In a recent post, we looked at some ideas for making easy bird feeders for your garden, using recycled drinks bottles as seed feeders. However, I also mentioned that you could make a bird cake, which is a fantastic way to help sustain wild birds through those cold winter months. This is very easy to do (a great activity to try with the kids) and might help to attract new kinds of birds to your garden.
What’s A Bird Cake?!
There are a quite few variations, but bird cakes are generally a combination of regular bird food (seeds, nuts, fruit, grains etc…) and some kind of suitable animal fat such as suet or lard. When combined, the resulting mixture can be formed into various shapes or moulded into containers, ready to be distributed around the garden.
There’s not really any cooking involved and while some people like to melt the lard / suet, it’s not really necessary as you’ll see in a moment.
The high fat content and calorific nature of these cakes makes them ideal for wild birds to keep them going through the cold months, when food is scarce.
What You’ll Need
Fat – Lard or suet
Besides that you’ll need:
- A butter knife to chop up the fat
- A bowl and spoon to mix things up
- A mould or container to shape / hold the mixture
- A pair of scissors and some string / twine to hang your cakes
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) advises to use a good quality bird seed mix and either pure lard or suet for the fat. Please don’t use other fats or oils from cooking as this can actually harm wild birds and cause problems with their feathers.
How To Make A Bird Cake
1. Let the lard / suet warm up to room temperature. Chop it up into small pieces and add them to the bowl.
2. Add in your other ingredients and mix everything together using your hands or a spoon. Ideally you’ll want to use around 1 part fat to 2 parts seed mix.
3. You should end up with a stiff but malleable mixture, that can then be pressed into a mould or container. The cake will set hard when cold.
How To Present Your Bird Cakes
You can hang your bird cakes anywhere around the garden, where birds can land safely and away from predators. Cats are a major threat, so try to place them up high and away from things like fences and shed roofs. If you don’t have anywhere to hang your cakes, then the mixture can just be placed out on a bird table.
Here are some fun ideas to try…
This video from Chester Zoo shows you how to re-use old yoghurt pots to make quick ‘upside-down’ bird cakes.
If you’re feeling creative and have a cookie cutter handy, why not try making bird cake cookies for your visitors to enjoy!
Simply roll your bird cake mixture into balls and place around the garden or hang them up in a wire feeder.
This video from the RSPB shows how to make cupcakes for your feathery friends, although in this example it does involve melting the fat first.
Bird Cake Mugs
For a slightly more refined dining experience, you might like to offer your wild birds some afternoon tea! Simply press your cake mixture into a mug, add a stick for a perch and hang from the handle and have yourself a bird cake tea party!
Re-used Plastic Milk Bottle Feeder
A slight variation on the last idea – we tried reusing a plastic milk bottle to make a very cheap and eco-friendly bird cake feeder.
If you don’t have any containers, then of course, you can just place your bird cakes out on the bird table.
Get some good quality bird seed, mix it with lard or suet and that’s pretty much it!
Of course, you can easily buy bird cake or fat balls from many shops and online sellers, but there’s something rewarding about making your own. Try adding different nuts or fruit to the recipe and see what new visitors you might attract. Besides that, there are all sorts of fun ways to present your bird cake and you really don’t have to spend anything.
Overall, this is cheap and easy way to help wild birds keep up their energy levels and survive through the cold winter months. Let us know how your bird cakes turned out in the comments below. We’d also love to hear about which types of birds have been enjoying your bird cake masterpieces!