How To Make Fat Balls For Birds (UK Guide)
Once Autumn has gone and Winter is upon us it gets more difficult for wild birds to find food. Many insects have hibernated, and most of the seed bearing plants have died off. We can help keep the wild bird population alive and well, and attract them to our garden by making our own fat balls. These can be bought from many pet shops but they are easy to make and fun to do especially if you have children or grandchildren looking for something to do.
Ingredients Used For Fat Balls
There are many ingredients that can be used to make fat balls that will help to sustain wild birds through the winter, they include:
- Wild bird seed
- Dried fruit
- Sunflower seeds
- Raw oats
How To Make Fat Balls
Just follow these easy steps to attract many wild birds to your garden this winter.
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl
This includes wild bird seeds, dried fruit,nuts,sunflower seeds and raw oats.
- Add lard or suet (or a combination of both) that has been heated to room temperature, either on a hob or in a microwave
Work to a ratio of ⅔ dried ingredients to ⅓ lard.
- Fully mix all ingredients
Make sure to cover all of the dry ingredients with the lard.
- Place mixed ingredients into yogurt pots, pine cones, or roll into balls
Pine cones should be tied at one end then work mixture into each section. Cut a small hole into the bottom of the yogurt pots and thread some twine through the hole, knot the end onto a small piece of wood to stop it from falling off the yogurt pot. Roll mixture into balls about 2 inches in diameter.
- Place filled pots. Cones and balls into a refrigerator overnight.
Once the fat has hardened take the pine cones and tie to trees, cut yogurt pots off and tie twine to trees, place fat balls on bird tables or in fat ball holders.
- If the fat balls have not been eaten after a day or so reposition.
Be aware of cats and other predators and place the twine balls appropriately.
The pine cones can be reused for the next batch of fat balls just wash them thoroughly before reusing.
What Not To Use When Making Fat Balls
There are many ingredients that can be added to the fat balls, but there are a few that will cause the birds harm. These include:
- Bacon Fat
Bacon fat tends to have a high salt content which is not good for birds.
- Fat left over from cooked meat
This will usually smear and coat birds feathers which can cause birds to get ill. Plus it affects the birds waterproofing and insulating abilities.
- Bread crumbs
Birds will readily eat bread crumbs but they add nothing nutritional to the bird’s diet. They will fill up on empty calories and as a result they can die from malnutrition.
- Polyunsaturated margarine or vegetable oils
These can also affect the waterproofing and insulating qualities of bird feathers. Plus are also devoid of the saturated fats that birds need to survive.
- Cooked oats
Cooked oats are very glutinous and can stick to birds feathers and cause them all sorts of problems.
- Turkey fat
Turkey fat can get into birds feathers and affect their waterproofing and insulation.
After a few weeks you will find your garden is visited regularly by a host and variety of wild birds. As long as you keep on feeding them, they will keep on visiting.
Birds need water, sometimes during the Winter months all their water sources are frozen so if possible place a birdbath or even just a shallow bowl somewhere in your garden and replace daily. Check it regularly and replace the water if it’s frozen. You will find more and more wild birds will frequent your garden if you give them a clean source of freshwater.
Be aware of cats, don’t place the birdbath or bowl anywhere near a suitable hiding place for cats or other predators. The same applies for the fat balls too. You are hoping to help the wild bird population in your area, not feed the cats.
Frequently Asked Questions
It works out slightly cheaper to make your own fat balls for the birds, but homemade fat balls are going to have better ingredients which are going to be better for the birds. Plus they’re fun to make.
It is not advisable to use butter to make fat balls for birds. The butter can get into the bird’s feathers and affect their waterproofing and insulation.
Coconut oil can be used instead of lard or suet, for bird fat balls. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat which is beneficial for birds especially through the Winter months.