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Make fat cakes for birds

Homemade bird feeders at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire
Tasty treats for birds | © National Trust Images/Mike Selby

Fat cakes are a great way to keep birds happy and full over winter and early spring. Find out how to make fat cakes as a tasty source of energy to encourage them to make a pit stop at your home. Hang them from a tree for an easy way to create a wildlife-friendly garden.

About fat cakes

These fat cakes are best used in the winter or early spring as they’ll melt in warmer weather. You can make a batch of fat cakes and keep them in the freezer until you need them.

They’re a great way to use up some kitchen scraps such as cheese and dry porridge oats.

Don't use soft fats

Soft fats like margarine or leftover fat from baking trays can stick to the birds’ feathers.

What you’ll need

  • Hard fat, such as lard or suet, at room temperature
  • Handful of birdseed
  • Handful of unsalted peanuts
  • Grated cheese or raisins
  • Dry leftovers like oats or bread
  • Old, clean recyclable yoghurt pots or coconut shells for a plastic-free alternative
  • String
  • Small stick, roughly 7–12cm long

This will make one to four fat cakes depending on size.


Mix the ingredients
Use one part fat to two parts dry mixture. Melt the fat slightly if it’s not at room temperature and is still a little hard. Mix the fat and the other ingredients together in a bowl.
Prepare the containers
Make a small hole in the bottom of each of your yoghurt pots or coconut shells. Thread a long piece of string through the hole and tie it around your small stick, pulling it tight so the stick sits snugly against the top of the yoghurt pot or coconut shell. This will act as a perch for the birds.
Fill the moulds and chill
Scoop the mixture into the yoghurt pot or coconut shell, packing it tightly around the string ‘core’ and filling all the way to the top. Put it in the fridge until it has set hard.
Remove the fat cakes
Once it’s fully set, carefully remove the fat cake from its pot or shell. It should come out easily if the mixture is cold enough, and you can reuse your yoghurt pot or coconut shell to make more fat cakes in the future. If you have to cut away your yoghurt pot to remove it, don't forget to recycle it.
Hang out for the birds
Tie the string over a tree or shrub branch. Make sure you choose somewhere away from cats. If you find the mixture is a bit crumbly, next time add a little more fat and fewer dry ingredients.

Top tips for feeding birds safely

Always avoid feeding water birds such as ducks and swans. To safely feed garden birds, follow these top tips:

  • Buy accredited bird food from reputable sources

  • Only provide food for a few days and feed in moderation to avoid food going off

  • Keep bird feeders separated so birds aren’t in too close contact

  • Regularly clean and disinfect feeders

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling bird feeders and faeces

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