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Homemade Suet for Birds

Suet $ents (Sense) at Home

A number of different companies have developed and are selling what is essentially a spreadable suet type bird food. Two of the major retailers are Wild Birds Unlimited which sells Bark Butter and Duncraft which markets Miracle Meal. It was initially designed to have a consistency that allows it to be spread on the bark of trees or to be stuffed in holes drilled in a log or branch type bird feeder. Over time it has been further developed into round cakes and even sliced bread type configurations that cater to feeders specifically designed for the product.

We started buying and offering this concoction, and the birds loved it.

They still love it, but unfortunately with the economy as it is today, we had to rethink buying it in the quantities we wanted for the birds who call our yard "home". It was either a case of stop offering a food the birds love or develop a less expensive alternative we could make at home. It just made sense to try to stretch our resources of time and money.

We want to make it very clear. We are not in any way saying this spreadable and moldable suet-like creation is the same or comparable to any of the commercial products on the market, but it has allowed us to continue to offer what we feel is a safe, nutritious, and relatively inexpensive treat for our bird visitors.

Please note: We have researched our choices of ingredients and refined our homemade suet from our own experimentation and the published findings of others. The birds and critters in our backyard seem to be very satisfied and healthy. We call all its variations Suet $ents (obviously playing on the words less cents and more sense). Hope you might like to try the recipe. The woodpeckers especially have given it two zygodactyl feet up.

Recipe for Homemade Suet $ents:

Dry Ingredients: Cost
1 Cup quick cooking oatmeal $ .38
1 Cup cracked corn .09
1 Cup whole wheat flour .66
2 Cups chick starter .42
Oily Ingredients:
1 1/4 Cups peanut butter .89
1 Cup vegetable shortening .92
1/2 Cup lard .55
Total $ 3.91
  • Stir all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Optional: Could add raisins, nuts, dried fruits or seeds at this point.
  • Set dry mix aside.
  • Place oily ingredients in microwaveable bowl, preferably with a pouring spout.
  • Microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Check at the half way point and stir.  Mixture should be a liquid.
  • Pour the two mixtures together and stir well.
  • Divide the warm suet into containers with lids or into greased molds.  Can allow to harden at room temperature as it cools, or speed the process by refrigeration.
  • If the Suet $ents won't be used up in a week or so, keep in refrigerator. I have not yet tested the results of storing in the freezer.
  • This is the amount of suet mix I make at a time, so as not to have it dry out, as some professional products have done if stored too long.
This recipe makes around 46 oz of Suet $ents. This particular batch was divided into:
Item Volume Size by oz. Cost
CD Suet 30 $ 2.55
Suet Cake 8 .68
Suet Skinny 2 .17
Suet Crumble Spread 6 .51
Totals 46 $ 3.91

Step by Step Illustrated Guide For Making Suet $ents:

Use 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal.

If old fashioned oats are used, it's best to process them into smaller pieces. Don't use individual microwave packages, if the goal is to save money. 

1 cup cracked corn.
This is corn used to feed chickens. Tractor Supply stores sell this in bulk very cheaply. Cracked corn can also easily be processed into a finer texture and used that way. The containers are recycled large peanut butter tubs.

As a side note: In our yard we offer cracked corn and inexpensive seed in a large feeder set at a distance from our song bird feeders. The larger blackbirds will congregate in this area first and leave the little guys some time with the more expensive food in the smaller, more expensive feeders. Win - Win! 

1 Cup whole wheat flour.

White flour could be used, but there is more nutrition in the whole wheat variety.

Be sure and keep all the dry ingredients in a container with a tight lid. No one, birds or animals, need the added flavor of bugs and pantry moths.  

2 Cups chick starter

This contains nutrition for birds of all ages. However, wild birds should not eat the starter mix that contains medication. Tractor Supply and other feed stores sell bags of chick starter.

For a finer suet spread, these little gravel-like pieces can be processed. 

Dry stuff stirred together for a good mix.

Could add raisins, dried fruit, and chopped nuts and seeds.

Set mix aside.

In large, microwavable bowl put 1 1/4 Cups of peanut butter. If a finer texture is the goal, use the creamy type. Chunky peanut butter or a combination with the creamy can be also be used.

Buy an inexpensive brand in a large quantity. They all smell and taste like peanuts to the birds and critters.

Add 1 Cup vegetable shortening. Use a rubber cake spatula to remove sticky stuff from the measuring cups. 

1/2 Cup of lard.
So far I have bought this in 1lb. slabs (it should be available in larger containers in places like Wal-Mart). This is similar to a solid 1 lb block of butter.
I cut the lard in half lengthwise and then cut each piece in half again to get what is the equivalent of a stick of butter or oleo. This is the easy way to measure the 1/2 cup needed. It isn't necessary to stir together until melted. 

Microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Check at half way and stir.  Mixture should a liquid. 

Pour this liquid into the dry mix and stir well.
This rather unattractive looking stuff can now be placed in any variety of containers. The birds and critters are happy to devour this homemade suet and have yet to complain about the presentation of this free meal. 

The Containers and Their Bird Feeders: 

The liquid suet can be poured into any container. Here is an illustrated sampling of molds and storage solutions, along with appropriate serving feeders, that I commonly use when I make a batch of Suet $ents for my little buddies. 
Recycled purchased suet cake package: Wash out old suet remnants and pour homemade Suet $ents into the form to the level of the original cake. This hardens at room temperature, but if hungry birds are tapping at your window, the solidifying process can be shortened by brief refrigeration. Slip the cake into a clean suet cage, one of the inexpensive ones or the fancy double or quadruple suet houses with roofs. Hang the feeder and step back.   

Fill another two recycled suet cake packages about 1/4 inch high each. These become thin slices to put in a sandwich press. We call this slice a Suet Skinny. The feeder has thin side openings that are used primarily by woodpeckers and nuthatches (long beaks and tongues can reach far inside as the suet empties from the edges). 

  Hairy Woodpecker

A CD case seemed the ideal shape for a small suet cylinder that can easily be placed on the rod of the dinner bell feeder (pictured below). This bird feeder has some of the best attributes for serving our homemade suet - a sheltering hood, which is adjustable on its pole to keep out larger birds, and a bowl-like tray that can catch and hold crumbly pieces of suet. This great feeder will also hold any seed or nut mix, and even meal worms.

The container we used for the mold held 50 CD's. Any oil can be used on the inside surface of the upside down "lid" and the bottom piece with the pole (cooking spray is fastest and least messy). 
Fill the lid and insert the pole into the mix and screw on the lid. Refrigerate for several hours at the minimum with 24 being preferable. The longer it cools and hardens the easier it will be to remove the suet cylinder from the mold in the next step. 
Meanwhile, we drilled a hole in a 25 CD lid. When the mix was solid, we carefully removed the bottom with the pole and ran a knife around the edge to loosen the CD Suet. We placed this on the upside down 25 CD holder (lining up the holes) as if on a platform.
Dinner Bell Feeder Tufted Titmouse
The dinner bell was reassembled by passing its pole through the hole of the suet and its platform and on into the tray of the feeder. Carefully tighten, adjust the height of the hood and hang on a convenient hook to enjoy watching the dinner guests.

  Hairy Woodpecker and
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Sometimes in the interest of saving time, I simply make the mix and pour it into storage containers with lids. When needed, scoop the goop, aka Suet $ents (crumble spread) into a bowl-like tray and hang or mount. If there is any suet mix that wasn't used in a special mold that would be meant for a specific feeder, this will also be sealed and later scooped into a small tray or spread onto tree bark. The birds will quickly find and often fight over the suet.

Carolina Wren Dark-eyed Junco
We have made several log feeders by drilling 2 holes through a fallen branch. The branch is then spun 90 degrees and 2 more holes are drilled either above or below each of the other holes. Put a hook in the top of the branch and hang. The suet mix can be pushed into the holes. The birds like clinging on a natural log and finding this easy to eat the treat. Leave small stubs and branches for perch-like support.

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