My family loves to bird-watch. We have several feeders in our yard and one of us always watches out our front window, hoping to catch sight of a new feathered visitor to our front feeder. Although we put out seed year-round, we always make up a suet feeder (or seven) for the wild birds in the colder months. Want to be kind to your winter birds? Of course you do! So, let them eat (suet) cake!
Suet, or rendered fat, is an important supplement for most birds. In the winter, the fat helps add to the bird’s stores of energy and helps them survive the long, cold months. In the spring, the fat helps with the increased energy demands of nesting birds.
Most birds that enjoy suet feeders are clinging feeders such as nuthatches or woodpeckers. However, many birds will partake in a helping of fat every now and then when food is scarce.
This post will cover…
- How to Make a Suet Feeder
- Make it!
- Suet Feeder Hanging Notes
- Frequently Asked Questions About Suet Feeders
- More DIYs for the Garden
How to Make a Suet Feeder
Making a DIY suet feeder is simple and only takes a few ingredients. You probably already have most of these items at home.
- Lard or vegetable fat (you need one that will stay solid at room temperature).
- Bird seed
- Dried fruit
- Raw peanuts
- A small bundt pan
Gather your seeds, dried fruit, and nuts. I used equal portions of each. Mix them together in a large bowl.
Add the seed mix to the mini bundt pan. Fill it about half full. Melt the fat in a double boiler. I used about half a pound of lard for two mini bundt pans.
Pour the melted lard on top of the seed mixture in the mini bundt pans. You can let the fat harden at room temperature or pop the pan in the freezer for an hour or so.
Once the fat has hardened, remove the suet from the mini bundt pan. You might have to run the pan under some warm water to help loosen the suet from the pan.
Make a loop with a length of twine and tie an overhand knot at one end. Insert one end through the hole in the middle of the suet and insert one end of the twine through the opposite loop.
Hang your new DIY suet feeder and wait for some happy birds!
Suet Feeder Hanging Notes
Hang your suet feeder at least 5 feet from the ground and in some shade. The fat will stay solid at room temperature, but in warmer temps and direct sun, it can get soft or go rancid (depending on the fat you used).
A great place to hang a suet feeder is in a tree, especially for insect-eating birds like woodpeckers. An added benefit for adding a suet feeder to your yard is that the birds that visit your feeder will also reward you in the spring and summer months by eating the insects in your garden. A win, win for all!
If you’re looking for another amazing DIY suet recipe, check out this one I made in my book, Garden Alchemy. It goes to show that you can get pretty creative in how you hang and make your feeder. The birds aren’t picky so why not make it cute?
Frequently Asked Questions About Suet Feeders
Suet feeders are solid chunks of bird food made of raw beef fat, birdseed, nuts, and other favourite bird menu items. To eat, birds peck on the suet square, often in a wire cage to help hold it in place. Suet is best used in the winter as the summer sun can melt away the fat.
To keep away squirrels, place it on a bird feeding pole 4-5 ft off the ground with a baffle. It should be in an open area where birds can easily see it and so squirrels can’t jump on it. You can also place it on a tree to attract certain birds like woodpeckers, but keep in mind that squirrels may get to it.
To keep the suet from melting and fresh, avoid sunny areas. You also want to prevent any birds from flying into windows by keeping them away from the house.
Upside down suet feeders help to keep certain birds, such as starlings and grackles, away from the suet to allow other birds the chance to eat. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and other birds will happily eat upside down, but starlings and grackles have a more difficult time doing so. While it won’t keep away all pesky birds, hanging your suet upside-down does help to reduce their numbers.
Technically, squirrels don’t like suet. That is because suet itself is rendered fat. What they do like, however, are the seeds and nuts inside the suet.
Your best bet at keeping squirrels from your suet feeder is by hanging it on a bird feeding pole with a baffle. Place it in an open area where squirrels cannot jump off and onto it and ensure the top is 4-5 ft off the ground.
If you already have rodents in the area, bird food of any kind may attract them. However, it doesn’t act as the pied piper, drawing in rats from the far reaches of your neighbourhood.
The more food that falls on the ground, the more likely rats and mice are going to scavenge for it. The good news is suet is one of the best bird feeding options for creating less waste.
Be very careful never to use any fat that is soft. Soft fat sources are likely to get on birds feathers and cannot be removed. This will eventually kill them since it makes their feathers less water proof. Do not ever put any fat source on trees on pinecones since the birds can get it on their feet. If your suet cakes compress when you press on them, they are too soft and should not be used. Clearly you love birds if you are feeding them, so please consider their health and safety. Do some research before you decide on which suet cake to use.
Check out “Native Bird care of Sisters, Oregon”. I am not associated with this organization in any way, but they do provide excellent advice for feeding birds safely.
Thank you for sharing “Native Bird care of Sisters, Oregon”. They had great information on suet for birds.
Please elaborate on how it could be hung upside down. I’m not sure I get it.