Making kid-friendly suet cakes with my children brings back fond childhood memories of Nanny and I doing just the same. My favorite part was mixing the ingredients by hand and getting to smoosh the seeds between my fingers. I am overjoyed to see my kids enjoying those same silly moments. Nanny often made a Suet block by cutting the bottom of a milk carton off and filling it with seed mixture. My crew and I prefer to use our seasonal cookie cutters when doing this craft. Another fond memory I have is speaking with Nanny about the birds and what they did. Andy and I kept the tradition alive by speaking with our kids about our back yard ecosystem and the part that birds play in keeping it healthy.
An added bonus is that the activity and conversation helps to support teachers in the classroom through applied learning. It’s fun, educational, ecosystem friendly and wonderful way to spend the afternoon together!
Why Feed Suet?
Feeding birds during the winter helps to supplement their diets and assists them in building enough fat to endure the cold winter months. Resources are often scarce during the winter and we know that not all birds fly south once the cold months hit. As the temperature drops and the trees begin to lose their leaves, birds lose many of their food sources and shelter is less abundant. High-energy foods like suet cakes can help birds through Winter.
Without food and shelter, birds will migrate to other locations in search of the resources needed to survive the winter months. Or more often than not they become ill and do not survive the winter. Once your backyard bird population becomes ill they also become easy prey for other smaller critters like foxes and the occasional barn cat.
When Spring and Summer arrive, birds that had access to fatty foods and fresh water during Winter will be healthier than birds who had to get by on less. With healthier birds living their best life in your backyard, you can enjoy better pollination- which is important for gardens. Healthier bird populations mean fewer pests, brighter and more colorful birds, and more lovely birdsongs.
Birds also play a huge role in seed spreading. Our birds feast not only on our suet cakes and seeds, but they also enjoy picking through our compost bin. As a result, various seeds are spread and we have mystery plants that sprout here and there. Our first jalapeno plant was a delight because we had not planted jalapenos that year, but nature found a way!
For those who enjoy bird watching, suet feeders attract a variety of different birds to your yard. Of course, the type of seed you offer will determine what types of birds you can attract. We typically purchase a 5lb bag of seed from our local feed store. I tend to prefer brands that have added vitamins and minerals. Typically, the seed bags will have the name and sometimes picture of the birds that you might see feasting on your seed blend in your yard.
Let’s Make Suet Cakes!
Making kid-friendly suet cakes is simple and requires little preparation. Although through my experience it is best to not let the kiddos scoop out of the peanut butter jar with the same spoon that they are using to mix the seed…oopps! and this activity can become a little messy when the seed mixture is transferred to the molds. A good vinyl table cloth comes in handy.
This recipe is super-chill. There is no specific amount of peanut butter or lard or oats – nothing needs to be exact. As long as the mixture is wet when placed in the mold, it will work out just fine. I throw in seeds and dried fruits from the “bottom of the bag” in the pantry. The birds don’t care about freshness – they will love it – and they can’t read expiration dates!!
After mixing your ingredients together, pack the birdseed mixture into a mold. We use cookie cutters most of the time. We find that the deep ones work best, but feel free to experiment. You can also add a piece of twine during this process to create a quick and easy hanger. Skip this step if you plan to use a suet cage. To create a hanger, slide the twine under the cookie cutter before filling and pull so it is over the mold. Don’t tie it off just yet.
After freezing your suet cakes, remove the mold and tie the twine together at the end. When choosing where to hang your cakes, plan to place them outside of windows, around bird baths, or near feeders. Take this time to empty out any bird baths with gunky water and replace with fresh clean water while you are at it. Your back yard birds will thank you for it and will pay it forward this spring.
- Bird Seed – Any Variety
- Peanut Butter (Chunky or Creamy – Your Call)
- Raisins / Dried Fruit
- Lard / Bacon Fat
- Mix all ingredients together in one large bowl until well combined.
- Place suet mixture into mold. Pack by hand as tightly as you can.
- Freeze for 2 hours, or until the cake is solid.
- Remove cake from mold. If mold sticks to cake, try running warm water over the mold to loosen.
- Hang your suet cakes somewhere that you can watch them enjoying their treat!
We hope you will try our kid-friendly suet cakes recipe with your family and make some amazing memories!!
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