I decided to give my feathery little garden friends an extra boost in the cold snap we're having and make some fat balls for them. It's easy to do and fun for kids - my daughter is only 18 onths old and she helped.
Step 1: Stuff I Used.
The moulds were anything I could collect up - washed out yogurt and humous pots, some small jelly moulds, a couple of old baby bowls. You can use or recycle almost any kind of container - I did some with flat plastic trays that vegetables and meat came in to make slabs to go in the cage on my feeder.
I also used:
2 blocks of lard (cheap supermarket own brand)
A bag of dried mealworms
A bag of wild bird seed
An empty food tin, washed and dry
A ball of string
A pan of hot water
A large dish of cold water
Some cling film
A nice box and some tissue paper (optional!)
Step 2: Put It All Together
Cut the lard into cubes, put them in the tin and stand it in a pot of hot water. I did this on the cooker so I could put a low heat to it if I needed to. You shouldnt need the heat on all the time - you want the lard to warm enough to melt, but NOT hot - it will melt through your containers and burn you if you make it hot.
While it's melting, cut lengths of string and tie them into loops - one for each mould. I put a big knot in each one to give the finished feeder a better grip on the string when hung up.
Put a layer of dried mealworms at the bottom of the moulds. Fill them almost to the top with the wild bird seed. You need to put the worms on the bottom so the seed weighs them down - otherwise they all float to the top.
When your lard is liquid, lift the tin carefully (I wrapped a teatowel around mine) and gently pour into your mould. I used a small skewer to gently stir the mixture to make sure the lard was evenly mixed through. Top up as necessary. Make sure you put enough in to hold the dry ingredients together. Poke the string loop down into the middle of each mould. If this leaves a hole, fill with melted lard.
Step 3: Setting
Once I had done all of my moulds, I put them into a shallow dish of very cold water to speed up the hardening of the lard. Once they were set I put them in the fridge overnight to harden them. Lard is solid but quite soft at room temperature so these are best kept refrigerated until you use them.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
My mum was complaining about not being able to put bird seed out any more because her cats use it as bait to catch the birds, so I made this batch for her. Once they have set in the fridge, get a jug of hot water and some cling film. Dip the mould into the water to just soften the outside (about 30 seconds worked for me) and tip your fatball out onto the cling film. Wrap it up and put it back into the fridge until you need it. I put some tissue paper into a pretty box and put the fatballs into it and gave them to my mum - she got bird food she can hang on very thin branches (that support lightweight birds but not fat cats!!) as well as a nice box to store more in.