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Why not make your own fat balls for the birds?

fat ball mixWatching the birds feeding just outside the kitchen windows gives me enormous pleasure. Since the bird eating cat that used to lurk in our front garden has moved away there are many more ground feeding birds and quite often I spot mice collecting seeds. Mice in the shrubs are fine. When they come into the house they are a problem.We give the birds mixed seed and fat balls all year. We only put out peanuts in the colder non nesting months as baby birds can choke on peanuts. Finally my large tub of fat balls for the birds has run out. So I decided to make my own. My friend Bunty, pours off all her warm leftover fat into flat plastic containers and she strings these up for the birds. This works well in the depths of winter when it is freezing outside. I tried it once in the summer and the fat melted in the sunshine.

I had a bit of a sniff about on the Internet and discovered that lard or suet seems to be a good fat base for home made fat feeders. There is an interesting thread in the Wild About Britain forum with several recipes and useful suggestions such as adding raisins to the mixture.

I found an old coconut feeder knocking about in the barn. We buy wild bird seed in 25 kilo sacks. So I filled the half coconut shell with mixed seeds and poured the melted lard over the seed. I put it in the fridge to harden. It hangs in a sunny spot and has not melted. Lard is cheap, and the massive sacks of bird seed are under ?10. So this homemade mixture is so much cheaper than the commercially produced balls.

Yesterday I spotted a coconut in the supermarket. After we have gorged on coconut I plan to use the shells to make two more reusable bird fat feeders.

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  1. Eliz Ann Summers

    Hi thanks for the idea, of paper cups, which I can buy straight away, I thought I would have to wait to eat a lot of yoghurt
    Thanks eliz

  2. alan Loftus

    I tend to use yoghurt pots as they are easy to keep clean and you can re-use them for ages

  3. Raymond Baldock

    I have made my own fatballs for a few years now, using lard, wild bird seed and bread. Normally I just roll into balls but will now try the yogourt pots etc, great idea, thanks for the tip.

  4. Aldi occasionly sell large bags of mixed bird seed and of course at aldi prices.we use dripping in our fat fryer, when it is changed, it is poured into small MT yoghurt containers,as it cools into paste like consistency,an amount of seed is added and stirred into an even consistency cooled,Mtd & hung up in a fatball cage 3 or 4 at a time,result,birds aplenty….

  5. Hello there,

    I was searching around for information on how to make my own fat balls for the birds, and I read the bit on your page.

    Later, I found the following piece, on the RSPB Website and thought you might be interested in it.

    “Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds’ feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds’ health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.

    Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on.”

    Best wishes,


  6. weve just had delivered harf a pig weve found it to be very fatty so it would be a good time to make the fat balls for the birds weve mixed seed/dryed fruit & bread in a bowl then poured hot fat over the mix and stired well then poured the mixure into pots and trays letting them cool ive put a couple in the garden and the rest in the fridge for later

    • Jennifer Moss

      Yes I use vegetable suet melted in pan and add meal worm, seed and fruit. Much cheaper than buying them as the birds get through 2 a week including seed feeders.

  7. Paul Hollis

    We use the fatball mix but drill about 10 holes in rustic logs 2.5cm wide & 1.5cm beep with a flat headed drill & fill with the mix & hang them from trees. The birds love them, we even get a greater spotted woodpecker & about 40/50 great & blue tits daily.

  8. Demon Lee

    I came across this site today looking for something else so I thought I would add the following info..

    I don’t like using Lard, it is designed for cooking, real suet however can be obtained FREE in most cases as it is waste. True Suet is the solid fat found around Sheep and Cows Kidneys. My local butcher gives me around 6lb a week in a bag otherwise he would just throw it out.

    I put the hard fat into a large deep roasting tin and place it in the top of a hot oven. As it melts, I take the tray from the oven and drain it through a fine metal sieve into a large saucepan… be patient, it can take a while if you are processing a large amount!

    After a few hours you will have processed the bulk of it and sieved it all. In the bottom of the pan you may be left with a few stubborn lumps… don’t throw these away, I let them cool and just leave them in the garden and on the bird table as the birds love them, especially in the winter months when they need the extra energy to survive the cold.

    The suet I have in liquid form takes a while to cool, I keep around a litre for myself as this is great for making suet pastry for pies and of cause, suet pudding (Spotted Dick).

    The remainder I mix with good quality wild bird seed and add some xtra sunflour seeds and pour into old odd shaped glass jelly moulds I have collected from junk and 2nd hand shops. I buy balls of string and make loops with a large knot and push into the suet/seed mix and when fully set, I hang them in the garden on the trees.

    Since I started doing this, the sparrows in my garden has risen from a handful, to over a 100 on a regular basis, a zillion starlings that fight over them, several blue tits, a couple of Dunnocks, a couple of Redwings during the bad snow over the last 2yrs… and 2 or 3 Wagtails.. all in Urbanised Romford Essex, not best known for it’s wildlife (unless you include the clubbers on a Friday and Sat Night in the Town Centre)

    I have experimented with several variations of the mix, the Robins and Tits definately prefer a ground peanut and mealworm mix, the others prefer the mixed wild seed with unprocessed Sun Flower Seeds.

    • dawn riley

      if you put minced suet in a pan with water and heat until the suet has melted any meatcooks and floats to the top, when the fat hardens the water can be drained off leaving clean fat that can be melted and seed added to.

  9. A Johnson

    It’s true! Birds love fat balls!

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