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Old 11-17-2010, 10:25 PM   #1
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Well, I'm adopting this forum, so we'll start with something easy. My daughter likes to make her own suet, and has tried a bunch of different combinations.

The favorite one she made was a combination of lard, crisco, oatmeal, bird seed (some random leftovers of a mix) and pokeberries. It was deep purple, and amazingly messy, but the birds loved it.

Have y'all made your own suet? What is your favorite recipe? Have you ever found a squirrel proof suet feeder (I haven't, other than they don't really care for pokeberries!)
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Old 11-17-2010, 10:34 PM   #2
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I've gotten suet from the butcher at the grocecry before, it wasn't expensive. But I will never melt it down indoors again. Peeeyooo!
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Old 11-18-2010, 05:46 PM   #3
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I have a suet question. I'm in the gulf south. Plants do get brown for a couple of months, but no snow cover.

Do I need to put out suet? I can - I just don't know anyone who does, so I don't know if it's helpful or not.
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:53 PM   #4
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Another request: we have a mess of lard and I'd like to put it to "good" use, and (right now) have plenty of pokeberries still on the bushes. Could you provide some directions on how to make the suet?
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Old 11-18-2010, 10:32 PM   #5
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Tie-dyed, I will get a specific list of instructions from my daughter and post them tomorrow. I know that the dry ingredients, oatmeal and birdseed, were added for texture, and that we ended up mixing the lard with vegetable shortening because the birds liked that better, but I'll get specifics for you. It is fun experimenting, but I am warning you in advance that pokeberries stain!

Have you introduced yourself yet on the "Introduce yourself" forum? We love to meet and greet our new members and learn more about them.

BigBlueEyes, I'm sure your birds don't NEED suet, but they might find it tasty anyway. Now that the wildbird stores sell "no melt" suet that I can put out when it is warm, I have suet out in the warm months, too. I have all sorts of birds coming for it all year round, not as many when it is warm but they come in waves, probably related to nesting and feeding young. The main takers for suet are the insectivores, rather than the seed eaters, in my experience - the woodpeckers, nuthatches, wrens, then less often the titmice, chickadees and occasionally a finch.

Homemade suet is never No Melt, in my experience, so should be left for the cooler months. We freeze ours, wrapped in rice crispie treat size portions, and put it out as it gets eaten.
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Old 11-19-2010, 06:31 PM   #6
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I've done the pine cone thing before. Here's an example recipe. from Alachua Audubon - FAQs About Birds & Birding Mix 1 cup lard (shortening can be used, but it doesn't work as well), 2 cups yellow or plain white corn meal, 1 tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 cup peanut butter. Add more corn meal as needed until the mix can be rolled into little balls.
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Old 11-20-2010, 04:03 PM   #7
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I asked my daughter what she used for her pokeberry suet. She gave a typical cook's directions:

Get lard (we get it in 1 lb sticks) and soften it. We mixed in one stick of crisco vegetable shortening, uncertain if this is necessary. Collect a cup or so of pokeberries and other berries the birds like. Mix the pokeberries with some of the bird seed you have around (I usually have a blend of sunflower seeds and peanuts, but whatever your local birds like). Blend the berry and seed mixture into the lard and shortening. If necessary, add corn meal or flour to make it handle-able, for texture; if necessary, add a little water if too stiff, for texture. Shape into balls or blocks and freeze what isn't being used at once (we scooped with an ice cream scooper onto plastic wrap once, used cup cake wrappers once, whatever works). Ideally it should be the right size and shape to fit into whatever feeder you intend to use!

We make batches two or three times a winter, using different ingredients each time, just kind of mixing until it looks reasonable. The birds are not picky. We have used peanut butter, they didn't seem to care one way or the other about it. We tried using oil instead of lard - bad idea, too soupy. We tried using more dried ingredients and baking, wasn't as popular. We had no batches that didn't get eaten at all, however. The main things that vary with ingredients are the melting temperature, and how easy it is handled (sticky, slippery, gooey, hard, etc).

The fun is in the trying out new things. Go for it!

Putting peanut butter on pine cones and rolling them in bird seed is always a good standby as well, although we found the squirrels were more interested than the birds, and always found ways to get them.
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Old 11-27-2010, 11:41 AM   #8
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I made it twice last year and the birds loved it. When we made up batches of bacon, I saved the drippings and mixed that with peanut butter, corn meal, and bird seed. I made a log suet-feeder (well, asked my wonderful husband to make one, that is) and smeared the suet into the holes on that. That was not as successful as I'd imagined as the suet didn't stick to the log well! (The log still hangs out there and the woodpeckers land on it before moving to the peanut feeder or suet cage and the hairy woodpecker uses the holes in it to hold a peanut he chops into small pieces before he eats it). Last night I cooked up a huge amount of hamburger and I've saved the fat from that to mix with the corn meal and peanut butter again. I would hesitate to use Crisco because I've read not to and because it's made from hydrogenated oils which we know are harmful to we humans, so I can't imagine it's any healthier for our bird friends. If lard is available, it's probably the better choice. I checked last week to see if I could get lard in a can like Crisco, and they do have it that way. One person I know renders her own lard from fat she gets from the butcher, but I am not that brave! I'll just get mine from a can!
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Old 11-27-2010, 12:20 PM   #9
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I make my own in the food processor. Can't tell you exact measurements because I add until it becomes like cookie dough. My family always says....are you making cookies??? Nope it's for the birds!

Vegetable shortening
Peanut Butter
White Corn Meal
Whole Wheat Flour
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Old 11-27-2010, 11:23 PM   #10
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Intersting about the log. I had read about doing that, and had contemplated trying to make one. Given your experience, I think I will stick to my standard cage suet holders.

Cookie dough consistency is a good description of what you're trying to achieve. Just mix and match ingredients until you get there.

I am not particularly worried about the effect of the hydrogenated fats on the birds. The effects in humans are from long term use, and I think the amount any particular bird would get is unlikely to cause health problems. Lard works fine, though.

I have never tried the traditional concept of buying "suet" from the butcher as a piece of fat and hanging it up. I like non-smelly ingredients, and half the fun is deciding the mix.
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