The winter months are among the toughest for wildlife, as their food sources become a lot more scarce, shelter becomes even more important, and the cold of winter affects survival. There are many ways to help backyard wildlife through these harsh and cold months by doing things like leaving the fallen leaves in your yard over the winter instead of raking them in the fall. This helps with nest and den building, food sources, and insect refuge. As February comes around the harshness of winter really sets in, and we can help our backyard wildlife get to spring!
This fun vegan suet seed heart DIY project is a great way to spread Valentine’s love to the wildlife in your backyard. In my yard, as the temperature drops to -30 this week, these wildlife Valentine’s are being loved by squirrels and birds. It is also an activity that can be done by yourself, with a partner, or with the kiddos in your life!
DIY Vegan Suet Seed Hearts
What makes these vegan?
Most suet feeders are made using lard, which is a fatty tissue that typically comes from the fattiest part of a pig. Any item created using this ingredient makes it not vegan or vegetarian friendly. Instead of using lard, these suet seed hearts use coconut oil as a binder replacement. However, due to the nature of coconut oil and it’s melting point of 25 degrees celsius, this recipe is best used in cooler weather.
Coconut oil is also completely healthy for birds and in moderation provides healthy fats to their diet during the winter.
1/4 cup coconut oil 2 tbsp unsalted crunchy peanut butter** 2 tbsp unsalted almond butter** 1 – 1 1/4 cups bird seed of choice (bonus if you find it zero waste!) 1 – 2 tbsp cornmeal *optional*
**Just peanut butter or just almond butter can be used if you do not have both on hand. It is best to use unsalted, as nuts have enough natural salts for birds as it is.
Place the coconut oil in a bowl and microwave for 20 – 30 seconds or until it is soft and mostly melted. If you heat your oil too much it will take longer for the suet hearts to set into shape.
Next, mix in the butters and stir until combined.
Once combined, add in the seed mix and cornmeal if using. Stir the mixture together until the seeds are covered in the butter and oil. It should look something like the picture below when completely mixed.
When you are ready to place the mixture in the heart molds, prepare your space on a flat surface like a cutting board or a plate. Don’t just use the counter here as you will need to transfer the board into the freezer for a few minutes to harden the shapes faster. I suggest lining your chosen surface with a silicone mat, parchment, or a beeswax wrap for easy removal later.
If you are choosing to hang your seed hearts, you will now place a small 8″ length of twine through the cutter before adding the seed mixture.
Next, begin to add the seed mixture to the heart mold, starting with the twine area first to make sure it will end up in a good position. Continue adding the mixture until the heart mold is filled, pushing the mixture down.
If you only have one heart shaped cookie cutter, place the board into the freezer right away and leave for about 10 minutes. If you have more than one, fill the others before placing in the freezer.
Once hardened, remove the mat or wax wrap from the seed heart, then gently push the seed heart out of the mold. If you have more mix left, you can now repeat this process of string, fill, freezer, remove.
The amount of mix will create 6 small shapes or 3 large ones. Mine were made by using a pancake mold, so these are on the larger side and made 3 full seed hearts.
Now your wildlife Valentine’s can be hung or placed outside for your backyard visitors! I placed mine on our Christmas tree that I leaned against our fence for animal refuge. Placing seed hearts on fences, patios, or trees without hangers will encourage more squirrels than birds.
Spread some love to the birds and squirrels this Valentine’s and help them get through the harsh of winter!