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?)
I 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.
**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.