It can be hard to attract birds in your yard, so getting a suet feeder is a great way to start, especially if you want to feed backyard birds in the winter weather.
Suet feeders are easy enough to find at the pet supply store, but hanging them correctly can be difficult for some people. If you don’t hang it right, birds may not be able to find it, creatures that were not intended for the suet will take over, or the suet will fall out and then no birds will be able to benefit from that feeder.
We’ve put together this article with instructions on how to hang a suet feeder the right way so that you’ll have more success attracting birds into your yard. Follow these steps and helpful tips, and we know you’ll see more of those beautiful feathered friends!
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- What is Suet?
- Why Feed Suet to Birds?
- How to Hang a Suet Feeder
- Types of Suet Feeders to Consider
- How to Keep Suet From Going Bad
- How to Keep Pests Away From Your Suet Feeder
- Conclusion: How to Hang a Suet Feeder
What is Suet?
Suet is basically pure fat that comes from beef or mutton, and when commonly used, most are beef fat. Since suet does not spoil easily when temperatures are cooler, and it offers a high caloric content for birds to help them stay warm in winter (providing up to 100 calories per ounce of suet), many gardeners and bird enthusiasts leave out these little shops of pure fat in order to attract birds.
Suet is attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and starlings in particular. Suet feeders are visited by wrens, creepers, kinglets, and even cardinals and some warblers on occasion.
Suet cakes or suet blocks in feeders are made with suet, bird seeds, dried insects, and other favorite foods. Suet is an excellent source of protein and energy for winter birds, as well as a great source of nutrients during the winter.
Suet can be made at home or purchased, and often includes oats, cornmeal, wheat flour, or peanut butter, making it even more appealing to the birds.
Why Feed Suet to Birds?
Why do birds want to eat suet? Well, suet provides high-calorie food for especially active, busy birds. It is also a good source of calcium to help them build strong bones.
Suet is a wonderful source of food for birds during the winter. When the weather is cold, many birds rely on fat to help them survive freezing temperatures.
Many birds are able to digest and metabolize animal fat readily; it’s a high-energy food, especially welcome in the cold.
How to Hang a Suet Feeder
Placing your suet feeder in a spot that will attract birds is the goal. Let’s go over some of the most important tips for hanging the suet feeder.
1 | Buy good quality suet feed
First, if you’re going to purchase the suet, make sure you know the difference between a quality product and a lesser one. You want to choose one that has very little or no preservatives in it.
The suet should be high in protein, with fat and protein ingredients listed first. So, check out the ingredients list. If the main ingredient is fat but there are only minor amounts of protein and carbohydrate ingredients, steer clear.
2 | Keep it in the shade
Placing your suet feeders in shaded areas will help keep them fresher for longer. Moisture and heat can make your suet go bad quickly. So, make sure you place your suet feeders in a shady spot that is protected from harsh winds and direct sun.
It is best not to put out more suet than the birds can consume in one or two days. This is because suet goes bad quickly when it is warm out; because it is comprised mainly of fat you’ll be able to literally see that it is melting and becoming quite messy.
You’ll want to make sure and remove the melting suet for more than the mess it can make. Bird feathers contain natural waterproofing, and dripping fat can damage them.
Store your suet in the freezer or refrigerator until you need it.
If you see that suet remains after being out for a week, it’s time to replace it.
3 | Keep it off the ground
Animals other than birds will be interested in the suet, so it’s best to keep it off of the ground.
It’s best to place your suet feeders at least 5 feet off of the ground, as that will keep them out of the reach of dogs and other small animals. It is better if you use a wire mesh or netting, or place it in a mesh bag to help keep larger animals from getting into it.
Make sure the suet feeder is not at risk for rain or snow leakage, or water pooling around it if you live in an area where there is snowfall; this could cause wood to rot, wire mesh to rust through, and other issues.
4 | Keep it away from the seed feeders
Suet feeders should be placed on their own poles and not too close to seed feeders. Suet feeding birds can be quite timid and wary of their surroundings.
Flocks of seed feeding birds can startle them and scare them away.
5 | Hang the suet feeder where it can be seen
Where you place the suet feeder is important, particularly if you want birds to actually come to it and feed. Initially, you may need to place it in an open area so the birds will notice it.
Once they are feeding regularly you can then move it to a less conspicuous location where they will feel safe feeding.
If you have seed feeders in the area, it is best to keep them separate from suet feeders, as mentioned previously.
Birds that feed on suet are likely to be found in trees or bushes rather than on the ground.
6 | How to hang the suet feeder
Suet feeders are fairly simple to hang. You can either hook them, place them on a stake, or mount them on top of a bird feeder pole. Hanging the suet feeder is easy because it doesn’t have perches or drainage holes. Just make sure that you don’t damage the feeder when you hang it.
Hanging the suet feeder from a tree branch is always an option, although it will be more accessible to pesky squirrels and raccoons if you choose this type of location.
Birds that eat suet often don’t land on the ground because they aren’t readily able to find food there. Instead, they typically feed on suet from high perches like tree branches or fence tops.
General guidelines for hanging bird seed and suet feeders:
Our friends at ottowa.wbu.com have created a simple visual that is very helpful:
Whether it is a suet feeder or seed feeder, place it within 3 feet of a building (like your house!) or further than 10 feet to minimize window collisions. This is for the safety of the birds. Millions of birds are killed each year by flying into windows.
If you are trying to deter squirrels from the suet feeder, keep in mind that they can’t jump higher than 3 1/2 feet. They can, however, jump from above or from the side, from about 10 feet away.
Types of Suet Feeders to Consider
There are several different types of suet cages for bird feeding. Here are some of the most widely used suet feeders:
A suet cage is the most popular type of feeder.
Suet cages, which are made of wire and are easy to use, are ideal for independent hanging and attaching to other feeders. Tail props for clinging birds and covers to protect the suet from the elements and predators are two features that can be part of the basic suet cage.
These cages have the advantage of being suitable for birds with larger beaks, as well as those that like to perch on feeders.
Suet cage feeders can be attached to branches or suspended from the hook without a problem.
Similar to the suet cage, the suet ball doesn’t require any tools or equipment for hanging. It is also convenient because it only takes seconds to fill with suet.
They are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, some with a small roof over them to protect your feathered friends.
Suet logs make a natural-looking suet feeder.
Suet logs feeders are made from simple logs (many times with recycled natural log material) with drilled holes, then filled with suet. They may be purchased or constructed readily, and they’re especially beneficial in providing a natural perch for birds while keeping the suet dry and protected.
Many suet logs are constructed from weather-hard resin, and suet can be purchased that fits perfectly into the logs. Keep it simple!
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Mesh bag – bird feeder socks
Mesh bags are a great choice for small birds.
Suet-filled mesh bags are suitable for cakes, balls, or chunks without the need for distinct sizes, and they provide a fantastic location for tiny clinging birds.
The mesh bag is typically made of polyester so it doesn’t rust or corrode, and the metal hanger makes it easy to attach.
Once filled with suet, this feeder becomes an instant hit for nuthatches, brown creepers, wrens, house finches, mockingbirds, and juncos.
How to Keep Suet From Going Bad
Suet feed will go bad quickly in warm temperatures. To slow this process, keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it. If you won’t be using your suet feed for a while, store it in a jar or other container with a lid and place that into the refrigerator or freezer instead of storing the suet itself.
Only put out as much suet as you think the birds can consume in a couple of days.
And, change the suet out regularly. If you notice it is melting, replace it immediately.
Suet that has been out for about a week should be exchanged for fresh suet.
Make your own suet
Do you want to try your hand at making bird suet? Here is a simple recipe that is a vegetarian version of suet, so no animal fat is in it, and instead it is made with shortening:
• 1 1/2 cups shortening (look for palm oil free options)
• 3/4 cups nut butter (any kind)
• 3 1/2 cups wild bird seed
• 1 cup quick oats
• 1/2 cup corn meal
• Ice cube tray
1. Mix the dry ingredients of bird seed, oats, and corn meal together and set aside.
2. Combine the shortening and nut butter in a separate bowl and melt. Stir until completely combined.
3. Pour the melted mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
4. Spoon mixture into the ice cube tray.
5. Freeze for one to two hours and place in your suet feeder!
Note: Not recommended for outdoor temperatures above 50 degrees
How to Keep Pests Away From Your Suet Feeder
Suet is extremely popular with starlings. Offer suet in a feeder that has birds eating upside down to discourage them. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches will readily use it, but starlings will not be able to do so.
Raccoons are a bigger issue than squirrels when it comes to hanging feeders from a tree limb since they are stronger. Rather than sliding down a chain, they haul the feeder up to the limb.
Hanging feeders with a tree hook rather than a chain or rope make it more difficult for the raccoons to pull up. The longer the tree hook, the better. Raccoon problems can also be easily addressed by using baffled poles.
Conclusion: How to Hang a Suet Feeder
Hanging a suet feeder in the right spot is important because it can attract more birds and keep them safe from predators. These 6 helpful tips should help you do just that.
To prevent your suet from going bad, store it properly until you are ready to use it. Finally, make sure pests aren’t eating all of your hard-earned bird food by taking these precautions!