With fall finally here and most insects either dying off or burrowing deep into the ground for the winter, my chickens get a lot less of the foraged protein and calories than they would find in the warmer months. Proteins are necessary for egg and feather production and since my hens are currently on their molt they could use all the help they can get. One way I like to give them a little boost is to give them suet. It is typically made from the rendered fat from beef kidneys, but there are plenty of other ways to make suet cakes if you don't have beef fat on hand.
One way I like to make it is with leftover bacon grease. Neil and I make trips frequent trips to The Meat Hook. where they sell smoky, salty Benton's Bacon and Ham, which I often cannot resist...both are pretty much the pork equivalent of crack. If you've had it, you know what I mean. I'll usually make suet with the grease from crisped up bacon about once every week or two. (Don't wan't my girls getting high cholesterol!) If you prefer to not feed your birds pork fat you can substitute it with nut butter of your choice. Heck, you can even add nut butter to the grease mixture if you want. More flavor to savor! The chickens won't mind.
Another reason making suet at home is so easy is that you can add a variety of grains and things that you probably already have in your pantry. Barley, oats, flax seed, coarse ground cornmeal, whatever! Chickens love all of that stuff so throw it on in! Use your best judgement. If your chickens shouldn't be eating it, leave it out. Everything else is fair game.
This is my basic recipe for Suet. Feel free to modify based on what you have available. You can feed it to your chickens pretty much right after mixing, or you can freeze it on a baking sheet, slice to the appropriate size and put it in a suet cage. I just put mine in a plastic bowl that I can wash and re-use later.
Tasty Suet for Chickens or Wild Birds
(enough for one serving for 3-4 hens)
- 1/4 cup of good quality bacon grease, room temperature
- 1/4 cup of organic millet
- 1/4 cup of steel-cut oats
- 2 tablespoons of crushed flax seed
- 4 tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain Hot Cereal or similar
- 4 tablespoons of hulled sunflower seeds
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
Add room temp bacon grease and stir until fully incorporated. Place bowl directly into freezer to harden until ready to feed, or spread on a parchment covered cookie sheet before freezing and slicing to fit a suet cage.
See! Super easy and my girls really love it. A few leaves of kale and a bowl of this in their run in the morning and I swear I've got a bunch of eggs in the nesting box within the hour!