One of the very first things I ever fed to the birds in my backyard was ground beef. This was because I had a pair of magpies that frequented the area and one morning, they walked right up to my back sliding glass door and proceeded to stare into it as if to say, ‘feed me’.
Over time, we tried feeding them cooked fat trimmings, mealworms, seed, and various other tidbits but they weren’t interested. We also tried raw suet but again no takers. Ground beef was what they liked and that was it.
However, we do get some ravens and although they love ground beef, they will also happily go for the suet. Sparrows love it too but then sparrows will eat almost anything.
So we have been putting out more suet in one of the bird feeders to see what we will attract.
What is suet?
Suet is animal fat that comes from around the kidneys. It is a hard fat so you can actually pick it up in your hands.
I am on the carnivore diet (or more accurately a ‘meat-based’ diet) so I am well aware of suet and where to find it. But most people have never heard of it or if they have, they are generally of the older generation.
I’ve even heard of people who have gone to their butcher to ask for some suet and the butcher has no idea what they are talking about. If this sounds like your butcher then just ask them for the ‘hard beef fat that surrounds the kidneys’. That should trigger them.
You can also find suet in boxes on the shelf. This is often referred to as shredded suet and is used in baking puddings and pastries particularly in the UK.
Keep in mind that with this sort of suet it will have other ingredients added, like flour, emulsifiers, colorings and so on. You will want to avoid this type of suet if you are wanting to feed the birds in your garden.
Here’s an example of one on Amazon. Check the ingredients first!
What Birds Eat Suet?
Here are just some of the birds that will be attracted to your garden (whether you want them there or not) if you put out suet for them to eat. Of course, it will depend on your part of the world as to what you will see.
Something to Note When Feeding Suet to Birds
Putting out suet does not mean that you are going to immediately attract a whole lot of birds to your garden. It can often take a while for those particular birds to find you so keep at it.
Don’t become discouraged if you find that birds aren’t taking to the suet. Birds such as woodpeckers and robins will be on the lookout for food during fall and winter and are more likely to come for suet cakes when other food is scarce.
Can you give suet to birds in summer?
Suet is usually placed out in the colder months for obvious reasons. It is a fat after all and has the potential to melt in hot weather.
To reduce the possibility of the suet from melting, it is best to mix the suet with other ingredients. There are plenty of different recipes for making your own suet cakes and eventually, you will develop one that works for you. (Scroll down for specific suet recipes.)
You can also used commercially made suet cakes which save you the hassle of making them yourself plus they are made to reduce the possibility of melting.
What is a Suet Cake?
A suet cake is a nutritional formulation for wild birds that uses suet and other ingredients that birds will like including:
- peanut butter
- dried insects
- coconut oil
- grain by-products
It can also include things that birds may not necessarily like but are included to:
- help prolong the life of the product
- to prevent the suet cake from melting
- to act as a binder to keep everything together.
These added ingredients usually come in commercially made suet cakes and can include:
- soy oil
Commercial Suet Cakes
There are a number of different manufacturers who sell suet cakes but they can include products that may not be as natural as we would like, however the do have their advantages.
Advantages of commercial suet cakes:
- Ready to use – you don’t have to spend time making your own
- If you have trouble finding suet in your area, then these may be your only option
- Easy to store since they usually don’t need refrigeration
Disadvantages of commercial suet cakes:
- Some added ingredients may not be natural
- They come with a mix of ingredients that may not suit the birds in your area
Buying Commercially Made Suet Cakes
If you are looking to make your own suet cakes, then scroll on down for more info. If instead, you would like to buy something ready made then here are some options for you.
I’ve included the ingredients for each in the table below and also where you can purchase them.
|C & S Products – Peanut Delight (No Melt)||Corn, roasted peanuts, rendered beef suet, oats, soy oil||Amazon|
|Pine Tree Farms Never Melt Suet Cake (Blueberry)||Peanuts, corn, rendered beef suet, blueberry flavoring, dried blueberries, vitamins, minerals||Amazon|
|Pine Trees Farms Never Melt (Peanut) 6-Pack||Peanuts, corn, rendered beef suet, vitamins, minerals||Amazon|
|Audubon Nutty Treat Suet Cake||Rendered beef suet, cracked corn, white millet, peanuts, oats, milk||Amazon|
Homemade Suet Cake Recipes
An alternative to buying a pre-made suet cake, you can, like me, make your own. It is not difficult to do and you will know exactly what goes into them.
Even though these homemade suet cakes will be less likely to melt, they should still really only be used in the cooler months or just keep them out of the hot sun. Otherwise, you may be better off using commercial suet cakes in the warmer weather.
Making suet cakes at home is really just a matter of rendering down some suet and adding other ingredients to it that will appeal to the birds in your garden.
1. Homemade Suet Recipe for birds
- 1 cup melted suet
- 1 cup raisins or sultanas
- 1 cup wild bird seed mix
- 1-2 tbsps of honey
- melt the suet on low or in a slow cooker until it’s mostly liquid
- stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes
- pour the mixture into small containers and let cool and then transfer them to the freezer until you are ready to use them
2. Homemade Suet Recipe for Birds Using Peanut Butter
- 1 cup of suet
- 4 cups of peanut butter (I use smooth but chunky is also fine) – choose a natural peanut butter with no additives – just pure ground peanuts
- 4 cups of oatmeal ( do not use instant oats)
- 4 cups of beef broth – I make this regularly in a slow cooker *See note below for how to make this
- 1 cup raisins or sultanas
- 2 cups of birdseed (choose a seed that is suitable for the birds in your garden)
- Render down the fat. A slow cooker is good for this.
- In a large saucepan, combine the melted fat with the peanut butter, oats and the beef broth.
- Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to the boil.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer for about 20 mins or until the mixture resembles thick oatmeal.
- Stir in the raisins and the nuts if you are adding them.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and add the bird seed
- Spread the mixture out until it’s about 2 ” thick (or the thickness that will fit into your suet cake holder), and cut into squares.
- Place freezer paper between the cakes and place in the fridge until set.
- Transfer the cakes to the freezer until you are ready to use them
*Note: How to make Homemade Bone Broth
I am on a Carnivore diet so I make my own homemade chicken and beef broth constantly. You can use this beef broth for making your suet cakes.
- Take approx 4lbs of beef stock bones and place them in a hot oven for about 40 mins.
- When they are nicely caramelized place them in a slow cooker
- Cover with water
- Add 1 sliced onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 tbs salt
- Turn slow cooker on high until water is boiling
- Turn to low and cook for about 24 hours.
- Do not skim off the fat.
- Remove the bones, the meat should fall off into the stock.
- Strain the stock through a colander/strainer into a large bowl.
- Stand the bowl in cold water and add a couple of trays of ice cubes to help the stock cool down quickly.
- Once the fat begins to congeal on the top, pour the mixture into containers and put in the fridge until set.
- Store the stock in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
You can use this beef stock for yourself, it’s healthy and nutritious and you can add it to the suet recipe for your birds. When I am making a batch just for my own use I will add garlic and spices to it, but I leave these out when I am making it for the birds and add them later when I am cooking up a batch for my lunch or dinner.
It is possible to buy ‘melt resistant‘ suet cakes for hot temperatures but I haven’t tried it and it does get mixed reviews. If you have had success with ‘no melt’ or melt resistant suet I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Types of Suet Feeders
Once you have purchased or made your own suet cakes, you will need a suet feeder to hold the suet.
The benefits of a suet feeder are:
- it keeps the suet cake contained so it doesn’t get spread all over the garden if it starts to break up
- it ensures that one bird or animal doesn’t snatch the whole cake and take it away to feed
The types of suet feeders include:
- Suet Cage or Basket
- Suet Log
- Upside Down Suet Feeder
- Window Mount Suet Feeder
- Tray Feeder
- Log Feeder
- Squirrel Proof Suet Feeders
- Suet ball feeder
- Mesh bags