If you’re searching online, looking for healthier, fresher feeding alternatives for your backyard bird population, making your own bird food can be the best alternative and one that will allow you to have total control over the quality of ingredients. The homemade bird food recipes in my guide are easy to make and contain the types of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that a bird needs to survive, especially during the winter months.
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Feeding Birds in the Winter
Studying and watching birds in your own backyard can be very fulfilling and exciting. During the winter months, many experts believe that the best way to bird is to place a chair by a window and watch as a variety of birds visit your feeders. If you stay on top of your feeders and keep them well-stocked you can attract many different species of birds and ensure they remain in your yard until the springtime.
During the colder months of the year, supplemental food can really help a bird to survive. There are many factors that trigger birds to migrate, however, the length of the trip is often the most significant. Once the days start to become shorter, there are certain species of birds that will move on, whether or not you keep your feeders well-stocked.
Knowing when to put your feeders out based on the time of year can vary by region. Some experts recommend leaving their feeders out until December. This will ensure that hungry hibernating animals are already bedded down for the cold season and that the birds will have a food source to rely on when foraging becomes too difficult.
To learn more about how birds survive during the winter, click here to read my article on where do birds go at night in the winter?
While most people tend to put out a mixture of birdseed, if you really want to draw birds to your yard, try suet. Making suet is pretty simple and chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and a variety of other types of backyard bird species will go crazy over it.
Suet is a great choice to offer birds during the fall and winter months, during a time when birds tend to need more calories in order to maintain their energy level and body heat. While there are several commercial brands of suet to choose from, making your own is more affordable and very easy.
Making suet is just as easy as making sugar water for hummingbirds or creating your own birdseed mixture. It’s also a more affordable option compared to suet blocks, plugs, or commercial cakes. When you make your own, you can customize the ingredients in order to appeal to certain species of birds in your yard.
You can also create a homemade suet mixture that’s free from additives, dyes, and preservatives. While there’s no evidence that any of these ingredients can be harmful to birds, organic, more natural food sources are always better and have less risk of side effects or digestive upset.
Suet is a type of animal fat that’s rendered to form balls, cakes, and other types of shapes. There are many ways to acquire a variety of animal fats to make your cake and most birders have a preferred method that’s easy and fast. You can try out different methods in order to find the type of fat that’s the most popular with your backyard bird population and easy on your wallet.
You can also buy plain suet chunks or cakes from a local pet store, garden center, or bird supply store. You can use these cakes as is or you can melt them down and add more ingredients. This is a pricey option and since the cakes have already been processed you won’t have as much control over the ingredients.
Purchasing beef fat trimmings or suet from a local butcher is a more affordable option. Many butchers will offer these scraps for free or at a major discount.
You can also save your own pork drippings for your suet recipe. Pork fat is often softer compared to beef fat, but it’s a great option if you want to give your backyard birds a rare treat. Birds should never be fed pork fat exclusively since this type of fried fat can be detrimental to some birds if given over a long period of time. The high salt content in pork drippings can also be harmful.
Another option is buying lard at your local grocery store. You can find lard in the baking section and it can be used in the same way as plain suet, however, it may melt more easily in hot weather since it’s very soft.
Many vegetarian and vegan birders will use vegetable shortening in place of animal fat. It’s a suitable choice for birds but it’s more expensive than meat-based lard.
Creating your own suet doesn’t have to be complicated. However, the suet you offer birds should be rendered in order to help it to maintain its shape.
In order to render suet, you’ll chop the fat into very small pieces and run it through a grinder. If you normally purchase fat from a butcher, then the butcher may be willing to do this step for you. Make sure you remove all traces of bone, meat, and other tissues during this step.
Next, you’ll heat up the fat until it has fully liquified. Never use a high temperature to melt the suet faster since this can lead to scorching or fires. Make sure you constantly stir the fat in order to help it melt evenly and to prevent burning.
The liquid fat should be strained through a very fine mesh or a cheesecloth to remove any remaining particles. The suet may need to be heated up again between each straining for it to remain fully liquified, allowing you to strain it easily.
You’ll use molds or containers to shape the suet. Pour the fat into these molds and allow them to cool completely. Any leftover suet can be frozen for several months.
Once the suet has been rendered it can be fed to your visitors as is, or you can add extra ingredients to make it more appealing to a wider range of species.
A great recipe that many birders recommend is one that contains peanut butter.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- One cup of rendered suet
- One cup of chunky peanut butter
- Four cups of ground cornmeal
- Half a cup of wheat or white flour.
The peanut butter and suet should be melted together until smooth, then you can add the flour and cornmeal. This recipe contains ingredients that will make the suet easier for the birds to eat since it has a crumbly consistency. This means less mess for you to clean up. Allow the peanut butter suet mixture to cook and thicken slightly before you pour it into containers or molds. Freeze or refrigerate the suet until it’s nice and firm. Any leftovers can be stored in the freezer.
Adding Extra Ingredients to Suet
If you want to add more ingredients to your suet recipe, below you’ll find a list of some great extras that will drive your local birds wild:
- Unsalted, chopped nuts
- Dried fruit such as unsweetened cranberries or raisins
- Birdseed mixture
- Kitchen scraps
- Insects such as dried crickets, flies, or mealworms
Adding these ingredients can make your suet more appealing to birds. You can try experimenting with other types of ingredients in order to determine what ingredients birds find more appealing.
Hummingbirds won’t touch suet or even birdseed. Instead, these birds live off of nectar. If you want to cater to your local hummingbird population, then the first step is purchasing the best hummingbird feeder, one that comes loaded with a number of nectar ports. I recommend the Muse Garden Hummingbird Feeder. This colorful feeder is sure to capture the attention of any hummingbird that’s flying over your yard. You can create your own nectar, which can be a healthier alternative and one that’s free of harmful dyes and additives. To learn more, click here to read how to make sugar water for hummingbirds.
These homemade bird food recipes come loaded with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients birds need during the winter months, in order to boost their energy and allow them to keep their body temperature at a comfortable level. By making your own bird food, you’re ensuring your bird population is getting a nutrient-dense, healthy alternative to commercial suet blocks and standard birdseed. Remember, during the winter months, birds need to consume more calories to stay warm. The recipes included here are perfect for year-round feeding but will be essential during the wintertime.