Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cruelty-free bird feeding

I love to feed the birds. In the winter, when food is extremely scarce, suet is a great energy source to provide for our feathered fellow earthlings.

According to Drs. Foster and Smith, suet provides fat -- a concentrated form of energy that provides more than twice the caloric energy of protein or carbohydrates of equivalent weight.

This is important, say Drs. S & F, because birds have very high metabolisms and fat helps them sustain energy longer between meals.

However, suet is essentially beef fat. For those of us who strive for a cruelty-fee lifestyle, this is a conundrum.

While it is not up to us to impose our lifestyles or eating habits on other species, a happy medium is possible in this case.

I found this "psedosuet" recipe in the January 2010 issue of Birds and Blooms. It uses vegetable shortening in place of animal fat. I mixed up a test batch to see how well it works for my Cardinals, Blue Jays, and woodpeckers.

Perfect as Pie "Suet" (submitted by Carla Doering, Mora, Minn.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup wild bird seed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and shortening with a pastry mixer until "crumbly." Note: This step could also be done in a food processor.

Add water as needed to make the mixture easy to shape into balls or cakes.

Use a spoon or plastic spatula to mix in the peanut butter and wild bird seed.

Divide the mixture in half and form into two balls -- or mold cakes to fit a standard suet feeder

For my project, I used mesh bags left over from oranges and onions. Tie the ends securely and hang from a tree branch or feeder hanger.

It will take the birds a while to discover the feeder, so give it time and see what happens. Now if we can only make these squirrel-proof :)

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