so adding it to the suet gives you a solid, low melt, hard fat that is safer to feed birds (whom are landing close to these fats). Note, even in winter fats can melt from the heat of the sun on them. Test: pinch your suet between two fingers. Does it squish? Toss it and go for a no melt beef suet that has no or very little veg oil in it. Test 2: handle the suet and now wash your hands. What does it take, how hard is it for you to get that off? Takes dish soap likely and two washings. That true for birds, and in wildlife rescue that is what we have to do to get fats off of birds who have been dirtied on feeders. yes, you can make your own. Use only true suet and if the butcher tries to tell you beef fat is suet, tell them you know better and ask for groin only. If it crumbles and is nearly dry - its suet. Recipes that require a lot of dry ingredients are likely using a soft fat that they have to try to hold together. Avoid. And never ever - please - simply hang out suet balls or logs or wreaths uncaged! Just think...any bird landing on that will get the fats on their feet. Birds use their feet to preen (groom) their head feathers, the fats WILL get on them. And then it will spread to other feathers. Birrrr...that means a cold, and likely wet head on a bird. And cold spells doom to birds as it leads to hypothermia and eventual starvation. Now for those who hummpf at this and think they have 'never seen this' well, you have likely rarely seen sick birds at all. Sick birds are vulnerable to predation and thus do their best to hide. Sick birds die alone, cold, and in despair far from our view. So yes, feed suet...safe, beef suet with good ingredients like seeds, some no melt with peanut butter is ok and great actually. Test your suets...they should be hard. Have fun feeding. (I am an avian rescuer with permits).

Cornell Lab Ornithology for making bird Suet

Cornell Lab Ornithology is a great place to find out all about birds.

Suet to make that is not harmful

Here is a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which is a great link and tells you
the safest and healthiest way to feed birds.

Cayenne to stop squirrels and othe critters.

I read that it is very cruel to use cayenne or any other hot peppers to stop squirrels and
other critters because they can get it in their eyes via their paws and then they end up
scratching their eyes out which is very extremely painful.

Chicken Fat?

Hi there - my husband and I use chicken fat, we have a lot of it as we cook for our two large dogs - mixed with commercial seed, and our birds have done well. Is there a reason we never see chicken fat recommended? I'd hate to be doing any harm when we are trying to keep them well and fed.

Making suet

My aunt's recipe also called for peanut butter, but her measurement called for "as much peanut butter as you can afford". I always got a kick out of that.

Greedy squirrels

Maybe instead of picking and choosing which part of nature to support, and wasting $in the process, you could try distracting the squirrels. When you put out the bird food, toss a handful of pecans on the ground. Then everyone eats!! :-) But for those that really just want the squirrels to go away use a fresh habanero pepper instead of cayenne. I strongly recommend using gloves for handling. Put the pepper in a food processor then allow it to dry out in the oven on parchment paper@ about 250°. Spread it wherever you are having your squirrel issues.

squirrels

I feed everything in my backyard, I do not have likes and dislikes when it comes to "babies", so I observed in time that as long as there is enough food placed in easy to reach spots for each type of my guests, there is peace, polite sharing and friendly cohabitation between species! Big birds eat with small ones, squirrels and birds do not bother each other! And I developed a different attitude, a form of admiration and unbelievable awe for squirrels since I had the chance to raise a red squirrel baby couple of years ago, so now I can understand their ways better! (he still visits!!!)
Happy times to all of you!

USE PLAIN SUET

Some years ago I read on a birding site that you shouldn't use commercial suet cakes or add fruit, nuts or anything else to the cakes you make yourself. It's the fat that the birds need during this time and any additives just take up room that would be better served by stuffing the cage with straight suet. You can always broadcast the seeds or get a feeder. You can generally get chunks of suet at the butcher's or super market. They've started charging a lot more lately, but, then, everything's gone up.

Deterring racoons from bird feeders

I had a problem with raccoons stealing my bird food and feeders. In desperation, I coated the pole the feeders hang on with vicks vaporub. It seems to work, I don't have a problem with them now. I just refresh the vicks every so often.

Mesh bags

Please use sturdy wire cages. Birds can get tangled up in the flimsy mesh bags (like ones used got onions).

how much cayenne?

Many people mention adding cayenne to suet to deter squirrels, but no one says how much to use. As a for instance, how much cayenne powder would be effective for the above recipe. Teaspoon(s)? Tablespoon(s)? A quarter-cup?

Thanks.

Cayenne for squirrels

I tried cayenne one season and found it had no effect on squirrels at all. Relocated 14 grays that season. Seems they finally got the message and now keep their distance from my porch and feeders. I have one red left. They are very crafty but the rest of the grays keep their distance now.

CAYENNE

I agree. You read all over to add cayenne to your birdseed to deter the furry little beasts. Personally, I think they like it as a seasoning for the seeds. Even if I cover the sunflower seeds with the stuff the squirrels and chipmunks still munch away.

This is a great, simple

This is a great, simple recipe for bird lovers who enjoy making their own suet cakes. We use the You Do It Suet silicone mold to create our suet cakes. We just pour excess fat right from the pan into the silicone mold, mix in bird seed, nuts, fruit, etc. and freeze. Then release a perfectly sized suet cake to fit into your feeder.

suet-loving raccoons...

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

deterring raccoons

The Editors's picture

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.

Petroleum jelly and birds feathers

In your comment, you state that the petroleum jelly gets on the birds feathers and they can't get it off easily. Would you please provide any references regarding this? Thank you.

Keeping critters away from suet and bird feeders

A clever way to deter cats, racoons, and squirrels from raiding feeders is to place cut berry branches under the feeders. The thorns will stop the interlopers from getting too close.

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 for the birds

Please tell me, what is the difference between SUET and FAT? I always thought that SUET was what was 'rendered' from the big chunks of fat that the butchers trim off the meat we buy for cooking? And does it make a difference to the birds, from a health standpoint?

Suet bird feeder

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

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