Suet is a great winter treat for birds. Throughout the year I save bacon fat to make my own homemade suet.
Technically suet is defined as the hard fat around the kidney or loins in beef and mutton. Any pork or meat drippings can be used for bird suet.
During winter months birds benefit from higher levels of saturated fat. Suet provides the energy they need to help them keep warm in cold weather. It’s not recommended to use suet during warmer months as higher temperatures can cause it to become rancid and harmful to birds.
If you don’t already save your bacon drippings, I encourage you to start. There are many great uses for it. Although my granny kept a jar of bacon fat on the counter, I keep mine in the refrigerator. Bacon drippings can be frozen for up to a year, so I freeze and save any excess for homemade suet cakes.
How to make suet cakes:
Any containers of frozen bacon fat should be thawed overnight in the refrigerator.
Soften the grease by warming it in a pan. The goal is to have a creamy consistency that is easy to stir.
Birdseed must be added to the fat. Bacon drippings are higher in salt and should not be given to birds without adding birdseed. I have my own mixture I use in my feeders that contains, black oil sunflower seeds, wild bird mix, and chicken scratch grains. A standard birdseed mixture is fine.
I confess I do not measure. I would guess I use about one cup of fat to one cup of birdseed, but I just stir in birdseed. I continue to add seed until the mixture is thick and all of the seed is covered in fat. It should not be runny, but look and feel like a greasy glob of birdseed.
Pour the mixture onto a foil-lined sheet pan and spread it out flat. If you don’t have enough to cover the entire pan, mold the mixture to a flat edge at the same height as the sheet pan. It will make it easier to cut into the correct size later. Place the sheet pan into the freezer.
Once the mixture is frozen, cut into squares that are slightly smaller than your suet feeder. Extra cakes can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container and used throughout the winter. They do not need to be defrosted. It’s easier to keep a frozen cake in one piece during refill, and the birds don’t care.
My homemade suet is very popular in my backyard. Most every morning I’m greeted by a very large Northern Flicker. When he’s not around I’ve seen Downy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Juncos on my suet feeders.