Make Your Own UnSuet-Suet: A Favourite Treat For Winter Birds

I was noticing a lot of nuthatches and woodpeckers living in the pine trees at the back of the yard but I could never seem to lure them to the bird feeders until I cracked open the peanut butter and made a batch of UnSuet-Suet. I much prefer using this to commercial suet due to occasional food quality issues (link no longer active).

When I first put it out, it was like watching this old Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Beefaroni commercial where dozens of children come out of the woodwork and race to The Coliseum (seriously?) to gobble up their lunch. Just imagine the children are birds and the Beefaroni is UnSuet-Suet.

Yes, 60 seconds is way too long for an ad. And yes, I feel old seeing this again.

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The peanut butter is so alluring that birds that normally avoid each other end up feeding together in ignorant bliss. Good food can do that to you. Though I’m not sure Beefaroni could.

UnSuet Suet Recipe

For one 2x4x4″ suet feeder

  • 1.5 cups birdseed
  • handful of peanuts in the shell
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or the least amount of peanut butter you can use and still hold the birdseed together)

Mix the birdseed and peanut butter thoroughly so you have no globs (safer for birds). Add in the shelled peanuts and spoon into suet feeder. You want as much birdseed as the peanut butter can hold together.

 A Note About Giving Peanut Butter To Birds

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology “In winter, especially in cold climates, peanut butter is a nutritious food to offer birds. Peanut butter sold in grocery stores is certified safe for human consumption, and is safe to offer birds when cold or cool temperatures keep it fairly hard. In warmer weather it must not be kept outside long enough to become rancid or soft.

There is some concern that soft peanut butter can stick to birds’ mouths. To make it grittier, cornmeal can be added, but because both corn and peanuts provide excellent media for bacterial and fungal growth, make sure peanut butter feeders are cleaned out frequently. Peanut oils can separate in both pure peanut butter and in mixtures. If these oils adhere to a nesting bird’s feathers, they can be transferred to eggs, plugging the pores, so never provide peanut butter mixtures that become soft or oily.”

Empress v Squirrels

I now suspend my suet cage from a tree branch. With the exception of Super Squirrel (who can fly down a rope  like a firefighter on pole), it’s too high off the ground and too far down from the tree branch for mere mortal squirrels to reach it:

This is what first happened when I hung it near a tree trunk:

Which then provoked this:

More Fall and Winter Gardening Ideas

This post is included in a collection by Our Fairfield Home & Garden on Charming Birds To The Garden.

Charming Birds To Your Garden


  1. Crafty Gardener says

    We have had lots of nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers. Today we had a pileated woodpecker at the base of the old tree. I need to make some suet as well. I use a very similar recipe but add a bit of vegetable shortening that has been melted and then add it to the mixture and it helps set everything into place.

    • says

      Hi Linda,
      Sounds like a good idea with the veg shortening. Here the unsuet-suet is gone within a day of setting it out so I don’t need to worry about it. Lucky you to have the pileated woodpecker come by. I usually just see them in the woods.

  2. says

    OK, sounds good, but my big problem with anything that has peanut butter is that all the birds that come in motorcycle gangs and barbarian hordes (english sparrows, grackles, starlings …) swoop in and devour it pronto. They are not interested in the regular suet I use which is a big hit with the woodpeckers (mostly downies).

    After the grackles and starlings are gone I put out shelled peanuts in a peanut feeder. Just started with the peanuts again, and the white and red breasted nuthatches have returned after a long absence.

    As to Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, in my house we were all about the mini-raviolis, which I used to give to my kids for breakfast. They liked it, I swear!

    • says

      Yes, but did your kids run all the way to The Coliseum for it? Okay, maybe they did.

      I seem to get the gangs mainly during spring migration. Maybe I should put ravioli out for them?

    • says

      The problem is, squirrels are so large, they consume vast quantities, making it unaffordable to do. The amount that feeds one or two squirrels would satisfy hundreds of birds. And, if the squirrels are feeding, all the birds stay away.

    • says

      I find that if I hang the feeder at just the right height from a tree branch, the squirrels can’t jump up to it from the ground or down to it from the branch.

  3. says

    I made suet cakes one winter and had spooned the mix into cupcake cups to set in the fridge. Hubby came walking down the hall from the kitchen that night..”Honey..these cookies aren’t very good”, chewing away…

  4. Lynne says

    Lol @ Wendy’s hubby… mine came in from mowing the lawn and chugged more than a half litre of hummingbird food before realizing it wasn’t water! :)

    • says

      Hi Darlene, I can’t bring myself to use a pepper-type additive because it’s not really been studied to know if it actually does bother the birds. At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology they say:
      “Some bird watchers have been using seeds that are coated with hot pepper or capsaicin products. Theoretically, squirrels avoid the coated seed while birds are unaffected. Although birds naturally eat chile seeds in the wild with no ill effects, no studies have specifically verified that this practice is safe for birds at your feeder.” So, for now, I try other things.

  5. says

    I have made my own ‘suet” hangers before, but I made them in the late fall when the weather was cool to cold and used them all winter long. The critters loved them. I had the recipe for them and can’t find it now, but it consisted of about 1 cup of lard, (not shortening) 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter, and mix in enough bird seed to make it hold together. I then put it in 9X13 cake pans just about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Enough to fill a feeder cage. I then put it in the freezer almost to the point of frozen, took it out and cut it into squares large enough to fit the cages. I bagged each square in a sandwich baggie and kept them in the freezer to be doled out one by one all winter.

  6. Maija says

    I remember that commercial. Hmmm… maybe I shouldn’t admit that! I remember wanting it so badly! I also remember when I finally got it… I thought it was gross! (mind you, I don’t think we used that word way back then!)

    • says

      I remember when ‘gross’ started to be used. I used it at home and my father laughed so hard, thinking I was making up a new term. PS: Your recollection of the canned food disappointment matched mine. 😛

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