It’s Saturday and you’re planning to make some bird seed balls from the large pack of seed that you just purchased the other day. You gather your ingredients and discover that you don’t have any lard in the house. You don’t feel like going on a shopping expedition to find some, so what can you do?
Luckily there are other things you can use to bind your bird seed balls together. If you have some suet handy, you can use this instead of the lard. Alternatively, you can use natural peanut butter that doesn’t have any nasty additives like artificial sweeteners or extra salt. In fact, your local birds will welcome the slight change in diet and flock to your new seed balls.
So, if you don’t have any lard or it’s not something that you would normally buy, here are some ways that you can make bird seed balls without it.
- 1 Is There A Reason Lard Is Commonly Used For Fat Balls?
- 2 How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using Suet
- 3 How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using A Pine Cone
- 4 How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using Peanut Butter
- 5 How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using An Apple
- 6 Some Additional Tips
- 7 What Foods Should You Not Add To Your Bird Seed Balls?
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 Final Thoughts
Is There A Reason Lard Is Commonly Used For Fat Balls?
Before we get onto some alternative, you might be wondering why lard is commonly used to make fat balls for birds. Naturally, it’s a way of helping the various seeds to stick together but is there another benefit to using it?
Glad you asked. There is actually a major benefit to using a saturated fat like lard for your fat balls. You see, during winter, birds need extra fats and carbohydrates to help sustain them. The consumption of additional fats also helps them to ward off the cold in the winter months.
But, don’t worry. There are other binding agents you can use to make your seed balls that have the same benefits for the birds.
How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using Suet
You may or may not be familiar with suet but for those who aren’t, suet is the hard fat found in meats such as lamb, mutton and beef. It’s primarily found around the kidneys and the loins of these animals.
Traditionally, suet was used in many kitchens in the UK for things like pies and savory puddings. It was also a favorite ingredient to use in dumplings and Yorkshire pudding.
Now, onto the instructions. For this recipe you’ll need:
- 1 part suet
- 2 parts bird seed
- Put the suet in a saucepan over low heat so that it will melt to a thick, runny consistency.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the bird seed until everything is well combined.
- Place the mixture in the fridge to make it easier to work.
- Once the mixture is the consistency of pastry dough, you can shape it into balls. Don’t worry if you’ve let it harden for too long because the warmth of your hands will soften it enough to shape into balls.
- When you’ve used all the mixture, let the balls set in the fridge before hanging them outside where the birds can find them.
How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using A Pine Cone
For this recipe, you’re going to need the following:
- 1 part suet
- 2 parts bird seed
- 1 pine cone
- A piece of twine to hang the seed ball
- Warm the suet like before in a saucepan.
- Make sure that the pine cone is relatively clean and tie a length of twine around the bottom.
- Mix the bird seed into the suet and keep mixing until everything is well combine.
- Grab the pine cone and start smearing the mixture in between the individual scales.
- Once you’ve used all the mixture, place the pine cone seed ball in the fridge to allow it set.
- Hang your seed ball on a tree branch that offers some protection from predators.
- Sit quietly and see who comes to have a feed at the lovely treat that you’ve created.
How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using Peanut Butter
In this recipe we’ll be using both suet and peanut butter to add an additional and nutritious fat source to your bird seed balls. Here’s the list of ingredients you’ll need to gather:
- 1 ½ cups of suet
- 1 cup of natural peanut butter with no additives
- 1 ½ cups of bird seed
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 cup of cornmeal
- Warm the suet like before and add the peanut butter.
- Add the bird seed, rolled oats and cornmeal and mix well until combined.
- Place the mixture in the fridge to set a little.
- Once the mixture is workable, shape into balls.
- Put the balls into the fridge again until they’re firm.
- Hang the seed balls outside and watch the birds having some fun.
How To Make Bird Seed Balls Using An Apple
For this recipe, we’re going to use a crunchy apple as the base for our bird seed balls. This will be even more fun for the birds as they consume the seeds and find the juicy apple underneath.
Gather the following ingredients:
- 1 apple
- A good quantity of natural peanut butter with no additives
- A good amount of mixed bird seed
- Poke a few holes in the apple and tie some twine around it for hanging.
- Smear the outside of the apple with peanut butter ensuring that some of it gets into the holes.
- Roll the apple in the bird seed until it’s well coated in seed.
- Hang the seed ball outside and watch the fun.
Some Additional Tips
- If you’ve made the bird seed balls using the pine cone, you can use the same pine cone to make additional seed balls once the birds have finished with it. Just make sure that you clean the cone in boiling water before reusing it. This will remove any bacteria that may be present.
- If you’ve made a greater quantity of bird seed balls than you currently need, you can store the excess ones in the freezer to use later.
- Move your seed balls around to a different location if you find that the birds aren’t finding them. Just make sure that you hang them near some trees or bushes for protection from predators such as cats.
- Check the seed balls regularly to ensure that they haven’t gone moldy. This is especially important if the weather has been wet. If you see any signs of mold, throw the balls away.
- Add some other ingredients to your bird seed balls to give the birds some variety. This could include dried fruits, berries, or raw, crushed peanuts. You could also use a variety of different seeds including sunflower and safflower seeds, or millet.
- Avoid putting out bird seed balls in summer because the fat can soon become rancid in hot weather.
What Foods Should You Not Add To Your Bird Seed Balls?
Although it’s quite possible to substitute lard with other types of binding agents, there are certain products that you should avoid. These include:
- Bacon fat. This is generally high in salt and, therefore, bad for birds.
- Fat left over from cooking meat. This is essentially a breeding ground for bacteria which can harm the birds. It also has the habit of smearing and if this gets onto the feathers of certain birds, it can interfere with the insulating properties of these.
- Polyunsaturated vegetable oils or margarines. These products don’t contain enough of the saturated fats that birds need. They also have a tendency to smear onto the feathers of the birds.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get bird seed to stick together?
One simple solution is to boil some water, add a small amount of gelatin and simmer. This mixture creates a natural glue that will hold the bird seed together.
Can you use butter instead of lard for bird feeders?
Butter is not suitable for birds.
Can birds have olive oil?
Olive oil is fine for all types of birds. It has the same health benefits for birds as it does for humans.
Bird seed balls or fat balls, as they’re sometimes called, are very welcome by the local birds over winter. It’s during the cold weather that birds need more fats in their diet to help them stay warm.
Traditionally, fat balls are made with lard but you can use plenty of other substitutes if you don’t have this on hand or don’t know where to buy it. Consider using suet or peanut butter instead to bind your bird seed balls and to give the local birds some extra much-needed nutrition in their diet.
Once you get into the habit of putting out bird seed balls in your yard, many native birds will be regular visitors in the winter.