Dec 20, 20173 min
I love wild birds and find great joy in feeding and providing them with a habitat that enables them to thrive. For years I’ve purchased commercial suet, it’s easy and costs less than $2.00 per brick. Last year, I took a long, hard look at the suet I was feeding my feathered friends and realized it’s little more than fat and cornmeal which doesn’t give them much in the way of nutrition. I decided to make my own suet and started doing some research so that I could provide my backyard buddies with a valuable source of fuel during the winter season.
After making a blend of fat, ground corn, and a few seeds I realized I could do better and started to dig deeper. Julie Zickefoose, an author and nature artist had a recipe that sounded easy and nutritional for the birds so I decided to give it a try, it was a hit! Chock full of non-medicated chick starter, oats, and peanut butter, not only was I feeding the birds, I was providing them with the nutrition they needed to get through the winter. At one point I was blowing through a brick per day, so I decided to see if any other critter was enjoying my suet and found raccoons and opossums were coming to visit every night. I thought to myself, “This stuff must be good,” so when I made my next batch, I tasted it and it was delicious, no wonder I had so many animals eating at my restaurant. It started getting expensive, so I had to come up with a solution, I happened to be on the phone with my neighbor one night and she said, “Try some hot pepper, they sell it that way and it works.”
So, I looked into adding hot pepper but wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to hurt the birds. Come to find out, birds don’t have the ability to taste hot pepper because they lack the receptor cells that are sensitive to capsaicin. I started experimenting with Scotch bonnet peppers and added them to the fat when I was melting it, the raccoons and opossums kept coming. Then I started buying ground cayenne pepper and that keeps everybody away, including chipmunks and most squirrels. I have one female squirrel that eats the suet pretty regularly, it’s pretty funny to see her after her belly is full sliding across the grass trying to wipe the heat from her snout, but she keeps coming back for more.
When you make the recipe, I always double it, you can either use the square plastic trays that you’ve saved from store-bought suet, or ask your neighbors to save them for you if you don’t feed suet during other parts of the year. If you don’t have the plastic trays, double the recipe and use a 13 x 9-inch pan, press the suet dough into the pan, let it cool and cut into squares. Wrap the squares in plastic wrap, wax paper, or parchment paper until you use them. Store the blocks of suet in an unheated garage or someplace cool.
Anyway, here’s the recipe-
Melt on the stove or microwave the following and stir them together.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup lard
1/4 cup ground cayenne pepper
In a large mixing bowl, combine
2 cups chick starter (non-medicated, you can purchase at any feed/n/seed or Tractor Supply)
2 cups quick oats
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spread the batter into the plastic molds or into the 13 x 9 pan,
pressing pretty firmly as you go. Let cool.
Trust me, you’ll attract bluebirds, numerous types of woodpeckers, warblers, titmice, chickadees, various nuthatches, wrens, and many more. Happy birding!