5 Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Suet to Birds

Get savvy about suet! Get the recipe to make homemade suet and bring in a whole new flock of birds by serving up this popular treat.

rose-breasted grosbeak at suet feederCourtesy Deanna Williams
Rose-breasted grosbeak eating suet

Suet is a popular fall and winter treat for backyard birds, who use the boost of energy from eating suet to help them make it through tough winter weather. If you’ve never tried serving suet before, it’s time to start! Get the suet basics with these most commonly asked questions about how to serve suet to backyards birds.

1. What is suet?

From a technical perspective, suet is specifically the raw fat around kidneys and loins, mostly in beef. Because it’s high in fat, it gives birds lots of energy, which is especially helpful in cold weather.

2. What are suet cakes?

Suet cakes are actually what most people refer to as suet. They are usually made up of a mixture, which includes suet (or rendered beef fat) as an ingredient. Other ingredients in suet might include peanut butter, peanuts, seed, cracked corn and birdseed. (Read more: How to make birdseed suet cupcakes)

3. Should I make suet or buy it?

Whether you make your own or buy it from a store is up to you. If you buy it, check the ingredients for quality items. Of course, suet should have suet (or rendered beef fat) listed as an ingredient. If you want to make your own, hit up your local butcher shop and ask them to buy the suet. It should be fairly inexpensive, and you can be sure it’s what you need for the birds.

4. What’s the best way to serve suet?

In the simplest form, you can just smear suet onto a branch or a hollowed log—no special feeder required. Another option is a cage feeder, which you can pick up for a few bucks. This definitely does the trick without spending a lot of money. Finally, if you want to maximize your real estate, look for a special suet feeder that will hold several blocks at once.

5. Which birds eat suet?

You can attract a wide range of birds, including chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, thrushes, creepers, thrashers, jays, and nearly all woodpeckers, including flickers. Even if you haven’t seen these birds at your suet in other seasons, try again in fall and winter. You’ll likely attract new visitors. (Read more: The 4 best foods for woodpeckers)

Homemade Suet Recipe

Great suet is all about the right consistency. You can mix and match the items on the “yes” list below. A good base is 1 cup of suet and 1 cup of peanut butter. (It’s a myth that birds will choke on peanut butter, so don’t hesitate to include it in your suet mix!) Melt over low heat, and mix in 1/2-cup of cornmeal and 1/4-cup of oats. Next, add 1/4-cup of items like birdseed, nuts or berries until you get the right consistency. Freeze in muffin tins or small plastic containers until you’re ready to dole it out. (Read more: 4 homemade suet recipes)

Good Ingredients for Suet

  • Raw suet
  • Black-oil sunflower seeds
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Cornmeal or flour
  • Other birdseed
  • Rolled oats

Avoid These Ingredients

  • Bread
  • Sugar
  • Leftovers
  • Meat
  • Salted items