Jan 9, 2017 | Featured Web Article

Winter Bird-feeding Tip: Offer Suet Dough in Moderation

Eastern bluebirds are just one species that will gorge on suet dough when it is offered at a backyard feeding station.
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When winter weather comes we all want to do everything we can to provide for our backyard birds. High-energy foods such as suet dough are super attractive to a wide array of species. It may also attract creepers, bluebirds, and shy woodland species that do not normally visit our bird feeders.

It's important that we don't over feed fatty foods because too much of a good thing can cause health problems for our beloved birds. Imagine if all you ate all day, every day, was a constant stream of fast-food hamburgers—you'd soon experience health consequences. Birds that overindulge in suet dough can exhibit gout-like symptoms in their feet and legs. The best way to offer these popular foods is in moderation: a handful in the morning and another handful at night. This frequency and volume benefits the birds without causing unfortunate side effects.

Suet Dough Recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup lard
  • 2 cups unmedicated chick starter (available at farm/feed stores)
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 2 cups plain yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour

Melt peanut butter and lard together in the microwave or over very low heat on the stovetop. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.

Allow to cool and harden, then chop into chunks and store at room temperature in jars. Serve crumbled in a shallow dish. Attracts bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, jays, wrens, thrashers, orioles, cardinals, and towhees. To get bluebirds to accept it, start by feeding mealworms (about eight per bird per feeding), then gradually cut down the number of mealworms while mixing in crumbled dough. In their haste to gobble down the dwindling mealworms, they will get some dough and within a few days should be hooked on it.

NOTE: Although it's an excellent cold-weather supplement, this dough is too rich to be fed in warmer weather, and may cause gout in bluebirds. Feed sparingly and wisely.



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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018