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After putting out suet in my yard successfully for many years, I have solved many suet problems. Offering suet is deceptively simple . . . if you pick the right feeder and right location. You want to keep squirrels and raccoons out of the suet and keep starlings and grackles from eating it all, while still keeping woodpeckers and other suet loving birds happy.
How to Keep Squirrels Out of Suet?
The best way to keep squirrels out of suet is to hang it in a suet feeder on a pole protected by barrel type squirrel or raccoon baffle. Next best way is to hang it from a branch under an Erva extra-large baffle, making sure that the suet is well outside of squirrel jumping distance from every direction. See my Squirrels, Poles & Baffles Post for more on putting feeders on baffled poles. (If you instead plan to hang the feeder from a branch and need to choose a hanging baffle, be sure to see my post on Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle.)
Does Hot Pepper Keep Squirrels From Eating Suet?
Yes and no. In my experience, most of the time, hot pepper flavored suet is not something squirrels like and will mostly leave alone. BUT, if squirrels get hungry enough, especially in winter, they will eat it if they can reach it.
How to Keep Raccoons Out of Suet?
As with squirrels, the best solution is to hang it in a suet feeder on a pole, this time protected with a longer barrel type raccoon baffle. If that doesn’t do it or this isn’t an option, then you’ll probably need to bring it inside at night to keep raccoons from running off with it (along with the suet feeder itself.) Check out my A Raccoon is Eating My Suet post.
How to Keep Starlings and Grackles From Eating All the Suet?
European Starlings like to sit on suet feeders and eat and eat and eat until it is gone. Small groups of Common Grackles can sometimes also get quite aggressive about eating suet too. Limit them by using upside-down suet feeders instead of regular open cage feeders or other feeders that let starlings and grackles sit comfortably to eat their fill. They will still visit upside-down feeders and dangle briefly, but not for long periods at a time and not long enough to eat it all.
There are also feeders that put suet deep inside a cage so that only small birds can get to the suet. I recently started using an Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder as a way to offer suet to smaller birds and block out larger nuisance birds like starlings and grackles. Because it also blocks out larger woodpeckers, I still do use upside-down suet feeders as well.
Where to Put a Suet Feeder?
In my yard, I have a million squirrels (or at least it seems like it.) The best place in this situation is to hang it on a pole. If you don’t have squirrel or raccoon issues, check out my Where To Hang a Suet Feeder post for more ideas. If you have trouble with starlings or grackles using the barrel baffle on a pole to get to feeders, see my post on Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet.
Where to Put a Suet Feeder If I Don’t Want to Use a Pole?
Check out my Where To Hang a Suet Feeder post for more ideas on where to hang suet feeders.
What’s With All the Commercial Suet Flavors?
Most commercial suet blocks include extra things like nuts or blueberries or mealworms or whatever that are supposed to appeal to different birds. I’ve tried quite a few of them and in my yard, and I honestly have not noticed strong bird preferences for any particular flavor additions. Maybe a slight partiality to added nuts? The suet eating birds in my yard eat any of them.
What About 100% Pure Suet?
Commercial suet blocks that are 100% pure suet without any additions are less common. Pure suet will melt in hot weather unfortunately. Melted suet can coat a bird’s feathers and cause them serious problems. Dripping suet can also make a mess. So this is something to use ONLY in cold weather. (I store any leftover in a cool basement in warmer months.)
I purchased some of these blocks to try out this past winter. Two of my five suet feeders contain the more common suet with extra seed and nuts included. One often contains a Nutsie block. When it got cold, I filled the final two with pure suet blocks. The woodpeckers seemed quite content to eat this pure suet at about the same rate as they ate other types of suet. Other birds were not as thrilled and seemed to strongly prefer suet with additions like peanuts.
Once the mixed “blackbird” flocks of early spring arrived, I watched what they did on the two types of suet. European Starlings and Common Grackles avoided the pure suet blocks. If they tried dangling on one of the feeders with pure suet, they immediately moved off the feeder to one with a block with peanuts added. This doesn’t prove that they won’t go for pure suet, but it does seem to show a very strong preference. This does leave the pure suet available to other birds. (Note: See my post on “Suet Starlings & Grackles Won’t Eat? for more on this.)
What About “No-Melt” Suet?
Manufacturers of “no-melt” suet render their suet extra times and also include additions to the rendered beef fat that help it not to melt in hot weather. If you are offering suet in warm weather, look for “no-melt” or “feed year round” or something similar on the suet’s label. The Spruce has a good article on “How to Keep Suet From Melting in the Summer.”
How to Choose High Quality Suet?
Read the package ingredient list. Look for rendered beef fat as the first ingredient. Nuts (as the second ingredient) can be an extra protein source and are often enjoyed by the same birds that eat suet but are not a requirement.
If you can, avoid ingredients like corn, wheat or milo. Some of these are just filler that probably won’t be eaten by any birds. Others attract birds you probably don’t want on the suet and may not be eaten by the birds you do want to see. Sometimes wheat flour is added to make “no melt” versions.
I’ve used Pine Tree Farms suet for many years and like the quality. I have never had trouble with it and my local birds seem to like it. This past winter I experimented with blocks of C&S Pure Suet purchased from Amazon. It is rendered suet with no extra ingredients at all. (Only use this type in cold weather as in hot weather it will melt and can also go rancid. See above.)
What About Nutsie Seed Cakes?
Nutsie Seed Cakes are an alternative to suet that tends to be popular with the same group of birds. The ingredients list is: “mixed tree nuts, peanuts, sunflower hearts, pecans, dried fruit, gelatin”. The 10-oz version is sized the same as regular suet cakes so they can be offered in the same types of feeder that are designed for regular square suet cakes.
Caution: Squirrels also LOVE Nutsie Seed Cakes so make sure you hang these where squirrels can’t get to them unless you are trying to feed squirrels!
Why Use Upside-down Suet Feeders?
Most of the birds that backyard birdwatchers are putting out suet to feed can easily cling and eat upside down. Nuisance birds that try to dominate the feeder and eat all the suet typically have a harder time hanging on upside-down for very long.
While they won’t keep them off completely, using an upside-down suet feeder limits the amount of time the annoying birds spend on the suet and gives clinging birds like woodpeckers, wrens and nuthatches a chance to eat. In my opinion, these feeders are well worth it. (I have five!) Here is a post reviewing the Birds Choice Upside-down Suet Feeders I use in my yard.
What About Erva’s Starling-Proof Suet Feeder?
An alternative to upside-down suet feeders is a suet feeder inside an outer cage. This type of feeder allows small birds to get to the suet but blocks larger birds who can’t fit through the outer cage’s wire grid. I recently started using an Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder in addition to my upside-down suet feeders. It works for small woodpeckers and other small clinging birds but is not for larger woodpeckers.
How to Tweak My Cage Suet Feeder?
If you already have a traditional simple cage suet feeder and an upside-down suet feeder is not in your budget, you can tweak it to turn it into a sort-of upside-down suet feeder. It isn’t as pretty and you’ll need to maintain it, but it does help limit annoying nuisance birds from completely dominating the feeder. You can read about how to tweak your feeder in my Starling Proofing The Suet post.
How to Help Birds Find Suet Hidden in an Upside-down Suet Feeder?
If you have switched from a cage suet feeder to an upside-down suet feeder but your backyard birds aren’t using it, don’t despair. They may need a little bit of help from you to show them where the suet can be found. You can read about how I did this in my yard in my Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeder post.
Why Don’t Birds Come To My Suet Feeder?
There could be a variety of reasons. First, it can take days or even weeks for birds to discover a new feeder. Or maybe you have hung the feeder in an area that is too busy (with human activity, predator activity or even too much bird activity. Woodpeckers can be skittish.) Or there may not currently be suet eating birds in your immediate area. (Check out my Choosing Seed For Backyard Birds post for a list of which east coast birds eat suet.) Also, be sure that the suet is fresh. Also see my post on When Birds Don’t Come to Feeders.
Can Suet Go Bad?
Yes. Keep an eye on the suet you offer to be sure it stays fresh. Raw suet can go rancid fairly quickly in high temperatures. You can try putting your suet feeders in the shade to keep them a little cooler, but rendered “no-melt” or “year round” suet is a better choice in warm weather.
Mold can also grow on exposed suet surfaces even on year-round varieties. In my experience, this happens more in wet weather especially in more open suet feeders. Covered feeders that protect suet from rain seem to slow this down. Check the suet in your feeders periodically to make sure it is still mold-free.
Why Buy Commercial Suet?
There are recipes online for making your own suet and I’m not at all knocking them. People who make it often say that birds prefer it. So more power to them. But I personally find commercial suet cakes to be very easy to use, less trouble and the birds seem happy with them so I haven’t made my own.
More Questions About Suet?
Solving suet and suet feeder problems is doable. Most solutions boil down to the right feeder with the right suet in the right location. If you have more questions about offering suet to birds in your backyard, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer.
Want to Read More About Suet? (Click on this link to filter the blog feed to show only posts in the “Suet” category.
Some of My Other Suet Posts:
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