Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bird Seed Balls

I love birds.  Living in the deep-freeze we call Winnipeg, there's not many that don't migrate south for the cold winter months.  These hardy little guys have to contend with temperatures that are often around -30c plus a cold north wind.  I made these bird seed balls to help provide them with fat and nutrients.  I like to use bacon grease in mine (birds are tiny dinosaurs, after all!) but I'm sure you could adjust this recipe if you don't feel like saving a pot of stinky fat in your fridge for months.  Good substitutes for bacon grease would be lard or suet.  This recipe is very, very messy... but if you have all your supplies ready and laid out, and keep the mixture fairly cold, it can be made slightly less so.  I also suggest having some paper towel handy to wipe the mixture off your hands when you want to pop the bowl into the fridge to chill.

Bird Seed Balls
1 part bacon grease 
1 part peanut butter
2 parts vegetable shortening (softened)
berries or chopped fruit (I used wild cranberries)
wild bird seed
hemp cord cut into 12" lengths, folded in half

Mix the fats together.  Stir in the fruit, and then add enough bird seed to make a fairly stiff "dough".   Chill in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until hard.  Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball, squishing the hemp cord (folded end in the ball) into the middle.  Keep the two ends long enough to tie later.  If the mixture gets too soft, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes. Roll the finished ball in more bird seed and place in a plastic egg carton or other suitable container.  Freeze until ready to use.  
To hang these, simply tie a square knot in the hemp ends hanging out of the ball and place onto a twig or branch. 

Chickadees really love these.  It's neat to watch them hang upside down to eat!
I've also noticed that our red squirrel routinely makes off with at least one ball each time I put these out.  

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