As winter approaches, your cold-weather bird friends will appreciate the protein, carbohydrates and nutrients found in suet. Suet is the fat found around the kidneys and loins of beef. It is readily available at most butcher shops when requested and can be mixed with a variety of ingredients to make a delectable treat for “extreme” birds that stick around through the winter months. This high-energy food is just what the birds need to survive the cold. Birds that enjoy suet are woodpeckers, cardinals, thrashers, creepers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, starlings and mocking birds. Our food pilfering “friends”, the squirrels, are also fond of suet.
There are several simple ways to offer suet. First, and most popular, is a wire cage that is designed to secure a standard size commercial suet cake. These are also very effective with homemade suet. Some manufacturers design multi-station feeders with suet cages on them. Other methods of offering suet require simple, inexpensive items that can be found around the house or yard. A large pinecone makes a perfect suet feeder. Simply spread the soft suet all over the pinecone. Another option is a mesh bag that you may use to hold onions or apples. The suet can be held inside the bag and the bag and be easily strung up in a tree. An additional option is a small log. Simply spread the suet in the natural cavities of the log and hang it from a tree. Keep in mind that starlings and squirrels are drooling for a taste of your suet treats. To keep these pests from devouring the suet, try using an upside-down suet cage.
Two types of suet are available – homemade and commercially prepared. Commercially prepared suet can be offered all year round because it is rendered – a process of repeated melting and hardening that inhibits the suet from turning rancid when the temperatures reach 70 degrees and above. During the winter months, a fun alternative is to make your own suet, without the long process of rendering. You can experiment with your own mixes using mixed seeds, peanut butter, dried fruit, corn meal, and chopped nuts or follow some of the recipes we have provided below:
- 1/2 cup chopped rendered* suet
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup mixed birdseed
Combine ingredients and press into a jelly roll pan. Freeze until firm enough to crumble. Put the crumbles in a large bowl with some peanuts, birdseed, chopped apples, raisins and more chunks of suet. Mix well, then divide into single-serving containers and freeze until needed. To make even more substantial "granola," you might ad uncooked oatmeal, bran or pumpkin seeds.
Homemade Birdie Treat
- 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
- 1 1/2 cups corn meal
- 3 to 4 cups wild bird seed
- 3 cups rendered* suet
Add the first three ingredients into the rendered suet. Freeze in a cake or pie pan, cut into serving pieces as needed and put in a suet basket.
To render, melt suet over low heat in heavy pan, cool, reheat and cool again. While it's in its melted state, add other ingredients.
Tried and True Suet Treat
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 2 cups quick cooking oats
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup lard (no substitutions)
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
Melt lard and peanut butter together, then stir in everything else. Pour mixture into containers to about 1 1/2 inches thick. Freeze. Cut into squares to fit your suet feeder.
- The National Bird-feeding Society at http://www.birdfeeding.org