Feed the Birds: Homemade Suet Cakes

I wouldn’t go so far as to classify myself as a bird watcher, but I do enjoy the substantial avian traffic we get around these parts. The variety of birds is astounding, and I make every effort to attract them to my yard. The conventional bird feeder hanging just beyond my porch is always fully stocked with wild bird seed, a hummingbird feeder gets decent traffic and the bluebird house is open for business. You’d think that would cover the bases, but insect-eating birds like woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches and chickadees are looking for something more: high-protein, high-energy fat.

Suet blocks are a popular way to increase bird traffic year-round and can be positively crucial to birds’ survival late in the year as food becomes scarce. Seeds, nuts and fruits are encased in rendered fat and are usually placed in wire cages on which birds can grip.

If you’re looking to attract more birds to your yard or it’s just time for a refill, making your own suet blocks is easy to do for a fraction of the price of commercially available blocks.

Technically, this suet block contains no suet. Instead of rendered beef fat, we use lard, which is rendered pork fat. Same stuff, different animal. I won’t tell the birds if you won’t.

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Step 1

 Open Gallery

Buy seed that is blended with nuts and dried fruit or mix your own. Unsalted seeds, millet, corn, dried fruits and nuts are all good choices for your feed mix. Lard is readily available in most supermarkets.

Step 2

 Open GalleryMelt 3 cups of lard over low heat just until liquified.

Step 3

 Open GalleryIn a large bowl, add melted lard to 7 cups of seed mix and stir well with a spatula to fully coat.

Step 4

 Open GalleryPour the mix into a foil-lined 9” x 14” baking pan. Smooth the surface with the spatula and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to fully solidify.

Step 5

 Open GalleryOnce solidified, remove from the refrigerator and cut in half lengthwise and into thirds crosswise for six evenly sized pieces.

Step 6

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Wrap suet cakes in plastic wrap and store in the freezer until ready to use.

Step 7

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Wire suet cake feeders come in many styles. Some have multiple cages and others place the cake horizontally under a perch. Here we see a simple feeder, which can be hung with a chain or twine. Hang the feeder from a shaded branch near the trunk of a tree, but far enough away to discourage squirrels.

Once birds have discovered your suet block, frequent refills may be necessary, especially in cold weather when food is scarce. These homemade blocks are a great way to attract beautiful birds to your property from fall until spring, but are not recommended for summer months when lard will melt easily.

Materials

  • 3 cups lard
  • 7 cups seed mix, including unsalted seeds, nuts and dried fruit

Tools

  • Medium pot
  • Large bowl
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • 9″ x 14″ baking pan
About Mick Telkamp 

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A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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