Ways & How

How to Make Bird Treats for Wild Birds

How to Make Bird Treats for Wild Birds

Winter, when the ground is frozen and the trees are barren, can be very hard on wild birds. While most birds migrate to warmer climates during this time, some species choose to remain within their territories despite the scarcity of food. Generous souls who keep their bird feeders full during winter have doubtless helped saved many of these feathered creatures from dying of starvation.

Most pet stores stock a good selection of commercially made bird food for a variety of species. Some bird lovers, however, prefer to make their own homemade wild bird treats, especially since many of the ingredients needed are already found in most pantries. Making your own bird food is definitely much more cost-effective in the long run, not to mention that it can save you from the inconvenience of having to run out for new supplies when your feeders are empty.

Bird suet, a combination of fat mixed in with some sources of protein, is the best food that you can put out during the winter months. Some wild birds have an omnivorous diet, while some are strictly carnivorous or herbivorous. For this reason, we suggest putting out at least two kinds of bird suet: one that uses vegetable shortening and another that uses rendered beef fat.

Here’s how to make bird treats for wild birds:

  1. Let’s start with homemade bird suet featuring vegetable shortening. To make a single batch that should be good enough for a week’s supply, you will need: 1 cup vegetable shortening; 2 cups quick-cook oats; 2 cups cornmeal; 1 cup peanut butter (chunky, if you have it); 1 cup flour; and ½ cup sugar. Melt the shortening in a pan, and mix the peanut butter in until well-blended. Add the rest of the ingredients in, and pour into a shallow pan. It should solidify when cool. Cut into squares and store in the freezer until needed. Goldfinches, sparrows, buntings, wrens, and cardinals will especially love this treat.

  2. Making bird suet using beef fat takes a little more time, but it’s also fairly easy to do. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Chop the beef fat into small chunks, and spread the pieces in a large, covered roasting pan. Let it render in the oven for several hours. Take it out when most of the fat has melted and all that’s left are some brown and crispy bits. Let the rendered fat cool a little so you can strain it through mesh or cheesecloth. Add some raisins, nuts or seeds if you like. Pour the fat into molds, and let it harden. Store in the freezer until needed.

  3. Save the plastic mesh bags that supermarket vegetables come in so you can use them to hang your homemade bird suet treats. Put some in an empty mesh bag and hang it from a tree branch for your wild bird visitors to enjoy.

Now that you know how to make bird treats for wild birds, you can tweak the two recipes above to make use of ingredients that you have on hand, like peanuts and seeds. Beyond fruits and nuts, however, many human foods, such as chocolate, stale bread and table scraps, are unsafe for birds. Never put out peanut butter without mixing it with some seeds, as birds will choke on it.

When putting out bird treats for wild birds, make sure that you are not making them vulnerable to predators like dogs and free-roaming cats. Place any treats at least 12 feet away from another tree, brush pile or bush so that predators cannot hide within striking range.


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