Suet is a great food to offer birds in the fall and winter when they need greater numbers of calories to maintain their body heat and energy levels. While there are many commercial suet blocks and plugs available, making your own bird suet is easy and affordable.
Why Make Suet
Making homemade suet is just as easy as making hummingbird nectar or creating a custom birdseed mix for your backyard flock. It is also more affordable than purchasing commercial mixes, and making your own suet allows you to customize the ingredients to appeal to the types of birds in your yard or those you specifically wish to attract. A homemade suet mixture is also free from preservatives and additives, and while there is no concrete evidence that these items may be harmful to birds, more natural, organic food sources are always preferable.
Suet is animal fat that has been rendered to form hard cakes or balls. There are several ways to acquire different types of suet, and many birders have one method that is easiest or preferred for them. You can try different methods to find the type of fat that is most popular with your backyard birds.
- Purchase rendered plain suet cakes from a wild bird supply store. These cakes can be used as-is or can be melted down to be used in more complicated suet recipes.
- Purchase suet or beef fat trimmings from a local butcher. This is a less expensive option and depending on your butcher, you may be able to have these scraps for a drastic discount or even for free.
- Save bacon and pork meat drippings to create your own suet. This will be softer than rendered beef fat but is still suitable for the birds as a treat, but do not feed exclusively bacon drippings - some compounds from that type of fried fat can be detrimental to birds in the long term.
- Buy lard at the grocery store. Lard is typically found shelved near the butter or margarine products.
- Buy vegetable shortening in place of animal fat. This is a preferred choice for many vegan or vegetarian birders who prefer not to use animal products, and it is still suitable for the birds. Vegetable shortening is typically found with baking supplies.
Simple Suet Recipe
Suet recipes do not need to be complicated in order to attract a range of hungry birds. Before offering the suet to the birds, however, it should be rendered to help it maintain its shape more easily, though this step should already be complete if you purchase the suet from a bird supply store.To render suet:
- Chop the fat into small pieces or run it through a meat grinder. If you are getting the fat from a butcher, they may be willing to do this for you. Be sure all traces of meat are removed.
- Heat the chopped fat on low until it is liquefied. Do not use higher temperatures to melt the suet more quickly, as this could lead to fires or scorching.
- Strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth or a fine mesh to remove any particles or contaminants. The suet should be strained several times so it is as pure as possible.
- Pour the fat into molds or containers and allow it to cool. The cakes can be chopped or cut to be fed to the birds, or you may choose to use containers that are the appropriate size to fit your suet feeders.
Once the suet is rendered, it can be fed to the birds as-is or you can choose to add simple ingredients to make it more appetizing to a wider range of birds.Easy suet recipe:
- 1 Cup rendered suet
- 1 Cup chunky peanut butter
- 3 Cups stone ground cornmeal
- 1/2 Cup white or wheat flour
Melt the suet and peanut butter together until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly to thicken, then pour it into molds or containers to use. Refrigerate or freeze suet until it is firm and you are ready to use it.
What You Can Add to Suet
While a simple bird suet recipe is useful, adding different ingredients to the mixture before it cools can make it more attractive to birds. Popular ingredients to customize a suet recipe include:
These are the easiest items to add to simple suet to make it even more tempting for your birds. Take the time to experiment with adding other ingredients to discover what your birds find most appetizing, and you’ll soon have plenty of suet-eaters at your backyard buffet.
Photo - Raw Suet © Robin