As you may know, I am a bird nerd. I love birds. I love watching them. I love feeding them, so I can watch them closer. But I don't have the resources or the layout to feed them as much as I'd like. I have one bird feeder (which feeds the squirrels more than the birds), one hummingbird feeder (put away for the winter), and one suet cage (that I leave out year round).
Earlier this year, I went on a search to find a good suet recipe and after some trial and error, I believe I've hit on the recipe that works best for the birds around here...
2 cups shortening
1 cup chunky peanut butter
2 Tsp honey
2 cups corn meal
2 cups bird seed (the mixed seed kind)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup raisins
Melt shortening (until just melted - do not allow to get too hot). Stir in
peanut butter until thoroughly combined. Stir in honey. In a large heat
resistant bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry mixture.
Stir until thoroughly combined. Pour into suet molds (I use the ones from the
last batch of suet I bought at the store and just wash them after use.) Let sit
until they start to harden, then place in the freezer until set. Store in
seal-able storage bags in freezer.
Loads of birds seem to enjoy it, so much so that right now we're going through a batch (5 bricks) in a week. All the woodpeckers stop by, of course... Pileated, red-breasted, hairy, downy, red-headed, and nuthatches. But we also get other birds - chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays. As well as our resident Carolina Wrens, who seem particularly happy to have something to eat when it's too cold for their favorite food - bugs. Every rare once in a while, grosbeaks will stop by for a quick snack. The crows would get to it, too, if I let them, but our suet in on the front porch and they're shy enough to stay away from there. And whatever the other birds knock on the porch, the juncos eat.
We also have squirrels doing acrobatics to try and reach the suet. Sometimes they succeed and I'll look outside to find a squirrel hanging from the suet cage. We chase them off when we can. They have plenty to eat elsewhere.
Raccoons will also try to get to the suet. They're less successful at jumping off the porch rail, but to thwart those little bandits, we bring the suet in at night. (It's crucial that raccoons do not get into the habit of eating at the porch. They're hilarious and awesome but they're also super destructive. They can eat in the back with the deer.)
Anyway, making my own suet costs about the same as buying it, but the birds like the homemade better so there's less waste. Plus, the stuff I give them is better for them. Win win.
If you're interested in making your own suet, you can also play with the recipe like I do sometimes. You can add in breakfast cereal - they like Honey Bunches of Oats - or bacon fat or cranberries or mealworms. (I've been debating on buying a big bag of mealworms and making a special batch as a treat.) Have fun with it. And then sit back and watch your feathered friends. =o)