We have bird feeders all over our yard during the cold winter months. We have birds feasting on the front porch feeders and you’re sure to find birds feasting on the feeders placed in the trees outside my kitchen window, so I can watch them while doing the dishes. We have found black oil sunflower brings the most songbirds and woodpeckers; this seed brings titmice, wrens, sparrows, nuthatch, chickadees, juncos, flickers, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, and towhees. We love providing suet feeders this time of year too, the birds need the added fat. Suet cakes can be expensive to buy and I have found that making them can be a little messy, but very easy and cheap. After Yule, we always have cranberries and dried orange slices left over from decorating the tree, a lot of birds like fruit, so waste not, I cut up bits and add it to the suet feeders.
To make feeders you need: a mold, heavy yarn, vegetable shortening or lard, black sunflower seeds, raw sunflower seeds, and bits of fruit (apples, cranberries, oranges, blueberries). I would have added raw peanuts too if I would have had them on hand.
To make the suet cakes: 1. Chop up the fruit into small pieces then mix into a bowl with the seeds.
2. Fill the molds with your seed fruit mixture, leaving the knotted yarn at the bottom of the mold. Knot the ends of yarn into a big knot, the bigger the knot the better.
3. Using the double broiler method, melt the shortening/lard on a medium heat.
4. Add large spoonfuls (or pour, if not too hot) of the melted shortening into each mold covering the seed mix. Place the suet in the freezer for 6-24 hours to ensure it sets. 5. To remove the suet, place the frozen mold in a pan of HOT water for a few seconds, but not too long or the suet cake will melt and have to set again. Pop them out.
6. Now to place them in your trees, do not dangle them from random branches, it will be hard for the birds to get to them this way. Place them up against the trunk or thick branches, this way the birds will have a surface to hold onto while eating.
Note- I only make these in the cold months, the shortening will melt and spoil quickly in the hot summer months. Store any extras in the freezer and replace as needed. To learn more about feeding birds visit here- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.