how to feed suet to birds

Suet comes in many different forms, including cakes, balls or logs and feeder design will vary to accommodate each type. The most common type of suet bird feeders are built with steel mesh cages that hold one or more suet cakes. To accommodate larger birds like woodpeckers, some suet feeders are elongated into a tail-prop design, allowing them to balance their body weight by placing their tail against the feeder. Some suet feeders expose the suet at the bottom. These upside-down feeders help deter nuisance birds like Starlings and Grackles who are most comfortable feeding upright.

Some hopper style bird feeders come with suet cages attached on either side, allowing multiple feed options in one feeder, attracting an even wider variety of birds.

blue jay visiting natures way galvanized hopper feeder Blue Jay on Galvanized Weathered Hopper Feeder (Model# WWGF2-DECO)

Suet feeders are a good choice to have out in the cold winter months when birds are looking for high energy food sources, but they can be used year-round to attract a variety of birds.

In the wild, birds scavenge for suet and other animal fat from carcasses. In the cold winter months, when birds expend so much of their energy just to stay warm, animal fat is a great quick source of heat and energy for many birds.

You can attract a wide range of birds with suet including Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees and Nuthatches. Many birds that eat insects to round out their diets will eat suet in the winter months to fill the void when the insects they typically feed on are not plentiful.

Birds are sometimes slow to go to new feeders, especially if they have previously been offered suet in other feeders. If at first you have trouble attracting birds to your new feeder, try hanging the upside-down suet feeder tilted to help the birds find the suet. Once they have found it in the new feeder, you can gradually transition it to the upside-down position. In addition, we recommend removing any other suet feeders until the birds find and regularly use the new upside down feeder. After they have found and are using it, you can put any additional feeders back up.

The shape of the suet you choose is largely dependent on the type of suet feeder you have. Most suet feeders call for suet cakes, while others can hold suet balls, plugs, pellets, or shreds.

Suet comes in many different compositions, from plain fat to fruit, insect, seed, and nut blends. Some suet blends are customized to appeal to specific types of birds, such as a woodpecker blend or songbird blend. However, a plain suet cake will appeal to all birds who eat suet!

Suet can be fed year-round, however, be aware that suet does melt in the heat. If offering suet in the warmer months, choose a variety labeled “no-melt”, “no-drip”, or “summer”. These blends are rendered multiple times to help raise the melting point of the fat so it will last longer.

One downside of offering additional ingredients in suet during the winter months, when the heat is not an issue, is that it can attract some unwanted visitors, like squirrels or racoons. While most squirrels will leave raw suet alone, they will be attracted to any nuts or seed in suet blends. Some birders choose a hot pepper mix; while it won’t affect wild birds, it is not preferred by mammals and may keep them at bay.

Suet can be fed raw or rendered (put through a melting and re-hardening process) and formed into cakes or other shapes with additional ingredients. One of the main reasons you might choose to make homemade suet is to add other ingredients. Common ingredients to add include seeds, grains, fruit, nuts, and even eggshells. Another reason some birders opt to make their own suet is to mold it into certain shapes. To learn how to make your own suet, visit our beginner’s guide to suet.

Wild birds do eat suet in the summer months, although most birders prefer to offer it in the fall and winter months as a quick source of heat and energy when other food sources are scarce. Suet can be offered year-round, even in warmer conditions, by using a no-melt variety that has a higher melting point.

When offering suet in the freezing winter months, it’s less important to keep changing out your suet, but more important to keep your bird feeder clean. Clean your feeder every couple of weeks to keep your backyard birds healthy and avoid spreading diseases amongst birds. You can remove the suet temporarily and place it back in the feeder once it has been cleaned.

As temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, keep an eye on your suet and visually inspect it for brown or black mold. Rancid suet has a strong odor, so if you can smell your suet, it’s probably time to replace it.

Store unused suet in a dry, cool place and use it within the recommended dates as advised by the manufacturer.

If you already own and are having success with other bird feeders, try placing the new feeder near the existing feeders. Place your feeder roughly 10 feet from a natural shelter such as trees or shrubs to offer a resting place for birds between feedings and quick refuge from any predators. Be careful not to put feeders much closer than 10 feet from trees or shrubs since it can increase the likelihood of squirrels. Remember, feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet from a window or farther than 15 feet from a window to help prevent fatal window collisions.

Birds may prefer to feed from dependable food sources like existing feeders. If you’re not seeing any visitors at your suet feeder for a few weeks, try temporarily taking down your other bird feeders until the birds find and use the new feeder. Once they are regularly using the new feeder, existing feeders can go back up.

Remember to be patient! It may take several weeks before the birds find and begin feeding regularly from a new feeder. Before making any changes, try waiting at least two weeks to give the birds enough time to discover your feeder. As you try new locations or other changes, be sure to give the birds enough time in between to acclimate to the new modifications.

DON’T stop at just one if you want lots of birds

During the winter months, the suet area will be very popular because it can really help birds gain weight and survive the cold. Try setting out two or three suet feeders if you have the space. This will attract a greater variety of birds.

It could take a few weeks for the birds to locate and start consistently eating from a new feeder, so be patient! Try to wait at least two weeks before making any changes so the birds have time to find your feeder. Make sure you allow the birds enough time to adjust to any new changes as you experiment with different locations or other adjustments.

Offering extra ingredients in suet in the winter, when the heat is not a concern, has the drawback of drawing in some unwanted guests, such as racoons or squirrels. Although most squirrels won’t eat raw suet, they will gravitate toward any nuts or seeds included in suet mixtures. While a hot pepper mixture won’t harm wild birds, it will turn off mammals and possibly drive them away, so some birdwatchers opt for it.

Suet can be consumed raw or rendered, meaning it is melted and then rehardened, and then combined with other ingredients to form cakes or other shapes. Adding additional ingredients is one of the main reasons you might decide to make homemade suet. Adding seeds, grains, fruit, nuts, and even eggshells are common additions. Making their own suet in specific shapes is another reason why some birdwatchers choose to do so. See our beginner’s guide to suet for instructions on creating your own.

Although most birders prefer to offer suet in the fall and winter, wild birds do consume it in the summer as a quick source of heat and energy when other food sources are scarce. Suet can be sold all year round, even in warmer climates, if a no-melt type with a higher melting point is used.

Suet comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as cakes, balls, or logs, and feeder designs change to suit the needs of each variety. Steel mesh cages holding one or more suet cakes are used in the construction of the most popular kind of suet bird feeders. Some suet feeders are longer in order to accommodate larger birds, such as woodpeckers, which enable them to balance their body weight by pressing their tail against the feeder. Some suet feeders expose the suet at the bottom. These feeders are positioned upside-down to help discourage obtrusive birds that prefer to feed upright, such as starlings and grackles.

DON’T leave it where critters can get to it

When purchasing in large quantities, it is important to store your investment somewhere that animals cannot access. An air-tight container is best.

FAQ

What is the best way to hang suet for birds?

When it comes to placement, hang suet in a visible area about 10 to 12 feet from shrubs, trees or another protected perching spot. For feeders with windows nearby, remember to place the suet either within 3 feet of the glass or farther than 30 feet away to keep birds safe from potential collisions.

Can you feed raw suet to birds?

Suet is one of the most popular and beneficial foods you can offer birds. In addition, suet attracts multiple species, so you can be sure it will entice lots of feathered friends to your backyard.

Do you take suet out of package?

To fill a suet feeder, simply take off the plastic wrap, keeping the suet in the plastic container, and insert into a suet basket. Hang the basket so that the suet is facing upside down–wild birds like to eat suet from this angle.

Should you feed suet to birds in the summer?

Suet left out in hot weather can soften and foul birds’ plumage; or it can become rancid. It’s a good idea to take down suet feeders in warm weather. Raw or homemade suet should not be offered in the summer.