This recipe doesn’t contain chicken.
This isn’t for you to eat, gentle reader. This is for the poultry under your care, but of course you can adapt this for wild backyard birds, too. (Or, front yard, if that’s where you enjoy watching them…) This is part of the homesteading track of this blog. My inspiration link is below, but I modified.
The idea is to provide them with tasty treats, and perhaps to use up excess pork fat (or other fats) you may have laying around in your freezer or fridge. And, in the winter especially, they can stand some more fat in their diet.
You are not restricted to these ingredients; they are simply what I had to hand. You can certainly add more of these ingredients to make the cake more intensely seeded or treated. You can sub in dried cricket treats for the mealworms (I think they stench in such a way I don’t want them in the kitchen, but the chickens love ’em) or you can skip insects all together.
The oregano? So many resources recommend oregano for poultry for its healthy, antibiotic-like effects.
Note, this is for adult (or nearly adult) chickens, not baby chicks. Baby chicks can’t handle the size of the pumpkin seeds or the mealworms easily. They should just get their crumble for now. (Although you could pulse the dry goods in a food processor to small crumble size, and just serve it that way, without the fat.)
Prep time: However long it takes to render the fat + about 30 minutes for the fat to solidify.
Cook Time: See rendering of fat.
Rest Time: Cool on countertop, then in fridge for at least a further hour.
Serves: A LOT of bird meals.
Cuisine: Poultry & Wild Bird Treats.
Leftovers: Yeppers, store in fridge. Or, freezer.
Chicken and Bird Feeder Lard Cakes
- 1 – 1.5 lb pork fat. (You can use tallow, suet, lamb fat, or coconut oil, too. Anything that hardens up at room temperature once rendered.) All of the rest of the measurements are approximations.
- 3/4 cup/160 mL unsalted pumpkin seeds. You can used roasted or not, just NO SALT!
- 1/2 cup millet seed. I obtained this as wild bird feed at my Mom and Pop farm store.
- About 1/4 cup/60 mL dried mealworms (obtainable at any farm supply store. Or on Amazon).
- About 1/4 cup/60 mL Hentastic Chicken Treats or other supplemental chicken treats. This particular one was pellets of fat, mealworm, and oregano.
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano.
Render your fat the way I discussed regarding leaf lard in an earlier recipe. (I reserved a very small amount for other purposes, ie as a respondent in the leaf lard recipe suggested: to drizzle over mashed potatoes.)
Pour about a cup (240 mL) of the rendered pork fat in a suitable bowl, allow to cool a little, then add the rest of the ingredients. You don’t need to “cook” those ingredients but a bit warm is fine. You can see the liquid becoming more white (less liquid) at this point.
Alternatively, if you plan to hang your eventually-solidified feed so that your poultry (or wild birds) can eat it, in one of those cages… buy ONE pre-made suet feed block, and buy one or two of those “cages” that will hold the feed blocks. Hang one up for your wild birds, and use the commercial block — I hung mine outside my dining window, for what ended up being squirrels… well, it was supposed to be the wild birds… to feast upon, and for me to view as they enjoyed. (Discouraging squirrels will be a separate topic down the road, but at least the red squirrels are less common and thus more welcome…)
Okay, the point of this exercise is to obtain the plastic “mold” that once held the commercial suet food, in order to fit your poultry snack into the wire hanging cage. In such a case, you’ll want to be sure that the fat you are transferring to it is even more cool, as I doubt they make these things bisphenol A-free. Very white but still mush-able.
As the fat solidifies, gently mix the ingredients (the might mealworms float, the pumpkin seeds tend to sink). The fat will gradually become opaque, and your mixing will be more effective. Again, you can use just about any dry ingredient to hand that’s suitable to feed chickens.
When reasonably mixed, place in the fridge for ten minutes…
Remove from the fridge, and optionally gently pat down more seeds of whatever nature into the top of the cake – I simply felt like my birds needed more protein than the cake already had. Return to fridge until needed. Otherwise, just leave it in the fridge if everything seems appropriately mixed.
When feeding, assume approximately a teaspoon per bird. If you have just a few chickens, one small bowl will do, but if you have more (I have 12), plan on 3 or four feeding stations so they don’t have the Hog Chicken take it all. Or hang that thing as described the making of, a few paragraphs up.
(10 chickens: 10 teaspoons, 50 mL, or 0.2 cups.)
Do NOT feed this daily! These are nutritious treats but a little will go a long way. Once a week is fine. Store in fridge; this will last a month or two.
For wild birds, you could set out bird feeders, they’ll self-indulge and move from yard to yard. Don’t set up feeders until after the bears hibernate (if you live in bear country, as I do). The chicken set up I have placed in their enclosed run, although the back fat I am using will be a bit too liquid-ish or soft for hanging up in the heat of summer. (In such a case, in warmer weather, I plan to set out small bowls for them to eat from.)
In order to use the commercial form: I remove a bowl where the lard and all has set up, then lightly warmed the bowl (heat up a pan of water to a low simmer, making sure that the water doesn’t flood the contents of the bowl when you set the bowl IN that water. Remove from cooktop, and wait until everything barely mushes up, then re-form in the plastic that the commercial food came from.
Freeze. Once frozen, the treat should come out of the plastic form easily, using a table knife, and you can re-use the form for the net round of treats.
I did some research, lamb fat will melt at a higher temperature than pork lard. I’ve just rendered lamb fat from a local farm, and since winter is nearly here, I am going to freeze and reserve most of this for early spring when (presumably) temperatures will be warmer outdoors in the chicken run. While future feedings of my wild birds (ahem, squirrels) will be using my homemade material), most will be reserved for my poultry.
Hope this helps!
And meanwhile, take a gander (ahem) over to Fiesta Friday, where this week’s co-hosts are: Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul. Loads of fun and all, but alas probably most with food for the humans in your life.
Or, explore a variety of homesteading ideas over at the Homestead Blog Hop.
Great idea. I buy the commercial ones but will try making my own again using your suggestions. I did make them several years ago but used commercial lard and they melted, we have mild winters here.
I do find the lamb lard to be harder, melts at a higher temp than the pork lard. But home-rendered pork lard should do well in winter, depending where winter is for you. I will have to check beef tallow and chicken fat; I don’t think any of these things will be hardy in summer. But, they won’t need it in summer. Wild or home-grown birds…
That is a great idea! I used to make these for birds but for some reason never thought about using them for Chickens.
What I’ve done in the past is to scoop the cooling fat and seed into a cardboard half-gallon milk container; slicing it with the right kind of knife yields blocks small enough for the cages. Alas, those containers are harder to find these days.
That would work! I don’t tend to buy milk much unless I have a specific recipe for it… (I don’t like drinking it straight up, and no longer use it in coffee) but something to keep in mind! I remember back in CT there was a local brand I’d see that still sold in cartons. I’ll look for it.
Thanks for this Fiesta Friday post
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