Thursday, October 01, 2009

Back yard birding and making my own suet cakes

I'm big on birding in my own backyard! I have several bird feeding stations and my little feathered friends come daily to visit and eat from these. The bonus is that most seed feeding birds also eat bugs, so by attracting birds into my yard I'm also reducing the mosquito population! Talk about using green to my advantage!

I like to feed birds year round, but it becomes even more important in the winter when the food supply from native plants is not as abundant or hard to access due to snow cover.

Making my own suet for my suet feeders saves me money each autumn and gives me a good supply for the winter months. Not only that, but the birds aren't getting some overly processed food filled with additives to make it last.

Suet is a great supplimental food for birds in the winter when they are burning more calories just to keep warm. Suet is a high fat, high energy food for your backyard buddies.

I've had Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, and Sap Suckers on my suet feeders along with more common Juncos, Chickadees and Towhees.  I've developed this recipe for the birds in my local area. It's a money saver with suet cakes running anywhere from $1.25 to $3.50 per cake!

Here's my recipe:
  • 3-4 Lbs rendered pork fat *you can use lard or fat trimmings from beef also
  • 1 C Blackoil Sunflower seed
  • 1 C peanuts
  • 2 C woodpecker mix bird seed *this mix usually includes corn pieces
  • 1 C rolled oats
  • 1/2 C craisins
  • 1/2 C dried fruit mix
  • 1-2 C crumbed dry cereal *I use the left overs of our cherios, honey bunches oats, cornflakes etc
  • 1/2 to 1 C peanut butter
  • 1 C cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 C corn masa mix * masa de harina* you can leave this out but increase cornmeal to 2 C
  • 1-2 C frozen blackberries
  • 1 C rosehips
If you notice the birds eating a certain berry or rosehip in your area, adjust the receipe to include those too!

First, render the fat. I heat and melt mine in a large crockpot. When the fat is rendered add the peanut butter, and mix with spoon until incorporated

Next add the birdseed and other dry ingredients, stir in until moistened.

Finally add the fruit, berries and any other wet ingredients.

Allow the mix to cool down to a temperature that you can work with. Then pour or spoon into your recyced suet molds. If you don't have molds, reuse a clean paper 1/2 gallon milk carton (when suet cools cut into 1" wide slices)

Once the suet is hardened and cool, reuse a bread bag and wrap the suet cakes inside.

Store in freezer until needed. Frozen this suet will last indefinately. If you keep it outside of the freezer it will only last for about 4-5 days. Don't worry though, it's usually eaten up in about a day once the birds find the suet feeder is full.

Place suet in a cage feeder and have fun watching your own backyard birds!

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