Learn to treat your flock to a diet rich in a variety of herbs, greens, and flowers with Fresh Eggs Daily (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013). Lisa Steele offers dozens of simple and intelligent tips for “going natural” that help you avoid common ailments that plague many backyard flocks. This excerpt from “In the Winter” offers a homemade suet block recipe that provides great protein for your chickens.
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Fresh Eggs Daily.
More Fresh Eggs Daily:
Properly Caring for Chickens in Winter
What to Feed Chickens in Winter
DIY Chicken Scratch Wreath
Things to Know Before Building a Backyard Chicken Coop
Green Choices for Chicken Coop Bedding
Easy Green Tips for Refreshing and Cleaning a Chicken Coop
Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter
You can make suet blocks for your chickens. Of course you can buy commercial suet blocks, but I prefer to make my own. That way, I know exactly what is going into them, and it’s a great way to use the grease that would otherwise just be thrown away. The blocks are easy and very inexpensive to make if you save grease any time you cook burgers, bacon or other meats throughout the year. The added fat will help keep your chickens warm in the winter. It provides nearly twice the sustained energy of carbs and also slows the rate of food digestion, thereby increasing the absorption of the nutrients in the feed your flock eats. While I normally limit the amount of fat or grease I give to the chickens, I do save all our hamburger grease in the freezer until the winter so I can make some suet blocks for them.
Choosing to keep the process simple, I don’t render the fat or otherwise make it stable for long-term or room temperature storage, so the suet should be kept in the freezer until ready to use and then only fed in portions that your chickens will eat fairly quickly.
Homemade Suet Block Recipe
Grease/fat (i.e., from cooking meatloaf, burgers, steak or low-salt bacon)
You can use any heat- and freezer-safe container you happen to have in which to store your suet. I use small, square casserole dishes because they make suet blocks the perfect size to fit into my feeders, but you can use any container you wish. You can even use a larger square cake pan and just cut the finished suet into smaller pieces to fit your suet cages.
Chop some assorted unsalted nuts (peanuts are especially nutritious and a good source of unsaturated fat). Arrange them in each dish and then sprinkle some raisins, seeds and cracked corn on top, along with a healthy shake of cayenne pepper. The cayenne helps to heat the body naturally and also stimulates the hens’ circulatory system. This is extremely beneficial during the cold winter months. Then when you cook meat, save and drain your grease (it’s okay if there are a few random tidbits of meat in it). Let the grease cool just a bit, then pour carefully over the nut mixture. Stir to blend and then put the dish into the freezer. You can continue to add “layers” to your container each time you have leftover grease, adding more nuts, raisins and cayenne as needed. You can also add other dried fruits or seeds. Bacon fat can be used, but in moderation, due to the higher salt/nitrate content compared to other grease. I store the suet in the freezer until winter and then start doling it out on cold days.
To serve, remove the container from the freezer and run a butter knife along the outer edge. Turn the container upside down and gently tap on the counter. Your suet block should pop right out. I put the block in a bird suet feeder, which is perfect for my homemade suet blocks. It keeps them out of the dirt and off the ground. I feed only what my hens will eat over the course of an afternoon or so, to be sure the suet doesn’t go rancid (which really isn’t much of an issue when temps go below freezing anyway!). But trust me, the suet won’t last that long! I feel good knowing that I am not only helping our chickens deal with the cold, but also making good use of grease that I would otherwise throw out.
Reprinted with permission from Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chicks…Naturally by Lisa Steele and published by St. Lynn’s Press, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Fresh Eggs Daily.