Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bird Feeding, part 5: Suet Dough

You may have heard me mention "suet dough" in previous posts. It's a term I learned last year from Julie Zickefoose's blog. She shared her recipe for a sure-fire homemade bird food, and I started making it. I have modified the name to "Zick's Famous Suet Dough," but it could also be called "Magic Suet Dough," as it attracts any kind of bird you could care to name. About the only things I haven't seen eating it are Mourning Doves and finches.

First, the recipe:

1 cup lard
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup white flour

Melt the lard and peanut butter. Add the oatmeal, cornmeal and flour. Allow to cool. Store at room temperature. Serve crumbled.

I double this recipe, and use the old lard tubs to store any leftovers.

I use several different types of feeders for suet dough. A flat tray or platform type feeder allows more species of birds access, but usually gets over-run with starlings.

This caged feeder was designed to hold two commercial suet cakes side-by-side,

but I stuff it full of suet dough for the little birds, like chickadees, titmice, and Downy Woodpeckers. They can get in through the large outer openings to feed on the goodies inside. Bluebirds will use this feeder, too.

I always put some in a small custard cup, garnished with mealworms, inside my bluebird feeder. This is a feeder with Plexiglas sides and 1.5 inch diameter holes in the short wooden ends, designed for cavity-nesting birds.
I am experimenting this year, placing this feeder closer to the house than in past.

Bluebirds and Carolina wrens use this feeder a lot. I had a young Downy Woodpecker in it last year. Twice, he got stuck and I had to help him out. I think he wised up after that.

Now, some of the birds I have photographed, enjoying Julie's suet dough:

All for me!"

Downy Woodpecker, immersed in his food.
"This is much better!"

immature White-crowned Sparrow

And, the species I originally wanted the suet dough recipe for:

Eastern Bluebird, female
"Hey! Who ate all the suet dough?


Kathy said...

Wonderful pictures of beautiful birds enjoying a special treat! Maybe I should try a tray feeder with some suet for the woodpeckers. I would love to have them come eat, rather than pecking on my house.

Mary said...

Kathi, I'm so glad you are showing your bird pics! I'm still serving suet cakes and I'm nearly out of them. Next on the agenda: Zick Dough. I've had two bluebirds show a few weeks ago. Last year I had many but I didn't have anything to feed them. So, my fingers are crossed. I'll refer to this great post when I'm ready to start mixing :o)

Susan Gets Native said...

Zick dough IS magic. And I have seen our mourning doves eating it....I make sure to toss a bunch on the ground for the birds who are shy about using the hopper or the platform feeder.
Finches leave it alone though. Since goldfinches are strictly vegetarian I assume they turn their beaks up at the lard.

holly said...

Hey bird people, a question for ya! I read today in Country magazine to pour bits of grease from cooking (burgers, bacon, etc) and freeze it to save until there's enough to make suet. Is there any danger in that, as far as birds go? Or should it be storebought lard?

Kathy said...

Holly, my "Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible" says that grease from bacon and burgers can be fed to wild birds. We'll have to wait for Kathi's okay on it, but that is the best information I have.

I saw the same suet recipe in the newspaper a few months ago, except that it called for a bit of sugar. I can't imagine why birds would need sugar, however. They also suggested putting in sunflower chips, roasted mealworms, and raisin pieces as optional ingredients.

KatDoc said...


I don't know why you couldn't use bacon or beef fat drippings (in the winter, when it is cold) for the birds. In warmer weather, it will melt and be a real mess.

I have never tried this. Maybe somebody else has experience or info relating to this question.