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Suet is the perfect bird food for winter when birds’ natural food sources start dwindling. Suet also attracts several bird species that rarely visit a seed feeder. Here are three simple recipes for homemade suet cakes.
What is Suet?
Suet is a solidified mix of fats, which birds eat to stay warm in wintertime. They’re also helpful in early spring when the food supply is low and many birds are actively building nests.
A basic suet cake combines equal parts of beef fat and assorted birdseed. You can get creative with the birdseed blend (sunflower seeds, for example!), as long as you use equal parts of it with the beef fat, lard, or natural peanut butter. Additionally, you may want to add some dried fruits to the mix to give your aviary guests a little extra treat. Raisins, currants, apricots, or citrons are all excellent choices that birds tend to love.
There are commercial suet cakes (about $2 or $3), which you drop into a “suet feeder” or a “suet cage.” They look similar to a wire cage, which discourages squirrels and suits suet-loving birds that often feed upside down (versus nuisance birds such as starlings and grackles).
If you wish to provide a tasty treat for your feathered friends, you can easily make suet at home with the following recipes. This way, you won’t have to purchase a specialized feeder. You can serve the suet by attaching it to pinecones or logs hanging from trees.
Which Birds Eat Suet?
Nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and most insect-eating birds especially love suet. Many woodpecker species rarely visit a traditional seed bird feeder, but you’ll get a chance to see them at suet feeders. You’ll also seed other backyard birds rarely visiting a seed feeder, including warblers and wrens.
When Should Suet Be Put Outdoors?
Homemade suet is traditionally a cold-weather bird food because the suet itself (the hard animal fat around the kidneys and loins of cows and sheep) can turn rancid if temperatures are above 70°F. If you live in a warm climate, we do not recommend using homemade suet because it will spoil too quickly. 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.
However, ready-to-use suet cakes (versus homemade) are rendered or cooked, making them less prone to melting and spoiling. They are often rated as safe to use in temperatures as high as 100°F.
Easy Suet Recipes
Suet Cake Recipe 1
2 parts melted fat (beef fat or lard)
2 parts yellow cornmeal
1 part natural peanut butter (also a fat)
Suet Cake Recipe 2
1 pound melted fat (beef fat or lard)
1 cup millet
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup raisins
Suet Cake Recipe 3 (from garden.org)
1 cup lard (no substitutions)
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
Instructions for All Recipes
Melt the lard/fat/nut butter in a saucepan until completely liquid. 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 are hard enough to hold their shape. Release them into a suet feeder or cut them into cakes, seal in plastic wrap, and store them in the freezer.
The 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.