Fat balls are also known as suet balls. They are bird treats made of pure fat, with a few extra ingredients mixed in. Fat provides a great source of food and energy for birds, and is especially important for birds in cold climates during the winter months, when other food is scarce. When you mix other ingredients in with the fat, such as peanut butter, oatmeal and raisins, you are providing a nutritious meal packed with protein, carbs and fat for your feathered friends.
Measure out 1 cup of beef suet or lard. Beef suet can be purchased at the grocery store in the meat department, but if you prefer to use lard, it can be found in the dairy section near the butter. Melt the fat slowly, over low to medium heat, as it can burn easily.
Measure out 1 cup of peanut butter and stir it in with the melted fat. This will allow the peanut butter to soften, too. Stir the two together just enough to soften the peanut butter. The two ingredients will actually blend together when you form the balls.
Allow the melted fat/peanut butter mixture to cool until it starts to thicken up again. At this point it will be of a soft consistency that you can mould. Transfer to a large glass bowl, and add 1 cup of corn meal, 1 cup of wild bird seed and 1 cup of oatmeal.
Put on the plastic gloves, and mix the ingredients together with your hands. At this point you can also add 1 cup of raisins that have been soaked in water, if you wish. You will know the raisins are ready when they have plumped up.
Form the mixture into balls. You can form 2 large balls or several small balls, whichever you prefer. If you will be hanging the suet balls, insert a piece of jute twine down the centre of the ball and form the ball tightly around it. Tie a large knot at the bottom end, with a loop for hanging, in the twine at the top end.
If you don't wish to hang your suet balls, you can simply lay them on a tray-type bird feeder. They also do well if hung in a mesh onion bag.
Be sure to melt the lard or beef fat on low to medium heat. High heat can cause the fat to splatter and result in burns to the skin.