The temperatures are beginning to drop and its finally starting to feel a bit more like winter – time to give our little garden birds a helping hand! Some of our garden birds are officially in decline (such as the house sparrow) but a lot of them simply suffer from reduced resources as our towns lose green spaces to concrete (such as front gardens being turned into driveways). This makes it harder for them to find food, which is especially important to survive in colder weather. There’s lots we can do to help them out, such as making delicious, fat-filled bird cakes! YUM.
YOU WILL NEED:
Bag of suet
Mix of dry food – seeds and nuts (I use some of my normal seed bird food with a few extras in), grated cheese
Saucepan, wooden spoon, hob, mixing bowl
Plastic containers or yoghurt pots
Chicken wire/wire mesh and string
Pour your powered suet into the saucepan and heat over the hob, striring occasionally, until it turns into liquid (it looks a bit like melted butter).
While your suet is melting, gather your dry ingredients together. I used some of my normal bird food seed mix, along with some peanuts (make sure they’re not salted or flavoured or anything!) which I smashed up with a pestle and mortar as they are a bit too big. Adding some cheese is good as its more yummy fat! The important thing is the amount – you want roughly TWICE THE AMOUNT OF DRY INGREDIENTS TO SUET.
Pour all the dried ingredients into a mixing bowl, and give it a quick stir. By now your suet should have melted so pour that in and combine the wet with the dry. Don’t spend too long doing this as the suet will begin to cool and harden and you need it to be nice and runny for the next step.
Pour you mixture into your plastic containers. There are a couple of different ways to do this…
I’ve had the most success with the ‘slab cake’ method: pour the mixture into an old take-away container. Leave to cool, either in the fridge or just sitting cool, it will only take about an hour or so, but do make sure its properly hard and set.
Press your cake out of the plastic container – ideally your cake will stay in a nice neat rectangle but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t (you can see in the photo that mine has cracked right across the middle – this is probably because I needed a higher suet:dry ratio). Next grab your wire mesh, you want to wrap it round the cake to make a holder that the birds can use to sit on, and you can use to hang it. My wire is pretty thick and chunky (I just used what I had lying around in the shed), you could go a bit thinner but the birds do need something to hold on to. Tie some string to the stop ready to be hung.
Another popular option is to use old yoghurt pots: to do this one, you’ll need to prep the pot before you pour the mixture in. Make a hole in the base of the pot, then pull some string through. Tie a knot inside the pot but also make sure you leave about 4cm of string dangling inside too. The rest of the string (about 30cm) should hang outside – the pot is going to hang upside so you need a decent length of string to tie it to the branch. Then leave to cool and set. Cut the plastic pot off from around the bird cake, and then use the string to hang from a branch.
Tie your cakes quite close to a branch rather than letting it dangle too much otherwise it will blow around in the wind and be too tricky for the birds to get to! If you’ve got cats (like me) get those cakes as high in the tree as you can.
And then wait… and hope news of your delicious, home-made cakes spreads far and wide to all the local garden birds.
Hope you enjoyed my first tutorial – if you make some yourself, please share some photos of them ‘in action’ on my Beetle Cherry Facebook page!