Woodpeckers and other insect eating birds love to eat suet. It provides the energy their rapid metabolism needs in the winter when insects are scarce. It is easy to make suet for birds right in your kitchen. The process takes a few days but each step is easy to accomplish as time permits.
Save the fat trimmings from beef such as stew meat or pot roast. Butcher shops sell chunks of beef suet (the fat next to the kidney) as well. The fat can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for several months until ready to render.
Cut the fat into small dice size pieces. Place the beef fat in a pan and cover with several inches of water. Boil on low for two or three hours, adding water and stirring frequently. Keep a close eye that the pan doesn't boil dry. The oil like fat will separate from the membranes and tissues.
Pour the boiled fat into a glass measuring cup by straining through a fine mesh sieve. Set in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will separate into layers.
After the fat is chilled, remove the rendered beef fat from unfiltered debris and liquid below. An easy way to do this is to punch or carve a small hole near the pour spout and allow the liquid to drain out in your sink. The fat will stay attached to the rim of the glass measuring cup. Place the fat in a sauce pan and set aside.
Gather ingredients you would like to add to the suet for birds. Nut butters, dried fruit, fresh diced apple and raw unsalted nuts make great additions. Also add a dry binder such as crushed whole grain cereal, whole grain bread crumbs or cornmeal. A good ratio is 1 part beef fat, 1 part nut butter, 1 part dry ingredients (corn meal) and 1/2 part fruit/nuts/seeds.
Place the beef fat on the stove at low heat. It will melt within a minute or two. Stir in the nut butter until well blended. Turn off the heat and fold in the fruit and dry ingredients.
Line a muffin tin with wax paper. You can use clean, washed yogurt cups or margarine containers if you cool the suet for a few minutes. Pour the suet into the containers and place in a freezer. The featured suet was placed in the garage as the temperature was in the 20 degrees that day.
Allow to harden for a few hours. Remove the suet cakes and store in the freezer or place in your feeder. Frozen suet will keep for many months.
Use whole raw foods as birds do not eat sugar or white bread type products in the wild. The food they eat needs to be nutritionally rich for health and survival.
Homemade suet is best used in cold weather months as it can drip or melt in warm weather.
Drill or chisel large holes in a log and press the semi-hardened suet into the holes for a natural woodpecker feeder. Attach a wire hanger or place in the crook of a tree.
Roll pinecones in the suet while still warm and chill in the freezer. Roll or press on bird seed before chilling if desired. Add a wire or string hanger to the pinecone before adding the suet.
Experiment with adding seeds, fruit, berries, and nut butters. Try out different ingredients and see which one your local birds enjoy the most.
All images and content original works of kittycooks. Copyright 2011