It is a good idea to supplement your chicken feed in the wintertime to help keep your birds warm. There are several options for supplements, but I like to make special winter chicken treats for them to enjoy. The homemade lard cakes (or homemade suet cakes) that I feed my backyard flock are nutritious for the birds and they help to keep the birds warm in the winter. These healthy treats contain lard, black oil sunflower seeds, and other tasty treats to boost fat and protein that help keep my chickens active and warm.
How to Make Winter Chicken Treats
My homemade chicken treats give backyard birds a healthy snack that doubles as a fun toy. I also save money by not buying pre-made treats at the store. Want to make your own lard cakes for the cold winter months? Read on, my friend.
What can Backyard Chickens Eat?
Before we get to the homemade lard cakes (and homemade suet cakes) recipes, let’s chat about the foods that are safe for chickens to eat.
Research which seeds would benefit your backyard flock the most. Different seeds provide different levels of fat, vitamins, and Omega-3s. I prefer to feed Black Oil Sunflower Seeds and Flax Seeds.
Oats contain a mix of vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to improve health and reduce aggression in laying hens. You can read more about the benefits of oats here.
**Feeding oats to chickens is a debated topic, so be sure that you do your research and make the best decision for your flock. Personally, I would only give oats as an occasional treat, but not as a supplement to their daily feed ration.
Use caution when adding whole soybeans to your homemade chicken treats. They need to be properly heated to kill a toxin that could be fatal to your birds. Soybeans are my favorite to add to my homemade suet treats because they have very high levels of lysine and methionine, which are essential for poultry growth and production.
#4 Lard / Suet
I have heard lard and suet being used interchangeably, but they are very different. Lard is semi-solid fat from pigs and suet is hard white fat from beef & mutton. Lard and suet are good supplements to improve your flock’s health. They are incredibly nutrient-dense and provide high levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Feeding lard and suet is a great way to provide extra calories during colder months.
Do not feed lard or suet on a regular basis as it can cause chickens to store excess fat internally, but they work great as an occasional treat.
Peas, like soybeans, have high lysine levels…BUT…unlike beans, peas can be added to poultry diets without prior heating or processing.
#6 Cracked Corn
Corn is a good source of protein and energy for laying hens and it is the easiest grain for birds to digest. Add more corn to your lard cakes for your chickens in the winter and less in the warmer months. I know this post is about occasional homemade chicken treats, but I feel the need to add this tidbit anyway–>Don’t use corn as the only source of feed for your birds. Chickens are NOT vegetarians so they need more than a grain-only diet.
#7 Dried Fruits
Make sure that the fruit has no added sugar and that seeds and pits are removed. Citrus fruit should also be avoided…this one is controversial, but as long as you stick to the guidelines for feeding dried fruit and you only give it as an occasional treat (to avoid overfeeding) it should be just fine.
#8 Fresh Greens and Veggies
Fresh greens and garden vegetables are great winter treats for homestead chickens. Most vegetable greens provide vitamins and minerals that are essential to flock health and egg production.
Toss your kitchen scraps (lettuce, kale, chard, and other greens) out to your birds and watch them tear it all apart! You can even hang a head of cabbage for your chickens to eat and to use as a boredom buster.
Avoid feeding iceberg lettuce (no nutritional value and causes diarrhea), nightshades (due to solanine levels), rhubarb (high levels of oxalic acid), and onions (can cause anemia).
How to Make Homemade Suet Cakes or Lard Cakes for Chickens
These homemade lard cakes for chickens are made with a lard base to give the birds extra fat to warm them up in the cold weather. The amounts for each ingredient are flexible in this recipe. You can use more or less of each ingredient as long as the lard covers the solid foods that you choose.
You can also make homemade suet cakes with this same recipe. Simply use suet instead of lard.
Homemade Lard Cakes Recipe Ingredients:
- 1 cup Lard or Suet
- ¼ cup BOSS
- ¼ cup Oats
- ¼ cup Dried Fruit
STEP 1: GATHER INGREDIENTS AND SUPPLIES
Start out by gathering any ingredients that your birds enjoy along with lard or suet. Decide what you will use as your mold- I have found that a loaf pan, a mini muffin pan, and a brownie pan work great!
STEP 2: PREPARE Your Mold
These homemade suet cakes (or lard cakes) don’t really stick because you are using fat as one of the main ingredients, but it helps the cakes to release without breaking if you place parchment paper or aluminum foil down first.
STEP 3: FILL THE PAN OR TRAY
Place your dry ingredients into your mold of choice. Add the seeds, nuts, fruits, etc.
Now you can fill the mold about 2/3 full with your melted lard or suet. The mold doesn’t have to be filled to the top, but the solid ingredients should be covered.
STEP 4: SOLIDIFY THE LARD CAKES OR SUET CAKES
Place your filled mold in the fridge to let the fat solidify. This takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the mold that you chose.
STEP 5: POP THEM OUT AND STORE
Pop the solid homemade winter chicken treats out of the mold and store them in the freezer in an airtight container. They will keep for several months in the freezer.
Just be sure to leave them in the freezer (not the refrigerator) until you are ready to feed them or they will start to soften and melt.
STEP 6: SERVE THEM TO YOUR BACKYARD BIRDS
Throw a couple of your homemade lard treats out to your barnyard birds and watch them gobble ’em up! Seriously, they love these things! Let me know if your chickens are fans and what ingredients you used in your treats!
Are you ready to make some yummy & healthy lard Cakes for your backyard Chickens?
>More Livestock Resources<<
- How to Make Simple Homemade Horse Treats
- How to Make Homemade Summer Chicken Treats
- Make Sugar Cakes for Honeybees
- Homemade Rabbit Treats
- The Livestock Management Binder