Homemade Suet Bird Food

Suet bird food can be used to attract a wide variety of wild birds including:

  • woodpeckers
  • chickadees
  • juncos
  • nuthatches
  • titmice
  • flickers
  • sapsuckers
  • mockingbirds
  • brown creepers
  • sparrows
  • robins
  • wrens
  • kinglets
  • catbirds 
  • and bluebirds. 
Pileated Woodpecker

Suet is raw beef fat, usually the fat found around the loins and kidneys. Does not sound too good, does it? In fact, because of it is high fat content; suet provides the calories that are needed to keep the birds warm in winter. 

It can be used all year long. It provides the extra energy needed for nest building in the spring and is also a good source of food for young birds. I've seen parent birds actually feeding suet bird food to young birds while still in their nest. 

One important fact about suet is that if the temperature outside is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, un-rendered beef fat can turn rancid and melt. 

If you plan on using suet bird food all year around you can buy commercial suet cakes, but make sure that they are marked "no melt". If want to have a little fun you can make your own suet bird food by using rendered suet. 

Commercial Suet Cakes:

Red-Shafted Northern Flicker

Commercially produced suet comes in three-inch squares that are about one inch thick. The ingredients are rendered beef suet, sunflower seeds, millet and corn. 

There are also many flavored suet cakes available including fruits, berries, peanuts, hot pepper (to keep squirrels away) and many other blends. The cakes can also be found in different shapes and sizes including balls and plugs. 

Making Your Own Suet Cakes:

Making your own suet cakes gives you the freedom to choose the ingredients you want use.

Where can you find suet?

You can start in your own kitchen. Trim excess fat off raw beef cuts and store them in the freezer until you have about a pound. You can also purchase beef fat from the grocery store or your nearby butcher.

How to render suet:

First assemble your supplies. You will need an electric skillet or over-sized pan, fine cheesecloth and molds for the final product.

Downey Woodpeckers

For molds you can use:

  • Clean tuna cans
  • Any size, foil lined, baking pan
  • Create shapes using heavy-duty foil
  • You can simply roll the suet into a ball
  • You can even pack the suet onto pine cones

Start with about one pound of raw suet, cut into one-inch pieces or ground. 

Put the suet into a pan and turn on low heat. If possible use an electric skillet (overheated fat can catch fire). If you are using your stove top it is best to use an over-sized pan.

After the suet melts, pour it through fine cheesecloth into a heatproof container. Then discard the pieces that did not melt. Allow the melted suet to re-harden, either in the fridge or on the counter top. The suet needs to be melted and hardened 2 –3 times before it is ready to use. If you don’t do this, the suet will not cake properly.

After the suet has cooled, but not yet solidified, you can stir in your desired ingredients. Then pour the mixture into molds or containers suitable for your suet feeder.

Suet bird food ingredient suggestions:

  • Cornmeal
  • Shelled unsalted peanuts
  • Raisins
  • Bread crumbs (whole-wheat or cracked-wheat bread works the best)
  • Unsalted shelled sunflower seeds
  • Shelled nuts
  • Rolled Oats
  • Peanut Butter (chunky or smooth)

Be sure not to exceed 1 to 1 1/2 inches in thickness. Allow the suet to cool completely. You can wrap the suet cakes in wax paper and store in the freezer until ready to use

There are many ways to make your suet bird food available to the wild birds in your yard. You can use commercial suet bird feeders or consider making your own.

Now sit back and enjoy watching the wild birds feed on your creation.

Here are two easy projects perfect for offering homemade suet bird food to our feathered friends.

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