Bird Suet for your Backyard Feeder
Beef suet can bring in 80 species of birds into your backyard including woodpeckers, catbirds, mockingbirds, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, orioles, shrikes, thrushes, warblers, grackles, and starlings (Ehrlich, et. al. 1988). There are many different kinds of suet mixes out in the market today like “berry”, “fruit”, and even “insect” cakes. Long before bird food became a billion dollar industry, birdwatchers would use raw beef fat from around the kidneys and loins. I prefer making my own suet using the standard peanut-butter mix.
Some things you need to remember about suet, is that if the temperature outside is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, beef fat can turn rancid and melt. Sometimes this warm suet will mat feathers, which can result in reduced insulation and waterproofing to the bird. So be sure to use commercial suet cakes called “no melt” in warm temperatures.
Below are some recipes for making your own suet cakes:
- You can trim excess fat off beef cuts and store in the freezer until enough fat is achieved or you can purchase beef fat from the grocery store or your nearby butcher. Grind the beef fat with a meat grinder or finely chop the fat. Heat the fat over a low to medium flame until it’s liquefied. Strain by pouring melted suet through a fine cheesecloth. Let cool to harden. Repeat steps of heating and straining because if the fat is not rendered twice, the suet will not cake properly. Let cool to harden and store in a covered container in the freezer.
- You need: 1 pound lard, 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 cups quick cooking oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 cup raisins. Melt lard and peanut butter together over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into molds or containers suitable for your suet feeder. Be sure not to exceed 1 to 1 1/2 inches in thickness. Allow to cool completely. You can wrap the suet cakes in wax paper and store in the freezer until ready to use.
Ehrlich, P.R., David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye, 1988 The Birder’s Handbook, A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds, Simon & Schuster Inc.
** I wrote this back in 2001 for another nature center that I worked for and wanted to make sure it was in the blog (this is the time of the year I start making suet and needed easy access to the receipt). I also learned recently on Squirrel Style that there is also a Red Hot Pepper Suet which keep out the Squirrels! The individual who made the comment gave me this link! – Peanut Pepper Suet ~ 12 cakes
I am going to give this a shot!
Is it best to feed the suet during winter months, when there is less food for the birds to find?
Have you tried the pepper Suet yet?
4 November 2006 at 12:56 pm
Hmmm… (wheels in head are a-turnin’)
We had so much fun with peanuts and Scrub Jays at the old house, I’m curious to see what kinds of birds we can attract with suet. We are a lot closer to farmland now and there might be some neat birds to watch. Thanks for the recipe!
4 November 2006 at 11:26 pm
Bev – yes because when it melts it can create problems with the birds feathers. They do sell suet for all seasons which do not melt! I just learned about the Pepper Suet!
Neesflynn – I would love to hear about what birds visit the new house ! The pictures look wonderful!
5 November 2006 at 11:26 am
Tom, your peanut butter suet is similar to the recipe I use called “Zick Dough”. Julie’s recipe doesn’t include sugar or raisins. I serve raisins on a separate dish for the Mocker hog :o)
20 February 2008 at 8:15 am