|Suet: Fun-to-Make Bird Food for Winter|
My grandson enjoyed painting a soda liter bottle. I forgot to tell him the bottle would hang upside down. But we decided that was the way the birds would want it. Now they can enjoy Brody's painting while they sit in the tree or fly above it. I used an Exacto knife to cut two small holes opposite each other in the "top" and pushed a wire through for hanging. Then I cut two holes about one-fourth above the bottom of the bottle and Brody poked a stick through. One-half inch above those holes are small holes that a bird can put his beak into to get the birdseed. You could also use an electric drill to cut the holes - but being a former kindergarten teacher, I find Exacto knives have a lot of uses and aren't as dangerous as some of my husband's tools.
Children love smearing peanut butter on a pine cone then rolling it in bird seed. When I taught school, it was a favorite activity for students, probably because they enjoyed the rolling, sensory motion of putting the seeds on. More than a few fingers put that peanut butter in their mouths. Vegetable shortening could be used instead of peanut products if allergies are an issue. Tie a piece of yarn, string or wire around the tip of the cone and hang it from a tree near a branch. I buy 50 pound bags of chicken or hen scratch at the feed store (about $12.00) and the birds, chickens and guineas all enjoy it. Add unshelled sunflower seeds and peanuts to attract cardinals and blueyjays. The birds also enjoy safflower seeds but they are more expensive.
We made a bird Suet mixture. Suet is raw beef or mutton fat. Due to its high energy content, suet is used by cold weather explorers to supplement the high daily energy requirement needed to travel in such climates. For bird food, it is all right to substitute lard or peanut butter. This recipe was found on Fun Food and Facts. I halved the recipe and it made the tray of fat "cookies" above. You can find more household bird food recipes and a chart of the birds that are attracted to certain foods on Home for Wild Birds as well as how to upcycle a milk jug to make a bird feeder.
BIRD SUET RECIPE
2 lb. of Suet or Lard, vegetable shortening or peanut butter
6 cups Cornmeal
3 cups Wheat flour
4 cups Oatmeal
2 cups Peanut Hearts (I substituted unsalted shelled sunflower seeds)
Optional: raisins or other dried fruit, nuts, peppers
Soften the lard to room temperature. Stir in the other ingredients a couple of cups at a time until the mixture is quite thick. Children will love mixing this with their hands. Roll it out with a rolling pin and let children cut out "cookies." Freeze. The mixture can also be frozen in tuna cans or plastic tubs about 4 inches by 4 inches which would fit nicely in wire suet cage feeders. You could push thin chicken or fishing wire through the thick cookie before freezing. Children would be proud to give these suet cookies as gifts. I caught the mischievous Elf sitting on the cookie tray nibbling some of our Suet mixture, so it must be good.
Educational Benefits of Teaching Children to Appreciate Birds:
- Reading: Buy or borrow bird books or field guilds from the library so children can search and identify the various species they observe and learn their names, habitats, diets, flying feats and interesting facts.
- Writing: Encourage children to keep a Bird Watching Journal. Perhaps they will be inspired to write a story about a bird.
- Math: Teach them to record and count how many times they see a particular species of bird during a specified time, perhaps making a calendar chart.
- Science: Buy a pair of binoculars to make it more fun for spotting and observing birds. Recording and learning facts about critters are important steps in science exploration.
- Health: Being outdoors in nature will help children relax and appreciate our fascinating world.
- Patience: We have been trying to attract cardinals into our yard since we moved here. After four years, we finally have cardinals!
I love to sit on my back porch and listen to the symphony of bird songs. It takes me back to when I was a child and would hear them in my Kansas neighborhood where we had many trees. I close my eyes, take deep breaths and focus on the amazing array of bird songs. It brings me a feeling of home, hope, comfort and gratefulness for God's critters.
For a glimpse into Kindergarten see my book. Would you like inexpensive ideas, activities, and games to teach your child through play? We can help save your sanity, one project at a time, with The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn. Both are bestsellers and helpful gifts for parents and teachers. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Kobo.