Renovating for our feathered friends

This afternoon I found some time to deck my porch with Christmas decor. The area was still under the influence of fall so a bit of picking up was in order. While disposing of the pumpkins and gourds I noticed my shepherd’s hook and bird feeder had been blown over…most likely due to some strong winds we received the last week. Upon further investigation I realized my bird feeder was ready to find a new home in the bird feeder graveyard. It’s several years old and that last trip into the porch did it in. While I do a little shopping around I thought I’d show you a temporary DIY fast-food suet cakes we made using left-over lard. Suet cakes are especially good during the winter months in this region of the U.S. They contain high-quality animal fat (lard) which is attractive to woodpeckers and chickadees.

I’m sure many of you have made these a time or two but this is a special peanut-free version. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Twine (we re-purposed baling twine from our hay & straw bales)
  • Left-over cereal crumbs (we used fruit loops, rice puffs and some stale baby snacks)
  • Lard (left-over from harvesting one of our steers-you can usually get some from your meat locker or deli for cheap)
  • Sunflower seeds (not processed on the same equipment or factory as peanuts)
  • Molds (find any containers which can be re-used but disposed of after making the molds – the unusual looking container is an oatmeal container cut down to 2-3 inches)
  • Soy butter (substitution for peanut butter since we nut allergies in the home – we’ve also used Sunflower butter)

Feel free to interchange different types of cereal and containers.

Begin by melting the lard in a large pot. The smell is very distinctive and can be a bit strong. It won’t last long. 🙂 Once liquid is melted, add 3/4 cup of the soy butter or sunflower butter. Mix well.

Melting of the lard.

Next, you’ll add the cereal and stir. Begin by adding small amounts at first. The consistency will be similar to stirring rice krispy treats. I did take the project outdoors. I did this to prevent a large mess in the kitchen since the lard is extremely greasy.

Re-using some packing paper, I lined the area of the porch where we were working to minimize the mess.

The lard will begin to harden so work swiftly. Finally, add the sunflower seeds (great protein for the birds during the winter). You will then place the mixture into the molds. The kids loved this part! As you do this insert 2-3 inches of the twine so that it is secure inside the mold. I imagine you could also push the mixture into pine cones.

Mixture setting in the molds.

If you happen to have a suet feeder you can skip using the twine on the square mold. It will be placed right inside the feeder. Allow the molds to cool and harden for about a day then hang from your favorite bird watching tree. Enjoy capturing photos like the one below!

One of my woodpecker friends enjoying their homemade treat!!

I wonder if anyone knows I want a bird feeder for Christmas!?! I’ve always used the tube feeders but am looking for something a bit different. Maybe a bird house that might attract a larger variety of birds…I’m open to suggestions?! Anyone? Actually..I also need a new bird house…my Christmas wish list just keeps on growing!!

**Please note that lard may become rancid in warmer temps. This type of food should only be used in temperatures 65 degrees and below.

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