I think there is something fundamentally British about feeding the birds. Maybe it’s my distant memories of watching Mary Poppins as a child, humming along to Julie Andrews singing ‘Feed the Birds’ or, it’s memories of my grandparents and their obsession with buying either bird seed or a new feeder every time we went (and still go) to the garden centre. I think it’s a trait I’ve inherited, I love watching the birds flit, flap and flutter their way to the food, only to eventually be pushed off by the ever growing chubby Wood Pigeon that seems to just tip everything everywhere under its weight.
Garden birds are always hungry. As we enter into Winter when it’s cold, damp and the insects have moved on; our lovely feathered friends enter into a bit of a hungry gap.
Here in the UK we like our gardens. Well, we used to until we started to build higher and higher and pave over them. However, there are some people that still take joy in their outside space and feeding the wild birds seems to go hand in hand with appreciating our green spaces. We buy seeds and mealworms and fat balls on mass at this time of year.
When a country gets an obsession for something, a market for it seems to follow which (annoyingly) means that products start to get mass produced to cover the demand. We see plastic seed and nut feeders that barely last one season and fat balls sold to be hung in plastic mesh that is then publicised as killing the birds rather than feeding them. Typically, and through no real fault of their own, people jump on the bandwagon and don’t think twice that the products sold in the shops could be harmful. Anyway, I digress. (Quite a common thing when I get a bee in my bonnet over something!)
Feeder quality aside, I’m not too sure if people wonder what goes into the food they buy for the birds. Fat balls especially. They are designed to provide enough substance for birds over the colder months. This means they are high in fat and protein. This also means that, because of demand, it’s the perfect way to use a waste farm product to keep costs low… Tallow! That gorgeous by-product made by rendering down the fat of animals. Commercially, this can be made from a multitude of different animals but more traditionally it’s made from cow fat – *Puke!*
Me being me, I like to think (maybe too much) about ingredients. I don’t want to use anything that has been sourced without a vegan ethos. But, also, when is a small bird ever going to eat rendered down fat from an animal 100-1000 times bigger than itself naturally in the wild?! My mind can’t quite process this one…
So, to stop me whinging to my friends and family about ingredient sourcing and to save me ranting on any longer to any one who chooses to read my blog… I’ve made my own vegan fat ball recipe!
This has been tried and tested by my new bestie, Rob-Rob the garden Robin, and he tells me prefers these to the shop bought ones. I can also confirm that the resident magpies like them as they have stolen 2 of them this week alone… Evie and Bo, the chicken residents have also been enjoying the fall out from the tree. Can’t say more than that, can you?!
Vegan Fat Ball Bird Feeder
These are really easy to make, I have been storing them in the freezer to keep them solid. The only thing I will say is use them in Winter only. The oil mix won’t hold its shape when the warmer weather kicks in.
This recipe should make 4-6 ‘cakes’ depending on how generous you are feeling.
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup vegetable Suet
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (must be salt free!)
1/2 cup linseed
1 cup mixed seed (I used sunflower and pumpkin) slightly crushed up
1/2 cup chopped raisins
- Melt your coconut oil and suet in a saucepan until liquid.
- Stir in the crunchy peanut butter.
- Mix in everything else thoroughly so that the oil is fully incorporated.
- Whack it in moulds and place in the freezer until solid.
Yep – it’s that easy.
Tip: If you want to hang these, then pour them into the mould with some string attached so that when you freeze them, the string will be frozen in place.
I think that the best sort of mould would be a cupcake tray. Just add some grease-proof paper under each one so that you can get them out when they are frozen. I tried it initially with cookie-cutters… fail. Oil everywhere. Learn from my mistake!
These are so quick to make and are a great thing to do with the kids on a rainy day. You can watch them get devoured by all the birds while you stay cosy in the warm!
If you’ve stuck with reading my rant this far, I urge you to give it a go. See what your birds say. Maybe play with the recipe too, you could add mashed banana or niger seeds for the smaller birds. Let me know what you do and what the outcome is.
I hope your bird residents enjoy a new treat, on me.
Much love x
Important Note 04/05/2022: recipe previously included desiccated coconut but I’ve since been informed of the dangers of this for birds due to rehydration in their gut.