October is one of my favorite months of the year. I love that the hustle and bustle of August and September have started to slow. Harvest time is finishing up, my garden is dormant and school routines have been established. The leaves are changing to beautiful yellows, oranges and reds. All around is a picture perfect view of nature.
At my home, we have had two nights in a row that temperatures dropped to freezing levels. Frost and ice have covered both the grass and my car’s windshield. Winter is on the horizon and this backyard chicken keeper is starting to get into the routine of preparing for the cold weather to come.
One of the ways that I help my Ladies get through the long Michigan winter is by preparing homemade suet blocks. The extra calories help the hens to stay warm. Beef tallow, suet, is a great binder to hold together extra goodies such as cracked corn, sunflower seeds and millet. These provide not only extra calories, but have nutritious value without any preservatives or added chemicals. The rendered beef tallow, alone, can be kept in a sealed mason jar in your basement, pantry or canning cupboard for up to a year, longer if kept in the refrigerator. The mixed up suet cakes can be kept in your refrigerator for up to a year before going rancid. If at any time, a rancid smell develops, please err on the side of caution and do not consume or feed it to any animal, dispose of the product immediately.
Things you will need:
Glass Jar (for holding the tallow)
1 Pound Beef Fat/Suet
¼ Cup of Black Oil Sunflowers
¼ Cup of Cracked Corn
¼ Cup of Corn Meal
½ Cup of Millet Bird Seed
Fine Mesh or Cheesecloth for straining
molds for the shape of suet cake you would like to make
- Begin by chopping your beef fat into small chunks. This makes rendering the fat quicker.
- As your fat is rendered to liquid, scoop out any large pieces of crispy bits or cracklin as we call them.
- While the fat is rendered, prepare your jars by sterilizing them in boiling water.
- Pour into the warm, sterilized, jar using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to catch any left behind bits.
- Allow the Tallow to cool. Mixing your hot tallow with your seeds would cook the the ingredients.
- Once the tallow has cooled to room temperature, before it solidifies, mix your ingredients together.
- Place in molds and allow to cool and harden. The corn meal and cooled tallow will begin to thicken quickly, but to get fully hard I let them set overnight. You can place them into the refrigerator to cool more quickly.
- To serve to your birds, place in a suet cage or serve in a feed bowl. Store the remaining cakes in the refrigerator, wrapped in wax paper and placed inside a storage baggie.
This is a basic recipe for making beef tallow as well as homemade suet for your birds to enjoy. I use these during Fall Molts and through out the winter to give my Ladies a booster of calories. Once you are comfortable working with tallow, you can add different things to your suet cakes. Peanut butter, dried fruits, are all appreciated additions that your flock is sure to love. I feed these during the day and remove them from the chicken area at night. I have had good luck so far with night time predators, but do not like to encourage them by leaving food out at night.