Suet feeders can be useful for feeding fats to wild birds. Suet is a food source that can offer wild birds plenty of nutrients and energy. Suet is generally offered over the winter months but the right suet can be offered to birds throughout the year.
Why Use a Suet Feeder?
Using a suet feeder of some kind allows bird lovers to provide fat for backyard birds in a safe, convenient, and appropriate way for the birds that they wish to attract.
Choosing the right bird’s suet feeder and placing it in the right location can go a long way toward creating a bird-friendly space.
Of course, it’s always more important to make sure, wherever possible, that there are natural food sources in your garden – both plant-based foods like fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, and nectar from flowers and the insects that planting can attract.
However, providing suet can help fill gaps in the wild bird’s diet, and supplement the diet they can obtain for themselves in your garden.
What Is Suet and Why Should I Feed It to the Birds?
Suet is the hard, white fat around the kidneys and loins of cattle, sheep, and other livestock. Those who love to feed birds will know that suet is a great food source for them – providing the fat they need to keep up their energy levels, especially over the coldest part of the year.
Suet and lard are animal fats that work well in a homemade bird feeder and are sometimes key ingredients in fat balls and other ready-made feeders for birds that you can buy.
These animal fats are often mixed with seeds, nuts, grains, dried fruits, etc.. to boost the foraged diet of wild birds and give them plenty of protein and other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Why Suet Might Not Always Be the Right Option
Suet and lard provide many of the fats and essential nutrients that birds need. However, providing for birds in this way can come at a cost.
Those who love birds will likely also love other animals and may be reticent to use any animal-derived products to sustain one creature at the expense of another.
Of course, if you are vegetarian or vegan yourself, you won’t want to use these products anywhere in your home or garden.
But even if you don’t have a fundamental ethical problem with animal-derived products, it is worthwhile considering the impacts of the meat industry – especially factory farming – on our planet and all its inhabitants.
If you want to do the right thing for the birds in your garden, you care about the natural world. So your goal, to protect your feathered friends and other life on our planet, should always be to make choices that are as sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical as possible.
Meat and animal fats often come from non-sustainable agricultural systems that cost a lot in terms of their carbon emissions, pollution, and degradation of natural ecosystems.
So, choosing non-animal-derived sources of fats and proteins to feed the birds in your garden can often be a less damaging choice.
One option is to seek out vegetarian and vegan sources of fat and protein – like peanut butter, for example. These can spoil more quickly than traditional suet, but they can be a more sustainable and eco-friendly option.
When to Hang a Suet Feeder
Most people consider a suet feeder to be a great choice for the winter months. Suet will spoil less quickly when the weather is colder or at least cooler, and birds are often in need of sources of fat during this time.
However, in certain cases, it can be helpful to hang suet feeders not only during colder weather but throughout the year, as many suet-loving birds can benefit from this food source during every season.
Where to Place a Suet Feeder
When you decide to place a suet feeder, one of the most important considerations is choosing the right location.
It’s important to consider different locations carefully before making your decisions and to recognize that many options for locations will have both pros and cons.
Some key things to remember when placing a suet feeder are:
- Suet feeders should be placed in a relatively sheltered spot where they won’t blow down or swing too wildly in windy conditions.
- These feeders should be placed out of the way of predators, where birds can feed safely.
- They should be placed in a quiet spot, away from other busy feeders and areas busy with human activity. Too many avian visitors and too much ‘traffic’ can put off some more timid suet-eating birds.
- Suet feeders can be attractive to other wildlife, as well as birds. Therefore, you may need to think carefully about positioning and protection to keep squirrels, raccoons, or other creatures away.
How high off the ground should a suet feeder be?
Often, it’s ideal to place a suet feeder around 4-5 ft minimum above the ground, where you can still reach it to clean and replace it, but where it’s a little more protected from predators and pests.
What Types of Suet Feeders Are Available?
When you’re thinking about where to place a suet feeder, you shouldn’t only think about where to place it but also how you will hang or contain the suet mix.
How do you hang a bird’s suet feeder?
Suet can be used in a range of different bird feeders – there are ready-made solutions that you can buy, but the most eco-friendly and sustainable option is to make your own.
Suet comes in blocks or suet cakes that can be placed in cages or mesh containers. It can also be formed into fat balls or other shapes.
It can be pressed into molds or containers of various kinds that allow it to be hung up from poles or natural tree branches in your garden.
Or, it can simply be chopped or grated and left out on a platform or tray – either a standard bird table or a hanging platform of some kind.
Not only where you hang your feeder, but also how you provide the suet precisely will determine which birds can benefit from your offering.
Listed below are the types of suet feeders available:
Suet Cage Feeders
Cage-type containers for suet are a popular choice. These are metal cage structures into which suet mixes or blocks can be placed.
Cage suet feeders can be placed on a pole or tree, either free-hanging or against the structure to keep them more stable.
To feed a wider variety of backyard birds, the latter can be a better choice, because not all birds can manage to cling on and feed to a free-hanging suet cage feeder.
Upside-Down Suet Feeders
Other popular options have the suet blocks or balls in a container hanging in such a way that birds have to hang it upside down to access it.
These feeders can also be hung from poles or other structures, or a tree in your garden. The idea is that birds can access the suet by clinging to the feeder and accessing the suet from the base.
Why hang suet feeders upside down?
Hanging suet feeders upside down restricts the number of species that can feed from them easily.
Feeding suet to birds in this way can prevent larger birds from feeding and make sure that smaller, clinging birds get their share without the larger ones taking all the bounty.
How do birds find upside-down suet feeders?
Birds are experts at seeking out food sources in the wild. They are used to working for their sustenance and finding items they can eat in the natural environment.
Hang your feeder in an open and visible place and they will be curious enough to come and take a look and will quickly work out where and how to access the food source.
Log Suet Feeders
Another type of specialist suet feeder is a feeder in the form of a log, with plugs or pellets of suet inserted into the log.
This type of feeder can be attractive to birds that typically feed in trees, grubbing insects from the wood.
Pine Cone Suet Feeders and Other Natural Feeders
One of the many easy DIY suet feeders anyone can make is a pine cone suet feeder. All you have to do is collect some pine cones, tie them onto some string or natural twine, then squash bits of suet mix around it, firming it into place.
You can then hang pine cone suet feeders wherever other suet feeders might be placed for an easy way to provide for many different birds in your garden.
You can also press suet into fruit skins, coconut shells, or onto/ into other natural containers, and hang these up in your garden.
Platform Tray Type Suet Feeders
Not all birds will be able to access suet from hanging feeders easily.
So, to increase the number of birds that can benefit, you might also place small chopped pieces or grated pieces of suet and seed blocks into a bird table, platform, or hanging trays, where birds that can’t cling easily can alight and feed.
Choosing the right feeder for the suet-loving birds present in your area, and placing these correctly, is a must for those who want to turn their gardens into truly bird-friendly spaces.