During these long, frigid winter days it’s been important to find some way to keep our flocks of chickens and guinea hens as warm as possible and entertained. One way we can do that is by giving them special treats full of nutrients that rev up their digestion to help warm them up, and can also give them something to do when they’re stuck inside the coop. Pecking at anything that swings is fun for them!
Hanging a cake of homemade suet in the coop is one way we do that, as seen here, and I wanted to share the recipe I use to make it. While you can buy suet for chickens or wild birds, I like to have more control over what goes into mine. Since suet is not that expensive, it’s not necessarily a money saver to make your own, I don’t think, but it’s easy and fun!
I think it’s safe to say that anything that is good for our farm birds is good for the wild birds as well, so you can use this recipe for either one. There’s a lot of flexibility to this too, amounts don’t have to be exact, and you can mix and match ingredients. Many herbs you have in your cabinet are safe and healthy for chickens, so I have also used thyme and cinnamon. Our thyme bed was huge last year, Luke can attest to that, so I had a lot in the freezer. You can use the dried herbs you have in your cabinet, or fresh herbs as well. I usually freeze and dry some herbs in the fall, so that’s what I’ll use. My home grown herbs are organic too, which is not true of many in my cabinet.
One thing I did not include in my suet that you can is dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries, and nuts. I tend to use mostly what I have in the house already, except for the millet seed* which I had to order. I usually have pumpkin seeds (unsalted is better) around because I snack on them, and our Lab mix Luke likes them too; they are good for all of us! Pumpkin seeds can work as a natural de-wormer for both birds and dogs. For sunflower seeds I get what’s made for the wild birds. It was when feeding the wild birds last winter that I found out how much our chickens loved them.
A funny thing happened when I made my latest batch though – all of the sunflower seeds floated to the top, and all the millet settled in the bottom! That’s OK, the birds didn’t mind. I also used both millet and pumpkin seeds in this recipe. I only had oats on hand, but next time I’ll use cracked corn. Pretty much any combination goes!
Last winter when I cooked whole turkeys, I saved the fat and froze it and that’s what I used for this year’s suet. You can do that with any fat, or you can make your suet fresh after cooking meats. I’d like to get more in the habit of doing that, making it right when I have some fresh drippings, and then freezing the whole suet cake. When I make this recipe, I hang one cake in the coop and freeze the other. The one cake usually only lasts them a few days though, they really like it!
I have not tried this for the wild birds yet, so if you do, please let us know what kinds of birds it attracts! I am definitely going to try it when I make my next batch – the chickens and guinea hens weren’t willing to share it last time. 🙂
I don’t want to take full credit for coming up with this recipe, I put it together after reading recipes on two of my favorite blogs for farming/homesteading information: The Prairie Homestead and Fresh Eggs Daily. My own recipe was a combination of both with some of my own additions/ideas.