How to make fat balls for birds

How to make fat balls for birds

Give garden birds an energy-rich treat by making these fat cakes – we show you how.

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Birds love energy-rich fat balls, which give them all the calories they need to get through cold winter days and nights. You can buy them in the shops but they’re easy to make at home. Simply mix kitchen scraps such as cheese, cake crumbs and dry porridge oats with melted lard or suet, and set in the fridge overnight.

Which birds benefit from fat balls?

Fat balls are popular with blue tits, great tits and long-tailed tits, house sparrows, blackbirds, robins, woodpeckers, nuthatches and blackcaps.

Alternative ingredients

Add rehydrated raisins, currants and sultanas, small pieces of apple or pear, or grated cheese. Crushed peanuts and mealworms can also be added.

Foods to avoid

Avoid using turkey fat, which doesn’t set like suet and lard, and can coat birds’ feathers, preventing them from being able to fly. It can also spread disease. You should also refrain from using raisins and sultanas if you have a dog, as they are poisonous to them. Bear in mind that mealworms are harmful to hedgehogs, so only add these if you’re hanging fat balls in winter, when hedgehogs are hibernating.

Watch Kate Bradbury explain how to make fat balls for birds in our No Fuss video guide:

How to make fat balls for birds

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You Will Need

  • Bowl
  • Lard or suet
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • String or twine
  • Old yoghurt pots
  • Unsalted peanuts
  • Currants
  • Sultanas
  • Oats
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Cake crumbs
  • Grated cheese

Total time:

Including overnight refrigeration time

Step 1

Mix the ingredients

The best ratio for this fat ball recipe is one part fat to two parts dry mixture. Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Mixing together the dry ingredients
Mixing together the dry ingredients for bat balls

Step 2

Add the fat

Melt some lard or suet in a pan and add the dry mix. Stir well until the fat has all been absorbed by the dry mixture, and everything sticks together.

Stirring in the melted fat with the dry ingredients
Stirring in the melted fat with the dry ingredients

Step 3

Make the fat balls

Make a hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot and thread through a length of twine or string, then pack the pot with your warm fat mixture, to make fat balls.

Tie string through the bottom of yoghurt pots and add the mixture
Tie string through the bottom of yoghurt pots and add the mixture

Step 4

Remove the yoghurt pots

Place your fat balls in the fridge overnight to set, then cut through the pot and and peel it away. Tie a big knot at one end of the twine to secure the ball.

Set the cakes in the fridge overnight then remove from the pots
Set the balls in the fridge overnight then remove from the pots

Step 5

Hang the fat balls

Hang the fat ball in a tree or shrub and wait for the birds to come and feast.

Hang out the cakes in a sheltered tree or shrub
Hang out the balls in a sheltered tree or shrub
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Kate Bradbury says

Keep a store of fat cakes in your freezer, taking just one or two out at a time on cold winter days. Never put them out in summer – in very hot weather the fat may melt and could smear onto birds’ feathers, preventing them from being able to fly.

Kate Bradbury