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How to Make a Woodpecker Suet Feeder

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woodpecker suet feederTwo 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.

Supplies needed to fill a woodpecker suet feeder

Supplies needed to fill a woodpecker suet 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 although glass would be better
softening suet in microwave

Carefully soften the suet in the microwave

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.

Wrap the foil tightly to prevent leaks

Wrap the foil tightly to prevent leaks

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.

filling the woodpecker feeder with suet

Filling the feeder is easy but messy

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!

If you’re not into softening suet, this feeder also works well with peanut butter. You can even mix seeds into the peanut butter before spooning it into the feeder.

And now over to you – Have you tried making a bird feeder? Or feeding woodpeckers? Let us know in the comments below!

18 Comments on How to Make a Woodpecker Suet Feeder

  1. Wow, how very industrious of you! I’m going to try it for sure . . . as soon as I glue the windchimes back together (snow casualty), install the garden arbor and fence around patio, break out the broken sidewalk on the side of the house, pull up all those dang winter weeds…..and more and more and more. If it would only warm up so I can start on my list!

    • LOL! There’s always so much to do in the garden, isn’t there? I must admit that it took a couple of years before I got around to doing the woodpecker feeder. Now I’m staring at packets of seeds that I still haven’t started, grass that needs raking, perennials that need cutting back, dead leaves that need to be removed from the beds, etc. and I know that it just won’t happen any time soon…

    • If you’re using a hole saw then the holes will need to go all the way through (otherwise you won’t be able to pull the plug of wood out to make the hole). You could also try using a large drill bit (like a 1-inch spade bit) – in that case I think it would work fine if the holes don’t go all the way through. It might actually make it easier to spoon in the softened suet as it wouldn’t end up coming out the other side.

  2. I’ve seen birds really go for those type of feeders. More than one bird at a time can share. I’ve also seen peanut butter placed in those holes. Might be easier than softening suet. 🙂

    • It’s so much fun to see a red-bellied woodpecker on the feeder surrounded by chickadees. Every now and then the woodpecker decides he’s had enough with all the little bird and starts pecking at them instead of the suet!

  3. Phillip Pence

    Read your instructions and decided to make this feeder. Looks great. Ready to hang and feed the birds. Any restrictions to hanging height?

    • Hey Phillip, glad it worked for you! Hope the woodpeckers like it as much as they like mine 🙂 I think you can hang it pretty much anywhere from about head height upward. Any lower and it puts the birds at greater risk from cats and they tend not to visit the feeder as often.

  4. Tommy

    Thank you for a really great idea. I have a dozen 8 to 12 year olds that need a nature project and this will work great!

    • Jack Hemingway

      Hi Connor,
      We’ve never seen a peliated Woodpecker come to our feeder, even though they live in the area. But that’s not to say they won’t. I guess it’s a wait and see proposition. Good luck.

  5. Andy Howey

    Would it be possible to do this with a 4″x4″ piece of wood? I don’t have ready access to large, dead tree limbs. It wouldn’t specifically be for woodpeckers, although they would be welcome. We have Bushtits and Chestnut-backed Chickadees that stop by every once in a while, and we’d like to see more of them.

    • Hi Andy,
      You may have to modify things a little but yes, it’s definitely possible to do this with a 4×4. A 4×4 is a bit wider than we used so you’d need a long drill bit to drill the holes all the way through the 4×4. You could also try drilling only part way through with a hole saw and then using a chisel to knock the piece out. That way you’d have holes that are big enough to get suet/seed mix into but only 2 inches or so deep. And, of course, be sure not to use pressure treated wood (or any kind of wood with preservative). Let us know how it turns out!

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