Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For The Birds


As the temperatures dip throughout the Winter months, let's not forget our little feathered friends.
There are many species of birds who do not migrate for the Winter, but instead depend on the habitat they are most familiar with throughout the year, to survive.
During the Winter months the mortality rate of the bird population reaches dangerous levels when the temperature drops.
It is a fact, that a bird can use up roughly ten percent of it's body weight trying to keep warm, on a cold Winter's night.

One of the easiest things we can do, is to provide food and water, during the Winter months.
Hanging suet cakes, and bags of nuts and seeds from branches, are an ideal food source.
Bird feeders can be stocked with a mixture of seeds, and a bird feeding table can also be stocked with kitchen left overs including fats (from meats etc), potatoes, cheeses and pastries.

Homemade suet cakes are simple to make.
They can be made inexpensively, and in bulk quantity offer a wholesome and life sustaining treat for our feathered friends.

Homemade Suet Cakes.
Making homemade suet cakes is simply a matter of melting fat down to a pour-easy consistency, adding a few ingredients of your choosing, then pouring the mixture into a mold. The shape of the mold is determined by the type of suet feeder you'll use.

If you are using lard or shortening for homemade suet cakes, adding equal parts of crunchy peanut butter flour will help maintain correct consistency of regular suet cakes.
To this warm and pour-able mixture you could add rolled oats, bird seed, cornmeal, raisins, unsalted nuts and anything else you think the birds would enjoy.
Then, pour your warm suet 'soup' into the mold (a bread pan where you could slice off bits for your store bought suet feeder, cupcake tins that you could pierce with wire and hang from a tree, etc.)
Keep any unused portions in the freezer for up to two months.
Things You'll Need :Saucepan
lard or beef suet
quick oats
peanut butter (crunchy is better)
bread crumbs
container for mold
bird seed

Step 1Place 1 cup of lard and 1 cup of creamy peanut butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir until melted.
Step 2To the melted shortening mixture, add 3 cups plain cornmeal. Mix thoroughly.
Step 3
Here's the fun part...stir in any combination of the following: quick oats, raisins, chopped apple, bird seed, bread crumbs, or dried berries. Stir until combined.
Step 4Pour into a plastic container lined with aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator to cool.
Step 5Once the suet is cooled and solid, slice into squares and place into your suet cage. Suet cages can be found with the bird feeders at most home centers.
Step 6
Store any remaining squares in the refrigerator.

If you prefer, you can roll out the mixture when cool enough to handle, and using cookie cutters cut into any shape you prefer. Insert a straw to make a hole, and add ribbon or jute string.
Hang from a tree branch.

Just like all other animals birds need water too. Provide a small shallow bowl, filled with gently warmed water. Check the bowl several times a day if possible, to ensure the water is not frozen.

If possible consider a small bird bath which will allow the birds to wash their wings: an important requirement in Winter as their wings become clogged with mud etc.making it difficult to fly.

Lastly, shelter.

Despite their ability to nest in trees and shrubs, providing a warm, draft-free bird house will provide them a safer, and warmer home in these cold months.

Stay warm, dear sweet little friends.....



rusty duck said...

I think I like your cardinals as much as our robins..
Love your suet shapes too. It will be a tough year for the birds if it continues to be so cold.

DJan said...

This is a wonderful post, a reminder of how to keep our sweet little feathered friends happy during winter. Thank you! :-)

Tweedles -- that's me said...

This post makes me sooo happy,,,, cause i know all the birdies are happy

ann said...

Great post. We feed the birds here and provide a heated bird bath. I used to make the suet cakes, but some ranch and feed stores have good bargain cakes that the birds will eat.

Kim said...

Happy new year Jo!
My husband and I love to feed the birds and watch them play.
Peace and Joy,

donna baker said...

Thank you for that post. I do so worry about the animals and birds in winter. I've been known to drive through ice and snow for bird seed.

Patsy said...

Our birds come and go, love to see a new one now and then as the temps here go up and down.

Sami Pat said...

I filled my feeder this morning. As it has snowed through most of the day the sparrows and cardinals have almost emptied it. I also just put out two cans of tuna fish to feed a couple of feral cats who sometimes stop by. Their tummies needed filling too. Thanks for the reminder post about our little friends.