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Friday, January 25, 2013

Homemade Suet: A Warming 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 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 burgers, bacon or other meats.

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.

Here's what you'll need:

Grease/fat  (i.e. from cooking meatloaf, burgers, steak or low-sodium bacon)
Unsalted nuts
Cracked Corn
Sunflower Seeds
Raisins
Cayenne pepper
Heat/freezer safe container
Suet cage

Here's what I do:

You can use any heat and freezer safe container you happen to have in which to store your suet. I use the rectangular Le Creuset mini casseroles because they make suet blocks the perfect size to fit into my feeders (see above photo), 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.


Chop some assorted nuts (peanuts are especially nutritious and a good source of unsaturated fat). Be sure to use only UNsalted nuts.  Arrange them in each dish and then sprinkle some raisins, sunflower seeds and cracked corn on top along with a healthy shake of cayenne pepper.  The cayenne helps to heat the body naturally and also stimulates the hens' circulatory system.  This is extremely beneficial during the cold winter months.


When you cook meat, save and drain your grease (it's okay if there are a few random tidbits of meat in it). Here I have some nice grease draining from a meatloaf that I cooked the other night for us for dinner.  Let the grease cool just a bit and then pour carefully over the nut mixture.


Stir to blend 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, raisins and cayenne as needed.  You can also add other dried fruits or seeds.  Bacon fat can be used but should be used in moderation due to the higher salt/nitrate content than other grease contains.

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 block should pop right out.


I 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.  I use the rectangular Le Creuset mini casserole to fit in this suet cage, but the mini square Le Creuset casserole 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.


Buying Sources for Suet Feeders:



Buying Source for Mini Casseroles:
  


BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST BETTER WITH CHICKENS!


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20 comments:

  1. Great idea--pinned it! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I just gave mine a suet cake today from the store, but they weren't all that thrilled so I finally took it out. Maybe I'll try making my own. Thanks.

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  3. Thanks for a great idea, Lisa!

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  4. My uncle use to own a meat cutting plant. After he retired, he started making What he calls peck and logs. He sells them in WI and CO the last I heard in the grocery stores. You have a wonderful idea.

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  5. What does the cayenne do? I have been wondering if I can give my ladies hot type of peppers ...

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  6. Never mind, just woke up. I see what it does.
    So if I give the chickens hot peppers should it only be in cold weather?

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    1. Better in the winter - but I know some add cayenne to their feed year round. What I would do tho is freeze any hot peppers you have throughout the year and then use them as a winter treat.

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  7. My Mother use to save meat fats and hang it on the pully clothes lines in New York city when I was young ...

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  8. Great idea, I'd love the chicks to have a nice treat!

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  9. Thanks for the tutorial! I never thought of making suet cakes for my chickens. Please consider sharing your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-funky-junky-windchime-at-eco-kids.html

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  10. I have way too much lard from our last pig. This gives me ideas! Would love to have you share this on Wildcrafting Wednesday at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/wildcrafting-wednesday-7.html

    and The HomeAcre Hop tonight at:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/the-homeacre-hop-5.html

    Hope to see you there!

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  11. Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids! I hope you will come link up with us again this week!! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/an-enchanted-childhood-playschool.html

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  12. GREAT IDEA! One thought though - wouldn't the grease have salt in it? Why would you avoid salted nuts?

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    1. It does and you do want to limit salt if you can. A bit won't hurt them. But I do recommend limited the bacon grease, or using low-salt and using the unsalted nuts to further limit the salt content.

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
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