Easy Homemade Bird Suet Recipe

This Bird Suet Recipe Will Save You Money and the Birds Will Love It!

Since cold weather has descended upon most all of the United States, our little feathered friends are now either flying to warmer places, or staying behind. I tend to feel sorry for the little guys who have to brave the cold, frost and snow. (How do they keep those skinny little feet of theirs warm while clinging to frozen branches?)

bird suet cageI have been making this homemade bird suet recipe for years. And not just for cold weather, either. It will hold up surprisingly well even in hot-hot temperatures.

Even though I know “experts” tell us that we don’t have to worry about putting out seed or bird suet during the months when bugs and such are plentiful, I often do. Guess I just like attracting and watching more birds in my yard.

Anyway … since I made up a batch the other day to specifically try to attract bluebirds and woodpeckers to my suet feeder (I enjoy watching them), I thought I’d share this simple bird suet recipe that I haven’t deviated from for more years than I can remember. And it’s never failed me, or the birds! :)

First, I’ll give you the basic “small batch” suet recipe, and then get into the tweaks and variations that can branch off from there.

Basic Bird Suet Recipe

• 1 cup vegetable shortening or lard
• 1 cup chunky peanut butter
• 2 cups regular unbleached or bleached flour
• 3 cups yellow cornmeal

1. Melt shortening/lard and peanut butter in large pot on stovetop using medium heat; remove
    from heat when melted.
2. Measure all the flour and cornmeal right into the pot.
3. Stir, stir, stir until everything is thoroughly blended.
4. Place mixture into your desired containers or as my friend Barbara has done, just pat up a
    handful and sort of make a hamburger patty type shape. *Note: I spray my containers with
    Pam as it does help the cakes come out cleaner from the containers.
5. Set your containers or patties into the refrigerator to set and then use as needed.

NOTE: I know many people do not refrigerate the suet cakes, as the shortening/lard will ultimately set up hard. But I like to keep my suet cakes in the frig not only to make them set up really nice and hard, but also to preserve the freshness, especially if I make up larger batches and I know it’ll take a couple of months to go through all the cakes I made.

homemade bird suet cakes

**I can make three suet cakes from the “small batch” recipe that will fit into my hanging suet cage. I use suet containers I saved from store-bought suet to form the cakes. I used to buy bird suet back when I didn’t know about making my own and how cheap and really easy it is to make! ;) And I’ve been reusing these containers for years. Here’s a photo of the recipe in a (recycled) container and after it’s taken out of the container.

“Big Batch” Basic Bird Suet Recipe

• 5 lb. (pound) tub vegetable shortening or lard
• 2-1/2 lbs. (normally sold in large jar size) chunky peanut butter
• 3 lbs. regular unbleached or bleached flour
• 5 lbs. yellow cornmeal

About the shortening or lard: I personally like using lard. Plus it saves you money over buying “Crisco” vegetable shortening, as example. You’ll find tubs of lard in the baking section or sometimes near the butter. My grocery store stocks “Armour” brand.

About the chunky peanut butter: Again, as a cost saving measure, I buy large jars of Wal-Mart’s chunky pb. Plus, cheaper brands tend to have more oil in it – a good thing for the birds.

About the flour: I’ve used bleached, unbleached, and even whole wheat.

About the cornmeal: Don’t buy “cornmeal mix” – it has baking powder in it and that is not a necessary ingredient. You could use white cornmeal, but it usually costs more. Here again, I buy bags of Wal-Mart’s brand. (I think it was 99-cents for a 5 lb. bag last time I bought some.)

For All You Health-Conscious Bird Lovers

Yes, yes it is important to provide the best level of nutrition we can to other species, other than ourselves! And though I admit I am not a fanatic about buying the “very best” ingredients when making this homemade suet recipe, I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from NOT doing so.

So … here’s a few thoughts on this issue:

Stone ground or water ground flour and cornmeal, which you can sometimes find in grocery stores, or certainly in health food stores, are better than bleached, or even unbleached flours such as “Pillsbury” or “Gold Medal”; or degerminated cornmeal such as the “Quaker” brand. Normally processed flours and cornmeals have improved shelf lives, but on the flip side they lack the healthy germ oils, and fiber.

Other Additions You Can Add to the Suet

• some chopped nuts – almost any variety is OK – unsalted is preferable
• raisins, dried currants, chopped prunes, chopped dried cherries, or apple bits (I’ve read
   mockingbirds like dried apples, prunes and raisins – can’t tell you for sure or not.)
• sunflower seeds or chips – unshelled
• rolled oats or plain instant oats
• mixed birdseed

I’ve read about this addition, too, but have never tried it: powdered Thai chili to keep squirrels away – inexpensive and better than cayenne pepper or dry mustard. It was stated to add Thai chili VERY carefully – it’s hot enough to cause a human grief.

Bird Suet Cage Options

There are many ways you can offer the homemade suet to the birds. I like the simple hanging cage that I can slip a block of suet into, and the cage hangs from a nail on the side of a tree.

In this way birds like chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers can grab on to the tree bark and then feed from the feeder. But, birds will also just fly right onto the cage, latch on and take a few pecks.

There are lots of different cage styles to choose from – some pretty inexpensive (like the simple cage I use) on up to suet houses. If you’re not familiar, here’s a link to Google images for bird suet cages.

If you’ve never tried feeding your bird friends suet, or never have tried making your own, please do! I think you’ll find this homemade bird suet recipe really is quick and easy, and that you’ll have more variety of birds coming to your yard, even in the coldest of weather.

Comments

  1. Charlotte Caffee says:

    I use basically the same recipe, but I add a handful of raisins to it. Someone gave me a very small log where sections had been drilled out and it has a hook to hang it. I put the suet within each of the sections and hang it outside and the birds love it! I have to make big batches, too. I also refrigerate what wasn’t put out for the birds. I’ve taken some great pictures of birds that I normally wouldn’t see.

  2. Hi Charlotte:
    I think we’d all like to see what that suet log looks like, at least I would. :)

    If you email me the photo (artisticgarden [at] charter.net), I’ll be happy to post it here on the blog. Thanks in advance if can you send it!

  3. I was looking for a suet recipe, and after your nice page, I found this information on a forum where they were talking about suet and I read that peanut butter can be very lethal for some species. I will copy the information I found:

    “… I have a book about hand taming wild birds that I purchased back in the early ’90′s and it’s full of wonderful information. The author says peanut butter is a danger to our little fellows like the titmice and chickadee. He says that it depends on the bird but some will rely on PB alone and when a seed-eating bird feeds entirely on peanut butter, he loses the gravel from his gizzard, and it doesn’t function normally, it shrinks and his liver becomes enlarged. The bird is soon very ill or dead.

    He says some Chickadees die soon after eating their first meal of peanut butter because after eating they cram their little mouths full of it and carry it away. When they try to deposit the butter in a hiding place it sticks to the roof of their mouths; in the struggle to dislodge it, the butter is packed tighter and the birds choke to death. It also causes them to become egg bound.”

  4. Hi Consuelo:
    Thank you for commenting. I’d never heard about peanut butter being dangerous, and because of what you have shared, I did some research and decided to make a post all about peanut butter. Please go to this post Is Peanut Butter OK To Use In Homemade Suet Recipes? and you can read my complete reply to you.

    But the bottom line is … NO. Peanut butter is not dangerous or lethal to certain birds, AS LONG AS there is a gritty ingredient incorporated into a homemade bird suet recipe, or in a store bought suet cake.

  5. Great information. Thanks a lot!

  6. thank you so much for this! i’ve been looking for ways to cut back on costs and packaging in our home and this helps a lot! the birds also LOVE it!

    –ciara.

  7. You’re welcome! :)

  8. Thanks for the info…I was going to make some suet with a old jar of peanut butter and some seeds but couldnt think of what to use as a binder.But I also got some great tips from you Thanks again! Happy bird watching!!

  9. Just made this for the first time. Really easy, can’t wait to try it out on my birds. Thank You!

  10. Thanks for these recipes. I usually don’t put it out during the summer months, but have some suet in the freezer for next year. We have a small, family owned meat packing plant locally and I get free beef suet from them. Well as long as it isn’t ‘deer’ season, as they use the suet at that time to put into the venison sausage, so they don’t give it out at that time. Anyhow, I just chop it into chunks and put it in my biggest crock-pot and set it on low over night. It renders down to a lovely clear liquid (albeit a bit smelly liquid, or so says my hubby) with just a small bit of meaty pieces left over that I discard. I put baking parchment into loaf pans and set it up in the freezer. Cut in half it fits nicely into the cage type feeders. I usually don’t add anything else to the suet as I feed black oil sunflower seeds anyhow. The birds absolutely love it! Squirrels never touch it though. I didn’t know they would eat that kind of stuff…lol. Anyway, sorry for the lengthy reply. :)

  11. Claudia says:

    Thanks for the great “how-tos” Liz! And please! No apologies needed for a supposed long reply – you’re kindly taking the time to share with all of us and I’m sure not only myself, but many others find your tips very helpful. Thanks for giving a helping hand to our feathered friends in cold weather. :)

  12. Thanks for an informative article. With the colder months here, I look forward to giving your recipe a try.

  13. Mike Drabik says:

    Thanks for the wonderful bird suet recipe!! I was using the store bought stuff and spending $$$. Now I can make my own and the birds love it!

    Here’s link to photo that shows how my birds love the suet:
    http://db.tt/lvELVMge

  14. Claudia Brownlie says:

    Mike: Glad my suet recipe helped you save some money (yeah – the store bought stuff sure seems a little overpriced, doesn’t it!) AND for sharing the photo of your birds enjoying it.

  15. Claudia Brownlie says:

    Thanks for sharing my suet recipe with bird-lovers in your county. I hope everyone finds it easy to make and saves them money over the store-bought suets. ;)

  16. Mary Hernley says:

    Last week I made some suet cakes . I melted fresh tallow and pored it into an empty suet container that was filled with a bird seed mixture. It hardened and looked great. However the birds did not come to eat. We had some warmer days and I saw the tallow dripping off. How can I prevent that from happening? also why do you think they are not coming to eat. They ate the store bought ones.I did not put in flour or cornmeal. Would that help to keep the tallow from melting?Thank You Mary

  17. Claudia Brownlie says:

    Hi Mary: I’ve never used only tallow or lard to make bird suet cakes. I’ll “guess” that not having flour and cornmeal in the mix caused it to start dripping in warmer temps. I’d stick to the recipe as shown on my site – it works for me and everybody else who has tried it AND the birds eat it.

    Why didn’t your birds come to eat your tallow-cake? I’ll wager it basically had nothing of interest in it for them to attract them! Would you want to dine on only fat?

    Make the recipe using the ingredients listed – you will have success. ;)

Trackbacks

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  4. [...] Here at Shaver’s Creek we use black oil sunflower seeds, peanut butter, thistle, and suet—all of which provide great sources of fat and calories for our flighted visitors to pack on some winder chub to stay warm. Since many songbirds are quite small and have very fast metabolism, this is especially helpful to them. If you’d like to make homemade suet, check out this website: http://www.the-artistic-garden.com/blog/easy-homemade-bird-suet-recipe. [...]

  5. [...] Adults and kids alike enjoy this family activity. The Artistic Garden website has a recipe for homemade suet. [...]

  6. [...] We are going to make some homemade bird seed ornaments and suet to hang out. You can find recipes for both here:   http://handsonaswegrow.com/homemade-heart-bird-feeder/# and http://www.artistic-garden.com/easy-homemade-bird-suet-recipe/ [...]

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