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During cold weather, your backyard birds will welcome bird suet cakes to help keep them warm. Make your own for very little money. It’s a great nature activity for kids.
Wild birds can use extra fat and energy during the long months of winter, especially in locations where the winters are exceptionally cold and harsh. Food can be hard to find, especially fruit and nuts, but with human help wild birds can maintain good health all winter long.
Birdseed and fruit suet cakes provide lots of nutrition and energy for wild birds of many different varieties. Teaching kids how to take care of nature is a great part of running a home daycare and these suet cakes can be a fun part of that. Feeding and sheltering birds is fun and educational.
For more ideas on how to help birds, check these ideas out:
Most birds are omnivores. That means they eat a variety of foods including meat and fat, fruit, vegetables, and grains. Animals, more so than humans, keep warm by consuming heat-producing calories.
What is suet and how do I get it?
Fats such as beef suet and carbohydrates found in seeds are the best source of heat-producing calories for birds. You can purchase beef suet cakes in the grocery store or your local garden or feed store along with a little wire basket feeder. The cakes come in a variety of “flavors” but all are primarily beef suet blended with birdseed mixes.
Beef suet is a heavy white fat that is found around the kidneys of cattle. It’s been used as a fat for human consumption since man began eating beef. Traditional English suet pudding or plum pudding uses suet as the fat in the recipe.
Most people today do not consume beef suet for health reasons. Beef suet like hog lard is a high saturated artery-clogging fat for humans. Your short-lived little songbird friends, however, will find it a welcome source of nourishment during the cold winter months.
You can buy beef suet in your grocery store for about $1 a pound. If you have a private or specialty butcher in your area, one that has its slaughterhouse, you can usually buy suet there for much less.
Types of Birds Specific Seeds will Attract
Safflower seeds attract a great variety of birds, and they can be used in fruit and birdseed suet cakes, but it is not the cheapest seed available. Safflower seeds attract chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, grosbeaks, and many other highly desirable varieties of wild birds.
Peanuts are favorites of bold and colorful blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, wrens, and woodpeckers of many varieties. It is fun to watch them pick out the peanuts from a birdseed mixture and carry them away to a safe place where they can remove the shells. Shelled peanuts are an ideal addition to birdseed and fruit suet cakes.
White millet is a great addition to birdseed and fruit suet cakes, and it attracts cardinals, sparrows, doves, snowbirds, and towhees, just to name a few. Buy white millet in large quantities to obtain the best price. It can be found in farm supply stores as well as stores that specialize in wild bird feed and accessories.
Black oilers, more commonly referred to as black sunflower seeds, are a great addition to birdseed and fruit suet cakes. Some varieties of birds methodically pick them from mixtures of birdseed. Many types of birds love them.
Cracked corn is a favorite of squirrels, chipmunks, and similar fur-bearing animals, but birds also love them. Add cracked corn to birdseed and fruit suet cakes to entice sparrows, beautiful cardinals, and grosbeaks. Doves also love cracked corn, but they are ground feeders, and they can enjoy the remnants that fall from birdseed and fruit suet cakes.
Thistle seed is a pricy variety of birdseed, but many birds enjoy the narrow black seeds, and when mixed with birdseed, suet, and dried fruit, this type of birdseed is far more affordable. Add thistle seed to suet cakes and a variety of other birdseed to attract goldfinch, house finch, and ground feeding doves that happen upon seeds that have fallen.
How to make your own suet cakes for birds
To make bird suet cakes recipes you will melt the suet and stir the birdseed into the fat. I don’t like to smell up the house with the melting suet so I put mine in a shallow roasting pan and melt it on my gas grill. A charcoal grill will work as well. Or put your crock pot outside.
Bird Suet Cake Recipe
You will need about 4 pounds of beef suet and about 4 cups of birdseed mix (depending on what type of birds you want to attract). The suet will come in large pieces so roughly chop it into 1-inch cubes. Melt it slowly until it’s mostly liquid. Let the suet cool for a few minutes before adding the bird seed.
Once the seed is added to the melted suet, pour it into loaf or bread pans to cool and solidify. You can leave the suet in a cool spot in your garage or your refrigerator or even a pantry. Just be aware that mice and other critters also love suet, so make sure if you leave it in a garage or other open spot that it’s stored in a mouse-proof container.
When the suet mixture is completely cool and hard, run a knife around the edge of the loaf pan and knock the suet mixture out of the pan onto a cutting board. With a large sharp knife, cut the suet mixture into 1 1/2 inch slices and wrap each slice in wax paper, plastic wrap, or parchment paper. Your goal is to separate the slices for easy handling. Store the suet cakes in a mouse-proof container. (We store ours in the fridge)
These slices will fit into the standard suet cake baskets. If you don’t have a purchased suet basket you can hang the suet cakes outside in used mesh onion or potato bags. Just make sure the mesh bag you use has a large enough mesh for the birds to pick the suet from the bag. Bridal tulle or net is too fine.
It’s a fun project to make bird suet cakes. With the low cost of producing your cakes, you should be able to keep a fresh supply available to your backyard birds at all times.
Happy bird watching!