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Fat balls - mine won't stick together

Jenny_AsterJenny_Aster In the Cambs FensPosts: 527
Maybe it's because I'm using lard and I should be using suet or dripping?

Is there a secret for forming DIY fat balls?
Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 

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  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 5,893
    edited 1 June
    I'm amazed @Hostafan1 hasn't been here, making some inappropriate remark, given the title of the thread   :D

    I would hazard a guess that the lard is too soft and doesn't 'set' in the way that suet will. I doubt if dripping would be better than lard, if that's the case. Possibly someone with better cookery skills than mine could give a more definitive response....
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,159
    Suet is better. Lard doesn't set as hard. I found it very messy when I used it.
    I wouldn't normally make them at this time of year though. I keep those for winter, and into spring for nesting birds, then stop until the colder weather again.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Jenny_AsterJenny_Aster In the Cambs FensPosts: 527
    edited 2 June
    I'm amazed @Hostafan1 hasn't been here, making some inappropriate remark, given the title of the thread   :D

    I would hazard a guess that the lard is too soft and doesn't 'set' in the way that suet will. I doubt if dripping would be better than lard, if that's the case. Possibly someone with better cookery skills than mine could give a more definitive response....
    Never thought about the risqué double entendre, my mind must be becoming 'pure' in my old age  ;)  :D  Fairygirl said:
    Suet is better. Lard doesn't set as hard. I found it very messy when I used it.
    I wouldn't normally make them at this time of year though. I keep those for winter, and into spring for nesting birds, then stop until the colder weather again.  :)
    Thanks, yes, I think I'll get some suet and have another go.

    I never fed the birds in our new garden during the winter as there were no green cover; there's quite a population of felines in the area. Now there's more vegetation I think they'll be ok. 

    Also our dog, I wasn't sure if he'd chase off any birds. Luckily he ignores them except for the big fat pigeon that visits, he's taken a dislike to him. As for cats, if he sees one on top of the fence, he'll see that off too, so I think the birds are relatively safe.

    Having toured around the inland waterways for 5 years in a boat, and before that living overseas, I'm now 'learning' how to best feed the birds. The peanut feeder is practically untouched (which is good really as I've just read it's not good having peanuts at this time of year in case parent birds feed their young with them which results in the little ones choking). So I might remove the peanuts for a month or so. 

    The fat balls are very popular, and I've been putting out dried mealworms and other edible scraps for the birds on a bird tray, along with fresh water. But unfortunately the feeding station is being swamped by starlings. While they've been really entertaining feeding their fledgling family, no other species of garden bird gets a look-in when they're about. Even the blackbirds have given up competing with them. 

    I've just ordered a bird feeder in a cage (squirrel proof) which I believe deters starlings. Does anyone have any ideas on how to give other birds a chance? 

    Starlings I think are really interesting and entertaining, but I think enough is enough :) 

    Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 
  • Joyce GoldenlilyJoyce Goldenlily Posts: 1,463
    Lard does not work for fat balls as it has a lower melting temperature. They would melt as soon as the sun shone on them. You need to use suet which sets harder and does not melt so quickly. Also, you need to have enough fat content to bind the seeds etc. Not enough fat and the balls will fall apart.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,159
    It's always tricky to get that balance @Jenny_Aster, when you have a blank canvas. The cover is very important. I've been lucky with most of the gardens I've had that were pretty empty, because they've still had one or two trees. It makes it easier. 
    I don't feed peanuts at this time of year for that reason, but you can get mixes which have peanut chips, which are safer, and it means there's a good fat content for small birds in particular. That might be a good option for you.  :)
    I know what you mean about starlings. We have loads of them here, and they nest in the roof of the house across from me. They're very messy.  I often have a 'sacrificial feeder' with cheap fat balls which I site near the boundary, or in behind the shed, and that keeps them happy most of the time.
    I often chuck small bits of the fat blocks in and around the shrubs, and the blackbirds get plenty of those bits. They're not in my garden much from nesting time onwards, as there isn't suitable nesting sites for them, but there's plenty of habitat nearby, and plenty of food out there too,  so they only appear now and again until autumn. It means I don't have to feel guilty about not doing ground feeding. 
    My purpose built cages allow all the small birds in, and now and again the starlings try and get in, but the mesh aperture is slightly too small for them, so they're rarely successful. I feed on the ground from about September until April, so they do get plenty of food in the worst weather, and they get the bits that the small birds chuck out. Not many people in my road feed the birds, so my garden can often be the one they come to   :)  
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Jenny_AsterJenny_Aster In the Cambs FensPosts: 527
    edited 5 June
    This morning the garden was swamped with about 30/40 starlings. They mugged the feeding station and all of the 6 fat balls I put out yesterday evening has been devoured. Apart from the nuisance aspect and the scaring off of other garden birds, I don't have the budget to afford this. 

    So I think I might have struck a simple solution. A plastic sleeve (empty water bottle) has been put over the fat ball feeder with a couple of inches open at the bottom for other garden birds. The starlings can't hang on to the open area for more than a few seconds as they have to flap their wings to stay 'attached' to the feeder. The smaller birds (great and blue tits, sparrows, and I think willow tits) seem to have no problem at all hanging on.  It'll also put the skids under the crow that's been taking more than his fair share.

    I'm hoping the starlings move on to another feeding ground, I can then remove the sleeve.


    Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 
  • bcpathomebcpathome Buckinghamshire Posts: 518
    That’s a good idea .I don’t feed the birds after the fledging they can seek out their own food during the summer I always think. As for your thread title …..to the pure ,all things are pure !?! 
  • Jenny_AsterJenny_Aster In the Cambs FensPosts: 527
    bcpathome said:
    That’s a good idea .I don’t feed the birds after the fledging they can seek out their own food during the summer I always think. As for your thread title …..to the pure ,all things are pure !?! 
    :D Nah.... it's just old age  ;)
    Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,159
    I'd save my money and time and not bother with them at this time of year @Jenny_Aster ;)
    If you still want them, and have one of those 'cheapo' shops nearby, they do tubs of very cheap ones too. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Jenny_AsterJenny_Aster In the Cambs FensPosts: 527
    Fairygirl said:
    I'd save my money and time and not bother with them at this time of year @Jenny_Aster ;)
    If you still want them, and have one of those 'cheapo' shops nearby, they do tubs of very cheap ones too. 
    Sound advice FG!  :smile:


    Trying to be the person my dog thinks I am! 
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