How to Make a Woodpecker Suet Feeder
Two years ago I bought a pre-made woodpecker suet feeder. While I liked it (and the woodpeckers loved it), I quickly realized that (1) it’s easily made as a DIY project, and (2) the suet plugs were almost impossible to use. So here’s my advice on how the frugal gardener can make an excellent woodpecker suet feeder.
Step 1 – Find a thick branch (about 4″ in diameter and 18″ long) or other piece of hard wood (preferably already dead – green wood doesn’t work well). Do not use wood that’s been treated with a preservative or any other chemicals.
Step 2 – Using a 1.5″ hole saw, drill 6 holes through the wood. Either have a helper hold the wood as you drill, or place it in a vice. Drill the first hole a couple of inches from the top of the branch. Turn the branch 1/4 turn and drill a second hole about 1″ below the first. Continue in this way until you have 6 holes. Make sure the bottom hole is at least 6″ above the bottom of the branch. Woodpeckers use their tails to prop themselves upright as they feed so there needs to be enough space for that.
Step 3 – Screw a hook into the top of the branch. This will be used to hang the feeder so use a hook size that will fit over whatever you’ll be hanging the feeder from. Make sure the screw is at least 1.5″ long – you want it to be strong enough not to strip out of the feeder.
Step 4 – Now you’re ready to fill the feeder with suet. You’ll need the following:
- Enough aluminum foil to wrap securely around the entire branch
- 2 squares of store-bought suet (if you’re really ambitious, you can make your own suet but it’s quite a bit of work and ready-made suet is inexpensive) – you’ll need about 1 1/2 blocks to fill the feeder. I use suet with seeds and nuts in it, but any suet will do
- A large plastic or glass container that is microwavable – I use an old plastic container (it once held mango sorbet) that I use only for this purpose
Step 5 – The suet is too hard to squeeze into the holes in the feeder so you’ll need to soften it a bit. I do this by removing it from the packaging, cutting it up, and placing it in a plastic container. I then microwave it on high for about 1 minute. Each microwave is different so watch it closely as it heats. You want it to soften but not melt. If it does melt into liquid suet, don’t worry – you can still use it. Simply let it cool down until it’s the consistency of soft butter.
Step 6 - Wrap the branch tightly with aluminum foil. Be sure to wrap it tightly, especially where the two ends of the foil meet. If you don’t wrap it tightly enough, the suet may leak. This is more of an aesthetic problem than anything else – it doesn’t look very nice to have white suet smeared all over the feeder. Using a sharp knife, cut out the holes on one side of the feeder. This will allow you to insert the suet without it coming out the other side.
Step 7 – Carefully spoon the softened suet into the holes in the feeder. Make sure to press it down so that it fills the entire hole. Let it harden for about 1 hour before removing the foil.
And there you have it – a suet-filled woodpecker feeder!