Fat balls are a nutritious winter food for birds. Although these are readily available in shops, they are also easy to make at home. No special equipment is required and this is a great way to recycle food that might be otherwise thrown out, such as out of date bread. Children, as well as adults, will enjoy making these fat balls for birds.
Feeding Birds in Winter
Garden birds appreciate extra food during the winter months when food is difficult to come by. Fat balls are very easy to make at home and a mix of bought bird seeds, plus scraps of left over food means that nutritious fat balls can be made. Fat balls can be hung from trees or placed within containers that will allow the birds to peck at the fat balls while keeping them safe and off the ground.
How to Make Fat Balls
Assemble the equipment and ingredients. Put the bird seed mix and scraps into a mixing bowl. Ensure that the scraps are broken up into small pieces and that there are no large lumps. Making fat balls is not a precise science and while the proportions are suggested as two-thirds nuts and scraps to one-third fat, a slight variation is not going to make any difference.
A mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and scraps (such as bread, cake and biscuits)
Solid fat such as lard or suet
- Step 1: Weigh the mix of nuts and scraps.
- Step 2: Weigh out the ingredients, remembering that approximately half as much fat as the other ingredients is required – for example one pound of nuts and scraps will need half a pound of fat. Cut the fat into rough lumps to speed the melting and heat slowly over a low heat. Keep an eye on the fat and do not let it get too hot. You only want it to melt.
- Step 3: Pour the fat over the mix of seeds and scraps. Using the spoon, mix it in until it starts to clump together.
- Step 4:Divide the mixture into equal sized pieces depending on the fat ball required. Fat balls the size of a small apple are a good size. Roll the mixture into balls ensuring that it is tightly packed.
- Step 5: Cover each ball in cling film or greaseproof paper and put into the fridge to harden. When the fat balls are hard they are ready to be placed into a suitable container.
Other Ideas for Ways to Use Fat Balls.
- Use empty coconut shells. Drill a hole in the bottom, insert a loop of twine through this making a knot so the twine does not pull through the hole. Press the fat ball mix into this and chill. Small birds will be able to hang underneath the shell to peck at the food.
- Thread a piece of garden twine through a plant pot and secure inside by tying around a stick. Pack the plant pot tightly with the fat ball mix and put into the refrigerator to chill.
- Drill holes into logs and fix a ring fitting or similar into one end which can be used to hang the log from a tree. Press the fat mix into the holes and hang from the tree. Keep a look out for logs with natural holes which can be used to hold the mix. Remember to chill before use (in the cold weather the same effect can be had by leaving the log outside somewhere cold).
Fat balls are simple to make and provide birds with an important food source while also giving hours of pleasure to people who enjoy watching them. This is an ideal project for children and a great way to introduce youngsters to a fascinating part of wildlife and nature.