My Dad is always nagging me to feed the birds. I’ve always resisted because, well, enticing the poor little mites into the garden with the promise of food only for them to be then hunted down and eaten by my evil house pets is not my idea of benevolence. But… it is snowing and they do look terribly hungry and a little bit bored too. So I thought, let’s help the little chaps out.
So I decided to look online for an easy-to-make-at-home bird feeder. I found a recipe, and it erm… required the following: Lard, Suet and bird seed. Well I have the bird seed but since I don’t live in the 1940s I’m all out of LARD! Who the heck has lard in their cupboard anymore – people who are on a ‘die quickly’ regime? Anyway, let’s not get this out of perspective.
Another one required a pine cone that you smear with peanut butter and then stick seed to. A-ha! now we’re talking. I didn’t haven’t a pine cone (don’t get me started on that one too) but I did have, wait for it… an Apple!
So I made some holes in the Apple, put a string through it. Smeared it with peanut butter and…
rolled it in bird seed. Well it looked good. Whether the birds will appreciate it remains to be seen.
Just made one. I’ll leave it in the conservatory tonight to let the peanut butter harden off a bit as it’s dark outside now. It’ll be interesting to see how it gets on alongside the other (conventional) feeders.
Word of warning. I shouldn’t have used my wife’s extra crunchy peanut butter. It works fine, but I got a good telling off for using her favourite spread. :o)
What a great idea! The birds in my garden turn their beaks up at ordinary birdseed, but they’re quite happy too eat bread and apples off the ground. Maybe I could tempt them with this – I might even be tempted to eat it myself…
I normally have lard in the freezer just to make bird fat balls but thanks for the alternative, will be a good upgrade on throwing out spoilt apples onto the lawn.
The peanut butter, pine cone & birdseed combo is a favorite elementary school craft project in the states (at least in Colorado, where it’s easy to find pine cones)! I made many of them in my childhood. :) I’m glad the birds at MTP can benefit from it. I’m sure Jackson would love helping make one too!
I keep lard to make soap. But we don’t eat it. Not that desperate yet although I know plenty of people who grew up on it and it didn’t kill them.
we’ve been feeding the birds a lot this year, but moreso over the winter season. I made a bird seed loaf with Trex: a vegetable fat last month, and my husband has been throwing apples in the tree. This is a much neater idea, fresh fruits, fat and seeds in one.
I think lard is now supposed to be good for you. Anyway, my husband uses beef suet when he can find it but lard is okay in the winter when its lower melting point won’t matter. You can also save drippings if you roast meat. Commercial cakes (in different flavors!) are widely available here (New England) along with the wire containers to hang from a tree. We save the plastic trays from the packaging and use them to mold the homemade cakes.
lard? Well I’m not one for lardy food, but I believe the grease coming from sausages done in the oven/grill is pure lard…
I like your apple one very much and peanut butter, brilliant idea!
Great idea… will try it out.
What a brilliant idea. I just chopped up 4 tired apples tonight to feed to the hens, who are extremely well fed anyway. Next time I will try your idea. Hope the squirrels dont monopolise it though.
I always have lard in my fridge – to make pastry! What else do you use? Anyway my birds prefer the meat drippings and bread, cake and nuts mixed up. The cats like it too – which is a pity.
The lard is quite useful to the birds in winter as it is an excellent source of calories for them.
But instead of lard, what I do is simply keep a plastic container in my fridge, into which gets poured every bit of fat from the frying or oven pans, when I cook. When I have enough, I then melt it down and make a seed cake with it.
The only thing you have to consider is salt content – salt isn’t particularly good for birds – but as I tend to season on the plate, rather than in the pan, this isn’t an issue for me.
However, I have to say your fruity seed balls look excellent, and the birds will love them! And I guess it’s also a good way to use any fruit that’s a little soft – the birds certainly won’t mind.
I don’t feed the birds because I’m afraid rats will come and live in my garden…. sigh.
Will try this out – had been trying to think of alternatives to pine cones but the brain was not working – must be the snow.
I was reading the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) website this morning to check what’s a good idea to feed birds and what’s not and came across this:
“Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds’ feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds’ health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.
Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on.”
Just thought I’d pass it on given the comments above! :)
This is wonderful! I’ve been wanting to do the same but, like you, have no spare pine cones lying around. Or lard (go figure…). This treat looks so tasty I would eat it!
I love lard! Pastry, refried beans, delicious! That aside, lard is much less expensive than peanut butter and is less desirable to squirrels. Marauding squirrels are a huge garden problem in my neck of the woods and I love to encourage the birds but keep the squirrels looking elsewhere…
This is a tried and tested recipe the birds go nuts for:
500g room temperature lard
1 jar crunchy unsalted peanut butter
5 cups stale rice crispies or cornflakes or similar
6 cups oats
Squidge it all together by hand in a washing up bowl (its a messy job!) then divide into burger sized portions, pat into shape and cover in a mix of 2 cups sunflower seeds and 2 cups raisins. I wrap each portion in cling film and they keep for several weeks in a cool place. The easiest way to present these is to place in a small flat bird feeder cage hung from a branch or feeding station. These square cages are easily obtained from pet shops or stores like Homebase and are intended for the blocks of bird food fat impregnated with dried fruit, etc.. This recipe is a much cheaper solution and fun to make, especially with children.
Lard is vital for birds and we should all make a huge effort to feed them not just in this bad weather, but all year round. It’s an easily adapted recipe, too – last month I used some ancient dried cranberries instead of raisins, which went down a treat!
Great idea, and the birds can eat the apple too which they wouldn’t be able to do with a pine cone.
About time too,looks great,hang it high egnough out of that demon Marty,s way.
I must second the comment above with a plea of “please don’t feed the birds animal fat!” It isn’t good for them.
Your seeded apple, however, looks fabulous. I’m sure our birds would appreciate one too!
Also, the answer the why lard one is more about the evolution of survival than it is diet. When food was not as readily available the way it is now, people had to seek out extremely calorie dense foods to get them through the winter. Hence canning, dehydrating and curing, too. It was about survival! This need for calorie dense foods is why we love sweet foods so much- we evolved to eat lots and lots of calories when we found them, to keep us through the lean times. The main problem is that our palate hasn’t evolved nearly as quickly as the food industry has!
So, did the birds like it?
You can use coconut butter (or coconut fat, or whatever it’s called in English, haha) instead of lard!
Melt the coconut butter, mix with lots of bird seeds and bread crumbs, spoon it into paper or plastic cups (add a string if you want, to hang it in), stand it aside to solidify, remove the cups. Tadaaaa! :)
I’m new to blogging and eager to learn. Enjoyed you bird feeder post. I started my veg garden in earnest last summer and was partially succesful. I will follow your exploites with interest!
We don’t just use any old pine cones when we make our feeders, we use the gargantuan cones from my grandfather’s sugar pine. They’re about the size and shape of an (American) football. We use peanut butter on those though, rather than lard. The only real advantage to using those big ol’ cones over your apples, though, is that they have large, deep crevices which can hold loads of peanut butter and seeds. Really heavy though, so you have to have somewhere sturdy to hang it from. But, not only do the birds love it, the squirrels do too. If you want to attract beneficial birds and bugs during the winter months, I’d see if there are any winter-blooming flowers available in your area. We keep an entire row of flowers just for the sake of attracting beneficial insects and birds.
Just pointing out, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight. Unlike many margarines and vegetable shortenings, unhydrogenated lard contains no trans fat. Basically lard is actually more heart health then butter, and makes a better pastry.
I always have lard around as the children and I make pine cone birdfeeders quite regularly (http://tinyurl.com/ygdzylo).
Have to say though, I prefer the look of yours – did it work? Round here, I fear the local gang of starlings would make short work of it – they really are just feathered yobs!
Lard certainly does make the best pastry! Wish we could get it in the U.S. We have Crisco fat and something called Manteca but it’s nowhere near as good as the old UK lard.
Dripping and lard is grreeat on bread with a little salt if you don’t have butter (butter was severely rationed for several years after WW2) in the UK.
Say….Don’t feed the birds bread either! I was reading this week, it’s a killer for birds. It gets moldy and it infects their respiratory systems. It attracts vermin too. Sunflower seeds (with the shell on) are great and I find them cheap. I have a ‘fort Knox’ box that closes when a squirrel jumps on board or else the little blighters would eat everything!
We moved from Lard several years ago. We find that people want healthier options all the time and the bird feeders we offer now get great feedback. Great post by the way. Its interesting to know that the lard bird feeders are dying a death now.
Some people seem to mind exactly which birds eat the birdfeed. I have rooks and magpies on my balcony from time to time, and they’re just as welcome to the food as the robins and sparrows!
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Lard is easier to digest for our feathered friends….peanut butter can stick to their gizzards so mix it half and half.
I just googled pine cone, peanut butter bird feeder and happened upon your gem of a blog. I love it. You are very creative.
I disagree with some of your other commenters about animal fats being bad for birds, but you do need to choose carefully how it’s prepared. Here’s a page of feeding advice from the RSPB which includes the fats they can and can’t eat.
We feed our wild birds every day, many times a day, and I’ve been blogging about it for a while now too. We don’t have lard or suet in our house but I know quite a few people who do – they have it in stock only for the wild birds and they make their own fatballs from it. We buy our fatballs – they usually contain suet and dried insects or suet and dried fruit. We also feed mealworms, bread and various other things.
The only problem with using peanut butter is that where it ‘originated’, in the USA, theirs doesn’t have a high salt content, ours does. Lots of salt isn’t good for birds. You could maybe make your own peanut butter but if you do, make sure that the nuts you use don’t have pesticides on them. The other problem with peanut butter is you’ll find that squirrels (and possibly other rodential characters) will eat it instead!
Hope you don’t mind the advice!
they are too hard