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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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December 2003

Winter: Suet Feeder

A fueling and lubrication station.

Maureen Mecozzi


Suet – animal fat – is a quick source of heat and energy for insect-eating birds whose food supply dwindles in cold weather. Buy suet at butcher shops and some supermarkets, or purchase seed-and-suet cakes from pet shops and garden centers.

What You'll Need

  • 1 piece 1 x 10 (about " x 9 ¼") x 25", or the equivalent in 3/4" exterior grade plywood
  • 1 piece 5/16" to ½" lattice 3' long, for strips to hold hardware cloth in place
  • 1 piece 7 ½" x 8" hardware cloth, 1/3" mesh
  • 1 pair 1" x 1" butt hinges with screws
  • 1 ¼" nails or 1" flat-head wood screws to attach lattice strips
  • 1 "-2 ¼" nails
  • waterproof glue

Construction Step-by-Step

  1. Cut the plywood so one piece measures 1 x 10 x 12" and the other is 1 x 10 x 13". Use the first piece for the back.
  2. Measure and cut the back, top, bottom, and side pieces from the 1 x 10 x 13" piece.
  3. Measure and cut the supporting lattice strips – about 9" long for each side and 6 " for the bottom.
  4. Cut the hardware cloth with tin snips.
  5. Glue and screw the side pieces to the back.
  6. Glue and screw the bottom to the back and side pieces.
  7. Lay the hardware cloth on the side and bottom pieces as shown. Place the side and bottom lattice strips over the cloth and secure with nails or screws.
  8. Attach the top with the butt hinges.
From 'Shelves, Houses and Feeders for Birds and Mammals,' G. Barquest, S. Craven and R. Ellarson, North Central Regional Extension Publication No. 338

Mounting & Maintenance

Birds attracted to suet, like woodpeckers and nuthatches, cling to the bark of trees in search of insects, so you'll want to hang the suet feeder near a tree trunk or attach it with round-head or lag screws to a post or building about 5 to 6 feet above the ground. Choose a place protected from harsh north and west winds. If you can situate the feeder near shrubs or conifers, all the better; the thick brush offers more shelter for the birds.

Winter suet feeding should begin in late October or early November and continue without interruption until spring. Birds develop feeding patterns and will stop visiting a feeder if there are interruptions in the food supply. Take the feeder down in early summer, clean it well, check all the fittings and put it in storage until it's time to bring it out again in late fall.

Maureen Mecozzi is a contributing editor to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.