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Posts Tagged ‘bird food’

I have been meaning to tackle this subject for some time now as I have been re-creating my own version of suet cakes for some time. Recently, I found a better way to do that (suet cakes), plus I had occasion to make one of those pressed seed cakes that have no suet in them. More on that later.

Those of us who feed the birds know all about suet cakes: you can purchase them for as  little as $0.99. They have names like “Woodpecker Mix” to “Sunflower” and even “Insect”. Nearly all of them are a little bit of suet, a little bit of the seed or insect mix, and a lot of cracked corn chips. The cracked corn usually ends up discarded at the bottom of the tree because the birds don’t particularly care for it – at least in my yard.

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store bought suet filled with cracked corn

I suspect GMOs in corn products. I don’t want to feed birds with GMOs. I can’t find any pre-made suet cakes that are marked “certified GMO free”, not even those approved by Audubon. So I have been melting down store-bought suet cakes, draining the suet off, and pouring it over my own blend of nuts & mealworms.

I tried rendering my own suet. You can ask for unrendered suet at your butcher’s, or purchase it online. Rendering is, well, not for the faint. It stinks. There’s tissue & blood. It stinks. You don’t get much out of it for the price and work involved. I crossed that idea off my list.

Then I found a source for pure rendered suet with no additives!

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One cake of already rendered suet melted down and poured over my own mix of mealworms and hot pepper flakes (not too hot) makes about two such goody-filled suet cakes. Better yet, the squirrels really don’t like this: no tasty fillers or nuts! The mealworms are available at any feed store & are pretty cheap. I haven’t tried live mealworms.

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I do all this in a vintage double boiler I picked up at a thrift store or a yard sale long ago. I rarely clean it as I store left over suet inside of it. Its only use is to render bird food.

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suet-mealworms-pepper flakes. That’s it.

The woodpeckers have been working on this for the past couple of weeks. I have two such suet cakes hanging out: one hidden for the smaller birds and this one for the many woodpeckers. The squirrels haven’t touched it.

Squirrels. If there are also nuts or cracked corn or any other filler in the suet cakes the squirrels in my yard (all 95 of them) make short work of them. I have – very rarely – been able to find suet-and-insect cakes that contain no fillers, but they tend to cost more. One squirrel can decimate a suet cake in a few days – the clowns that frequent our yard can do it in two.

Which brings me to recipe #2. I started buying those pressed insect-and-seed cakes that don’t contain suet. The squirrels love those. They distract the wee beasties for a short period of time (two days, I believe is their record for devouring one of those.

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They cost more ($7 and up) so I don’t buy very many of them. I’ve yet to attract woodpeckers to them (they go for the suet cakes first). And… I’m primarily interested in feeding birds, not squirrels.

However (cutting to the chase here), I happened to have a bag of stale nuts I needed to get rid of. I washed the salt off and bagged them, thinking I’d find a way to feed them to the squirrels. The original plan was to add them to the suet cakes, which is all well and good, but the hanger I have is for the large seed cakes as pictured above. The cakes I made for the squirrels floated in the bottom of that hanger.

Brilliant me: I read the ingredients (gelatin?). Ohhhh. Light bulb. I can try and make my own seed-and-nut cakes to fit that big hanger AND use up the stale nuts and old walnuts.

Rather than research it on the Internet, I simply jumped in with a couple packets of Knox plain gelatin, a home-made mold, and a press of those old nuts, sunflower seeds, and mealworms. Prepare the gelatin by sprinkling the 3 packets onto 3/4 cup of cold water, let sit while you boil the other 3/4’s cup of water, combine and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Mold into the mixture of nuts. Press into the homemade mold and refrigerate.

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(Aside – I refrigerate the suet cakes as well. It makes getting them out of the mold a whole lot easier when they’ve hardened).

A couple of hours later – Ta da! Voilá! It stayed stuck together and filled the cage.

Five minutes after coming back into the house, my effort was stamped with Eastern Gray Squirrel approval. I expect it will be gone by tomorrow morning, but this is a lot cheaper than buying the damn squirrels food. I have a couple gallons of old walnuts and gelatin is cheap.

 

 

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