Search

Homemade Suet: A Warming Winter Chicken Treat

Excess fat in your chickens' diet should be limited, just as it should in your own diet.  But when it comes to providing an excellent energy source in the cold weather, you just can't beat fat.

It provides nearly twice the sustained energy of carbs and also slows the rate of food digestion, thereby increasing the absorption of the nutrients in the feed your flock eats. 

Of course you can buy commercial suet blocks, but I prefer to make my own.

That way I know exactly what is going into them and they're inexpensive to make - it's a great way to use the grease that would otherwise just throw away.

The suet blocks are easy and very inexpensive to make if you save grease throughout the year any time you cook greasy meats (i.e. from cooking meatloaf, sausage, burgers, poultry, steak or low-sodium bacon - we're lucky to have a friend who gives us homemade bacon with no preservatives or chemicals in it). I pour the melted grease into a container and store it in the freezer until I am ready to make the suet cakes.

Choosing to keep the process simple, I don't render the fat or otherwise make it stable for long-term or room temperature storage, so the suet should be kept in the freezer until ready to use and then only fed in portions that your chickens will eat fairly quickly.


Homemade Suet: A Warming Winter Chicken Treat

Here's what you'll need:

Grease/fat**  
Unsalted shelled nuts like peanuts, walnuts or almonds
Cracked corn, wheat, barley and other grains
Sunflower,  sesame or other types of seeds
Dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries
Spices including black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic, brewers yeast

Heat/freezer safe container
Suet cage

**Bacon fat can be used, but should be used in moderation due to the higher salt/nitrate content than other types of grease

You can use any heat and freezer safe container you happen to have in which to store your suet. I often use the rectangular or square Le Creuset mini casseroles because they make suet blocks the perfect size to fit into my wild bird suet feeders, but you can use any container you wish.

You can even use a larger cake pan and just cut the finished suet into smaller pieces to fit your suet cages.

Or you can make the suet in a pot or skillet with a hole in the handle so you can hang it right in your chicken run! 


What I Do:

The Fats

When you cook meat, save and drain your grease (it's okay if there are a few random tidbits of meat in it). Let the grease cool just a bit and then pour it into your dish. 


The Nuts and Seeds

Then sprinkle in some assorted nuts (unsalted peanuts are especially nutritious and a good source of unsaturated fat in the winter), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, grains such as wheat or barley, cracked corn, etc.


The Spices

Add a healthy shake of spice. Various spices have wonderful health benefits for chickens including cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon and brewers yeast with garlic. 

Black pepper is good for respiratory healthy, cayenne helps to heat the body naturally and also stimulates the hens' circulatory system.  This is extremely beneficial during the cold winter months to help prevent frostbite.  

Cinnamon helps with respiratory and circulatory health, and brewers yeast is a great source of protein and garlic boosts the immune system.

Fruits and Veggies

Dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, apricots etc. are all chicken favorites, or you can add some chopped vegetables to the suet.

Stir to blend all the ingredients and then put the dish into the freezer.  You can continue to add "layers" to your container each time you have leftover grease, adding more nuts, seeds, and raisins as needed. I store the suet in the freezer until winter and then start doling it out on cold days.

To serve, remove the container from the freezer and run a butter knife along the outer edge. Turn the container upside down and gently tap on the counter. Your suet cake should pop right out.

Or if you're using a handled pot or pan, simply hang it in your run.

I like to put the block in a bird suet feeder, which is perfect for my homemade suet blocks.  It keeps them out of the dirt and off the ground. The mini square Le Creuset casserole dish makes a square that fits in the standard wild bird suet cage.

I feed only what my hens will eat over the course of half an hour or so to be sure the suet doesn't go rancid (which really isn't much of an issue when temps go below freezing anyway!).

But trust me, the suet won't last that long!

I feel good knowing that I am not only helping our chickens deal with the cold, but also making good use of grease that I would otherwise throw out.

For this neat idea, plus dozens more, grab a copy of my book 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks, available from Amazon.com or where ever books are sold.




©2013 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc. All rights reserved.