Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Make a Suet Bird Feeder

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Suet bird feeders are a great source of nutrition for birds during the winter.

When the weather is cold, many birds rely on fat to help them survive freezing temperatures. A bird feeder made of suet or other fat is a great way to help out the birds during the winter, and it’s an easy and fun project to tackle on a cold winter’s day. With supervision, this can be a great project for kids, too.


Make your own blocks of suet using plastic sandwich containers as molds.

What is a Suet Feeder?

Suet is usually composed of the rendered fat from kidneys or loins of beef. It can be purchased from butcher shops or meat markets in block form, or you can make it yourself by heating and straining fat trimmings. Suet is a good choice for bird feeders since it can withstand warm temperatures without melting, but you can use other types of fat to feed your feathered friends as well.

Store bought suet feeders consist of a wire mesh cage or plastic mesh bag with a cake of hardened suet placed inside. The suet is often mixed with birdseed or berries to attract a variety of birds. You can make replacement cakes for premade feeders, or you can make your own feeder to hang outdoors or place on the ground.

Suet feeders attract many types of birds, including finches, bluebirds, wrens, sparrows, robins, woodpeckers, cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches. Experiment with different types of fat and fillings to see what birds are attracted to your feeder.


Making suet feeders can be completed in about 15 minutes.

How To Make a Fat-Cake Feeder

To make a suet feeder, you will need:

  • A microwave-safe mixing bowl, or saucepan if done on the stove
  • Mixing spoon or ladle
  • Rendered beef suet or other fat that is solid at room temperature
  • Birdseed or other goodies to mix with the suet – about two measures of filling for each measure of fat
  • Containers, molds, plastic wrap, or foil
  • Twine for making hanging feeders

Follow these steps:

  1. Poke a hole in the bottom of your container and thread a piece of knotted twine through the hole to serve as a hanger.

  1. Gently melt the fat in a saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir your filling into the melted fat until well mixed.

  1. Spoon the mixture into the containers, making sure the string sticks out the top.
  2. Refrigerate for at least an hour until hardened. If you are making a large quantity, freeze extras for later use.

  1. When the cake has solidified, you can cut away the container or remove the lining (if desired), and hang your feeder outdoors in a shady, cool spot.


Suet “ornaments” make great bird-attracting decorations for evergreens.

Fat Sources

Any fat that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature will work. Harder fats will hold their shape better in cake-type feeders; softer fats will work better in container or log feeders.

Ideas for fat include:

  • Rendered suet, tallow, or animal fat
  • Lard or shortening
  • Recycled bacon or pork/beef roast drippings
  • Pure, unsalted peanut butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • Save meat fat trimmings in the freezer, then learn to render your own suet. For detailed instructions, check out this great article at Dave’s Garden by Cathy Wallace on Rendering Fat for Suet.

Fillings

Fillings can be made from:

  • Bird seed
  • Chopped up apples or other fruit
  • Berries such as cranberries or blueberries
  • Unsalted, raw chopped peanuts
  • Whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, or wheat berries
  • Pieces of bread, or cooked, unsalted rice
  • Seeds such as black sunflower, hemp, millet, or linseed

Containers

Get creative! You can make suet feeders out of most anything you can find around the house.

Ideas for cake-type feeders include:

  • Raid your recycle bin for old yogurt cups, frozen food trays, or other plastic containers.
  • Muffin tins lined with paper baking cups.
  • Shaped molds or plastic eggs.
  • Grapefruit or melon rinds, eggshells, coconut hulls, ice-cream cones, or taco shells.

Container tips:

  • To make a replacement suet cake for your metal feeder, use a disposable, square, plastic sandwich container.
  • If you plan to reuse the container, line it with foil or plastic wrap for easy removal.


Pinecone feeders are great projects for kids!

Rolled or Log Feeder

To make a log or pinecone feeder, you will need:

  • Pinecones, sticks, or small logs with holes drilled in them
  • Twine
  • Softened fat such as unsalted peanut butter, shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed or other filler

Follow these steps:

  1. Tie a piece of string or twine to the top of the pine cone for hanging.
  2. Smear the pine cone, stick, or log with fat.
  3. Roll the “log” in bird seed or a mixture of seed and fruit.
  4. Hang outside and enjoy!

Suet Feeder Tips

For a sucessful suet feeder:

  • Keep in a cool, shady spot since fatty feeders can go rancid in warmer temperatures.
  • Wash and disinfect your feeder or container each time you replace the suet.
  • Be careful when heating fat! All fats are flammable at high temperatures, and superheated fats will melt your plastic containers! Gentle melting is all that is needed to make suet feeders, so use low heat or short bursts in the microwave.

Further Information

For more on suet feeders, check out Suet Facts, Feeders, and Recipes from birdnature.com.



Please Leave a Comment

11 Comments on “How to Make a Suet Bird Feeder”

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  1. S Lee Says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Thanks, great ideas, glad I “stumbled” upon your website looking for house remodeling ideas. Hadn’t thought about feeding this way, but would be a lot cleaner than the birds throwing the seeds all over pecking through the selection to get what they want but it draws squirrels who rob everything. No seed on the ground, no squirels. Yea…..
    Will be sending this link to my daughter who is remodeling her kitchen. I watched the Kitchen Episode on Sun. morn and recorded it for her to watch.
    Love your show.

  2. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 23rd, 2009 at 8:34 am

    S Lee,
    Glad you enjoyed the suet feeder article and show. You can also watch recent episodes online by going to http://www.todayshomeowner.com/television/past-episodes/ and clicking on the episode you are interested in viewing.

  3. Hollis Says:
    October 15th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I just sent this to my parents who supply their birds with suet. This will be a fun winter project for my parents to do together and hopefully, it will save them some money too! They have a wide variety of beautiful birds that visit their property. Thanks for posting this.

  4. L Says:
    February 6th, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Excellent instructions and photos! Love this project…we are spending the cozy day inside today (before we go for our walk) and will be making a variety of suet feeders using your site! Thanks!

  5. Sparrowgirl Says:
    September 2nd, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Great! I was looking for a way to make homemade suet feeders. This is much better than the pricey metal suet feeders. And that suet looks yummier than the storebought ones. The birds must think so, too. I really like to feed the birds, especially in winter. This was a big help!

  6. Kathy Says:
    January 20th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I have been making suet for the birds for several years. I am lucky to have a supply of kidney suet from our butcher, although it seems that they caught on and have raised the price.The birds love it and when i put out commercial cakes, they snub them now…spoiled.They all love peanut butter and i put in some dried cranberries or raisins, ground nuts sometimes, apple bits, whatever I have on hand

  7. Krystal Brennan Says:
    December 17th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Hello,

    Thanks very much for the suet instructions. I work at a wildlife hospital and will use these to do projects with some day camps. I did want to let you know that any bread products or rice are very harmful to birds and should not be added as a part of the suet filling, but the bird seed and sunflower seeds are a great treat!

  8. Jenny Anderson Says:
    January 5th, 2013 at 10:42 am

    We’re making these in my preschool class and I really like using recycled materials, thanks for a great idea!

  9. TL Silverthorn Says:
    January 28th, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I have found the easiest of all suet holders. A mesh Onion Bag. The gaps in the mesh are large enough for the birds to reach in and get the seeds, and it just keeps collapsing as the suet block gets smaller, so that it us used right up.
    I live in a rainy area that seldon freezes in the winter. I found that a loose feeder, like the ones made in cupcake pans and simply hung by a string, will fall apart eventually. The metal cages are ok too but once the blocks get used, they get hard to reach. The onion bag is the perfect re-purposing solution.

  10. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 28th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Hi TL,
    Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Charlotte Says:
    July 12th, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Hi great idea I will have a garden full of birds
    Thanks Charlotte

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