Homemade Suet for Chickens
A Winter Bird Suet Recipe that You Can Customize Year-Round!
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Suet blocks for chicks and poultry are popular among poultry keepers, and a large retail market has formed around selling them. Little do people know, suet for chickens is easy to create and your flock will go crazy over it! The main ingredient to have on hand for making suet cakes: fat. Healthy animal and vegetable fat is the element that binds the other ingredients together. Before jumping in to make suet cakes it is important to know why they are healthy and why they are good to have on hand.
Suet for Chickens: a Healthy Boredom Buster Treat
Suet cakes are not only healthy treats for chickens, they help to minimize boredom and pecking issues within the flock, especially a flock which is kept in an enclosed space. Suet blocks can be catered to the season or based on the needs of the bird.
- Summer — utilize peanut butter, herbs, whole grains, seeds;
- Fall, for molting — suet, dried bugs, dried herbs, whole grains, seeds, black oil sunflower seeds;
- Winter, for warmth — suet, dried corn, whole grains, black oil sunflower seeds, herbs;
- Spring, empty the pantry — suet, dried fruits and herbs, oats, seeds,
The ingredients will change; however, one thing which will remain the same: suet must be used.
Ideal for Molting
During molting season, create a suet recipe which is high in protein for your flock. Add items such as black oil sunflower seeds and dried grubs promote feather growth.
Perfect Winter Treats
In the winter months, especially for those who reside in extreme temperatures, suet blocks add healthy fats to your chickens’ diet. Slightly fattening your birds will keep them warm during the coldest parts of winter. It is during this time which many people add whole or cracked corn to suet blocks. When given in small amounts, corn is beneficial for your bird; giving your chickens corn cobs during the summer is also a great boredom busting treat. Make sure to minimize the amount of scratch grain to give your flock.
Suet Blocks for Chicks
A suet block for chicks will contain the same ingredients as one created for mature poultry. Chicks can consume the same types of grains and seeds, dried fruit, and the same choice of suet as adult birds; however, the ingredients must be small enough for easy digestion. A food chopper, NutriBullet, or food processor can chop whole ingredients for younger poultry.
What is Suet? Selecting the Best Fat Option
It is the suet that binds the ingredients together.
Suet cakes are made with natural fats such as tallow, lard, meat drippings (hamburger or bacon grease), poultry fats (chicken or duck fat), and coconut oil. Traditionally, animal fats were used in a winter bird suet recipe, however, many of the animal fats are hard to come by. For this reason, coconut oil has become a popular choice among backyard chicken keepers for vegan suet. Can birds eat coconut oil? Not only is it readily available at many markets, coconut oil is high in saturated fats making it a healthy option for chickens and wild birds.
Unlike the other fats mentioned, bacon grease contains high amounts of salt, which is not healthy for chickens and other poultry. Chickens are not able to consume high amounts of salt and when a large amount is consumed it can become toxic. With that said, poultry do need a small amount of salt to thrive; without it a chick’s growth is slow and the birds often have little energy with dull feathers. Salt is already added to many balanced chicken feeds, so mix bacon grease with another fat, cutting back on the amount of salt offered. Or avoid using meat drippings altogether.
Another alternative to rendered fat and coconut oil is low-sodium peanut butter. Can chickens eat peanut butter? Yes! Peanut butter is much less expensive than the other fats suggested, not to mention it is an ideal ingredient for making homemade peanut butter suet cakes during the summer months since it holds its shape well. Peanut butter contains vitamins A, C, D, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, choline, and betaine which are essential to strong bones and eggs.
Grains, Seeds, Whole Corn Kernels
Chickens are not picky eaters, though we as poultry keepers are picky as to what our birds consume. For this reason, healthy ingredients are suggested for this suet recipe. Can chickens eat wild bird seed? It’s one of the healthiest ingredients to add to suet for chickens.
- Whole Grains — wheat, barley, oats;
- Seeds — dried peas, millet, black oil sunflower seeds or shelled sunflower seeds, and even packaged bird seeds;
- Nuts — chopped, unsalted nuts of any variety;
- Whole or cracked corn.
Feel free to mix and match the ingredients based on what you have available.
Dried Fruit and Herbs
Dried fruits are good to add to homemade suet for birds like chicks and adult poultry; however, they should be offered in small quantities since they are high in sugar. A few common dried fruits found in suet for chickens include raisins, cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries, though any type of fruit can be used.
Dried herbs are also an excellent item to add to suet recipes. Oregano, thyme, and sage are immune-boosting herbs for chicks as well as adult birds.
Add a little excitement, and extra protein, to suet cake recipes for birds by adding dried bugs. Mealworms, grubs, soldier fly larvae, and even crickets are beneficial for your flock of all ages. Dried bugs are exceptionally healthy. Feel free to add as much as your flock will consume.
Storing Pre-Made Suet Cakes
Suet cakes can be made in bulk and stored in the freezer to prevent them from turning rancid. In the right conditions, suet blocks can last for days but watch for any signs of mold and spoilage. Also keep in mind that suet blocks which are left out, especially at night, will attract rodents.
Homemade Suet Cakes for Chickens: a Simple Suet Recipe
- 2 cups coconut oil, or suet of choice
- ½ cup black oil sunflower seeds
- 2 cups whole grains
- ¼ cup raisins
- 5 tablespoons dried grubs
- silicon mold
- mixing bowl
- suet holder, or rope
- Melt the coconut oil or suet until it is liquid.
- Add the ingredients.
- Place all ingredients into a silicone mold.
- Cover with a dishtowel and allow to harden.
- Remove from the silicone mold and place it into the suet holder.
Make suet for chickens together as a family. Your children will enjoy making treats for the flock, as a matter of fact, this makes an excellent learning experience for little ones. Also, a suet recipe can be modified according to what is in season. Create multiple cakes and see which your birds enjoy the most. It might become your chickens’ favorite food!
Originally published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.