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:
Poke a hole in the bottom of your container and thread a piece of knotted twine through the hole to serve as a hanger.
Gently melt the fat in a saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time.
Remove from heat, and stir your filling into the melted fat until well mixed.
Spoon the mixture into the containers, making sure the string sticks out the top.
Refrigerate for at least an hour until hardened. If you are making a large quantity, freeze extras for later use.
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
- Softened fat such as unsalted peanut butter, shortening, or lard
- Birdseed or other filler
Follow these steps:
- Tie a piece of string or twine to the top of the pine cone for hanging.
- Smear the pine cone, stick, or log with fat.
- Roll the “log” in bird seed or a mixture of seed and fruit.
- 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.
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.
Glad you enjoyed the suet feeder article and show. You can also watch recent episodes online by going to https://todayshomeowner.com/television/past-episodes/ and clicking on the episode you are interested in viewing.
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
We’re making these in my preschool class and I really like using recycled materials, thanks for a great idea!
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.
Thanks for the suggestion!
Hi great idea I will have a garden full of birds
I thought that I could take red or black beans (super cheap), soak them in water overnight and boil them in water until soft and mash them up to a paste then mix it in with the lard, birdsead, fruit, berries and peanut butter. I thought the extra protein would be helpful in the harsh winters. If I use canned berries they would be soft and and sweet and attract more birds. The cup cake method is super easy. Love the idea of the rope or twine to hang it and the sandwich bags for the right size to fill my suet feeders. If anyone knows that cooked beans would be bad for the birds, please let me know.
Birds have sense and won’t eat anything that’s not good for them but will eat beans with poison mixed in it, unless poison is so much as to be noticeable in the beans then they may not eat it. But any natural food that wont harm a cat, mouse, chicken, won’t harm a bird. and they won’t eat enough salt to kill themselves, other wise the shore lines would be covered in dead birds, so salted peanuts isn’t going to harm the eater.
I made the suet and put it in one of those mesh bags from the halo oranges. I am hoping this works. I have hung the bag in a tree and i can see it well through my window. Does anybody have any suggestions to make this better? Will I get a good variety of birds? I am doing a bird sighting project. Thanks!
I Found your recipe for Birds online, and easy to follow instructions. I am sure there will be many regular visitors to the bird station feeder. At present the weather is very cold, and the birds will benefit from these homemade suet feeders. Good luck to all you avid birdwatchers.
Please do not reuse the netted onion/produce bags for feeding the wild birds.
I had used the bags for well over five years without a problem. It took one incident to change my mind about using these bags.
On a cold winter day, a bird had its’ leg tangled in the netting and could not get loose. It was a horrible sight to see and hear. Luckily, I was home and able to cut the netting to release the bird. It was so stressful for the bird and for me.
Fortunately, it happened in an area that I was able to reach. We had several bags filled with suet high on tree branches that my husband hung and it would have been impossible for me to reach.
If I was not home to free the bird, it would have died from the cold or exhaustion, and its’ leg would have definitely been broken since it was twisting and turning to free itself.
I see this idea used very often and I hope everyone reconsiders using these netted bags to feed the birds. It only happened once to me and after that incident, I would not ever want to take that chance again.
Use the wired cages to feed the birds. I have purchased them in dollar discount stores at times, and at the end of season in clearance at a reasonable price. Even at the full price, it is well worth the purchase since they do last a very long time.
My grandkids love doing these pinecone feeders, soooooo much fun
I purchased a wire cage holder and some of Scotts suet blocks. The Scotts suet blocks come in a clear plastic pan and are wrapped in cellophane. Do you just remove the wrapping and leave the suet in the pan and drop it into the cage holder or must the suet be squeezed out of the pan so birds could feed from both sides.
I have some beef suet from the butcher. Do I have to render it down before making a suet ball with seeds, cranberries and apples?
I note that some recipes suggest adding flour, however one of the last comments says that bread products are bad for birds. Is it something else in the bread products besides the flour that is bad. Can I use cream of wheat? or Malt O Meal?
I live in FL where suet melts quickly due to rain &/or heat. So now instead of hanging it inside a wire suet basket or some other hanging device, I simply smear some of the suet/birdseed/fruit mixture onto a large flat rock that sits near my hanging bird feeder and birdbath. The birds don’t seem to mind eating off of the rock as they usually eat the bird seed off the ground after other birds/squirrels have scratched it out of the feeder onto the ground. That also means that I can put out a little at a time to prevent it from going rancid in the heat and if you like to take wildlife photos, it’s easy to do since they are standing still on the rock while eating.
I read that birds won’t or shouldn’t eat cranberries. Is this true? I have a problem with squirrels raiding my feeders and suet cake holders. How can I keep them out and make my yard a friendlier place for my birds?
How to stop suet crumbs from falling on the ground, attracting birds and making them vulnerable to cats?