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Make Fat Balls to Attract Birds to Your Garden

Home > London > Fun for Children | Gardening | Nature
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published March 7th 2011
If you've never 'met' a fat ball before, don't let the title put you off. I'm not suggesting anything insalubrious or unsavoury. In fact this recipe, for that's what this is, is very savoury. In both senses of the word:
1. Fat balls are food for birds, ideal for helping the birds in your garden through winter.
2. Fat balls are made mostly of suet, which is beef fat, and seeds – not a sweet in sight.

Here's what they look like:

This might not sound particularly healthy, but it is. The fat is largely there to keep the seeds and nuts together, so that you can hang the balls from trees - which is a lot safer than feeding birds on the ground or on your garden table.

As well as buying seeds specially to make fat balls, you can also add your own food scraps into the mix – if you have any. Stale bread, cake or biscuits, and even crispy bacon, or dried fruits will all be snapped up by visiting birds who would normally be dining on seeds and insects. You just need to make sure you chop everything up nice and finely so that there are no large chunks.

The basic ratio is one part lard to two parts seed and left overs mix.

Step One: Most lard or suet is purchased in solid form so it needs to be chopped up and melted slowly over a low heat.

Step Two: Allow the fat to cool a bit so that it's more of a paste than a liquid.

Step Three: Pour the fat over the seeds, nuts etc. and mix it all around using a spoon.

Step Four: Divide the mixture into even portions about the size of a small apple and hand pack and roll them until they're nice and tight. Then roll them up in foil or cling film and put them in the freezer to set.

If you don't like the idea of getting your hands dirty you can make them in used yogurt pots: put a hole in the bottom first and tie a knot into a loop of string and pass it though the hole, then pour the mixture in around the string. That way when you take them out of the freezer and cut the pots off them you'll already have string through the centre of the balls. Only they'll be more bell shaped than ball shaped.

Step Five: If you make balls, then the nets that you buy oranges and other citrus fruits in are ideal for hanging the balls up outside - if you don't have a proper fat ball holder.

This is a really good recipe for kids, just make sure they're careful with the cooking fat.
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Why? It's lovely to see the birds come down for a snack
When: Make up a big batch before winter, but the birds will appreciate it any time of year.
Where: In your kitchen and garden
Cost: The going rate of a bag of seeds and some suet
Thanks for sharing this lovely idea.
By Jackie C - senior reviewer
Thursday, 26th of April @ 11:29 pm
Kat, I really liked your article and will try that myself for the birds in my backyard. Thanks
By Susan J Bowes - senior reviewer
Thursday, 27th of January @ 08:59 pm
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