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Holiday Homemade Suet Cakes

Suet cakes are commonly fed to wild birds during the winter season, but you can also feed them as a treat to your backyard flock!

A winter themed tin is filled with homemade holiday suet cakes for birds.

Suet cakes are commonly fed to wild birds during the winter season, but you can also feed them as a treat to your backyard flock! Suet cakes are a great winter treat and make wonderful gifts for backyard chicken owners. One of the primary ingredients is fat, making them a great addition to chickens’ diets when fresh greens and foraging are not available in the cold season.

What is suet?

Suet is the fat around the kidneys of cows and sheep. This fat is one of the primary ingredients in commercially produced suet cakes found in retail stores. Homemade suet cakes can be made with other types of fats such as lard from a pig, leftover grease from cooking meat, or coconut oil. Note that homemade suet cakes should be stored frozen to prevent spoiling – more on this later.

Suet Cakes Recipe

Suet cake recipes for our fluffy backyard friends are typically made of a fat source mixed with other goodies such as grains, seeds, grubs, herbs, dried fruit (no sugar added), and unsalted nuts or nut butters. 

The fat source can be tallow, lard, or coconut oil. Using Scratch and Peck Feeds scratch grains is a great way to make the recipe simple and nutritious!

This recipe will use the following ingredients:

  • 1.5 cup of rendered lard or (tallow)
  • 1 cup of Organic Scratch + Corn
  • 1 cup Organic 3-Grain Scratch 
  • 2 Tablespoons of Organic Herbs 
  • 2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary (for decoration – optional) 

Other Optional Ingredients:

  • Grubs (about 3 Tablespoons)

You can adjust the ingredients in this recipe based on your flock’s needs. If you add more dry ingredients, you’ll need to increase the amount of fat you use. Another option is to adjust the ratios of the ingredients listed above.

If you are making this recipe during fall or spring, you may choose to omit or reduce the amount of Organic Scratch + Corn used.

What’s the difference between Scratch and Peck Feeds Scratch + Corn and 3-Grain Scratch?

It’s recommended that you use Scratch + Corn in cold weather because corn is a starchy carbohydrate that provides energy, helping birds stay warm naturally. The chickens’ digestive system works harder to process it, producing extra warmth inside the body. 

The 3-Grain Scratch is a nutritious treat that includes oats, a slow-carb grain that is rich in fiber, takes more time to digest, and helps keep glucose stable which, in turn, helps regulate body temperature and avoid overheating. Use this in the warmer months!

How to Make Suet Cakes

For these homemade suet cakes we are using donut silicone molds to make festive holiday wreaths for our backyard flock.

You can also use any container or pan that you have on hand. If you’re using a rigid container/pan, line the container with parchment paper to easily remove the homemade suet cakes.

This recipe makes about 10 suet donuts.

  1. Melt the tallow or lard in a saucepan over low heat until liquid.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  1. Combine the melted fat with the dry ingredients.
  2. Stir the mixture thoroughly.
  3. Scoop the solids of the mixture into the molds and pour any excess fat into the molds, distributing evenly.
  4. Allow it to cool and solidify. Place the molds in the freezer to speed up the solidification. 
  5. Remove the molds from the freezer and gently press the suet out of the molds.
  6. Loop twine through the center of the frozen suet donut and add two small sprigs of rosemary to make it festive!
  7. Feed the suet to your flock as a treat. Hang it on a roost in their run or place it in a tray on the ground.
  8. Store any extra treats in the freezer until ready to use.

Homemade Suet Storage Instructions

As with any type of food preparation, making suet in bulk batches is the most efficient use of your time and energy. Unless you have a large flock, you will need to store the majority of a bulk-sized batch for a longer period of time.

Homemade suet is perishable and softens quickly. Store the suet in the freezer.

You may see commercially made suet on store shelves, but this is because it uses alternative ingredients (and usually preservatives) to bind the seeds, which makes it stable for storage at room temperature. 

Freezing homemade suet is easy – place the cakes in the freezer while still in the silicone mold, de-mold them once frozen, then store in a plastic container or bag in the freezer. Place parchment paper between layers to prevent the suet from sticking together.

How long does suet last?

It’s best practice to use it within 6 months of freezing, or by the end of winter if the cakes are made in the fall months. Suet will spoil quickly if fed to the birds in warm weather, which is why they are an ideal treat for winter months. If you are feeding it on a warmer day, only feed what the chickens will consume at one time.

Benefits of Providing Homemade Suet

Homemade suet blocks for your chickens provide a host of benefits for the flock. Winter can be a pretty boring time for a chicken, for a few different reasons: lack of fresh greens and insects, frozen ground, and snow cover that prevents scratching and foraging.

Suet provides an alternative way to keep the birds occupied and happy – and you know what they say about happy chickens.

In addition to boosting a chicken’s mental health, suet supplements their physical health as well. The fat binding the herbs and seeds together is one of the most dense forms of energy a bird can find, which is especially important in fall and winter when their typical foraging is limited. In contrast with seeds and grains, fat provides a much quicker source of energy to digest and maintain body heat. As an added bonus, you are able to incorporate a mix of healthy herbs in their winter diet, providing essential nutrients that they are unable to find naturally in their environment.

The last major benefit of homemade suet is for your wallet! You can save a substantial amount of money compared to store bought suet cakes by buying the main ingredients in large quantities and making the suet cakes yourself. The fat can be collected from kitchen grease waste throughout the year that you would have otherwise disposed of. If you have an herb garden, feel free to pluck your own fresh herbs, or your dried herbs that have been preserved from earlier in the season.

Where to Source Lard/Tallow

Lard and tallow can sometimes be challenging to find in the grocery store but the key is knowing where to look. Most stores carry lard or tallow in the organic health foods section of the store. You can also reach out to a local butcher or farm to see if they have any available for purchase.

The most economical option is rendering your own lard and tallow. If you purchase meat in bulk locally, request the fat of the animal. You can render the fat at home by slowly cooking the fat and then straining out the impurities that are created during the cooking process.

Gifts for Chicken Owners

Homemade suet cakes make a great gift for a backyard chicken owner. Here are some fun ways to wrap the gifts:

  1. Wrap the pre-made suet wreaths in a holiday tin.
    • Thrift a festive holiday tin 
    • Line the tin with parchment paper
    • Place the suet wreaths in the tin
    • Place the lid on the tin and wrap it with a reusable holiday bow

Gift the ingredients to make the homemade suet wreaths

  • Place the dry ingredients in a mason jar and tie a festive bow around the jar.
  • Buy a jar of Lard or Tallow (or make your own)
  • Buy a silicone mold (new or thrifted)
  • Thrift a small basket
  • Add the mason jar, fat, and silicone mold to the basket with printed instructions on how to make the homemade suet

Suet Cakes for Chickens

Making suet cakes for chickens is a fun and affordable project. The suet cakes are sure to keep your flock occupied and happy during the winter months. Have fun experimenting with the recipe and trying your own versions!

Written by Alex + Elaina of Mason Dixon Acres

Alex and Elaina are homesteaders located in Southern Pennsylvania. They have been homesteading for five years and have a small flock of backyard chickens. They are passionate about living sustainably and helping others reach their own homesteading goals. To learn more about them go to: https://www.masondixonacres.com/

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