6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Bird Bath From Freezing
Here are 6 easy winter bird bath ideas to keep a fresh supply of water for your feathered friends when the mercury plummets.
Winter is upon us, and both you and your feathered friends will no doubt feel the effects of it. Birds need water in winter, just as they do any time of year, but providing it for them when it’s freezing out can be a challenge. So what can you do to keep your birds with a fresh supply of water in their birdbath when the mercury plummets?
Why Birds Need Help Your Help In Winter
While birds can—and do—melt snow and ice to drink, liquid water is safer and easier for them. Melting snow requires energy, energy which they need to forage for food when sources are scarce. Drinking barely melted water cools a bird’s body temperature, making them sluggish and more vulnerable to predators, cold snaps, and other threats. If you keep your bird bath from freezing, however, birds will happily visit the easy water source and you will enjoy a wide range of feathered guests all winter long.
6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Bird Bath From Freezing
There are different, easy steps that can keep your birdbath from freezing. How many steps you need to take and their effectiveness will depend on just how cold it gets and how long cold snaps last, but every drop of water you can offer to birds will be helpful. Prepare your bath for chilly nights as soon in the season as possible.
- Position for Warmth. Move the bath into a sunny spot where it can absorb solar heat and it will stay liquid for longer. At the same time, be sure it is positioned near a windbreak for added protection.
- Darken the Surface. Darker surfaces absorb heat more efficiently. Adding a few black river rocks, a black plate, or a sheet of black plastic to the bottom of the bath’s basin can help the water absorb heat and stay liquid.
- Add an Icebreaker. Breaking the thin films of ice that form on the surface will help keep the whole bath liquid. Float a small ball in the basin and the wind will blow it across the surface to break the ice. A dark ball will also act as a small heat absorber for more anti-freezing efficiency.
- Turn on the Heat. Adding an outdoor-rated immersion heater to a birdbath can keep the water temperature just warm enough to keep from freezing. These heaters require a nearby outlet or outdoor extension cord but are energy-efficient and easy to use. Check with your local garden center or online retailer for options.
- Invest in a Spa. Give backyard birds a treat when you opt for a fully heated winter birdbath. These baths have heaters integrated into the basin and will stay almost completely liquid as the temperature drops, ensuring birds always have adequate liquid water.
- Keep It Full. No matter what technique you use to keep your birdbath from freezing, keeping the basin full will help keep the water liquid. Smaller amounts of water freeze more quickly, and heaters can malfunction if there isn’t enough water in the bath.
What NOT to Do!
It can be tempting to take drastic measures to keep a birdbath from freezing, but it is important to always consider safety—for yourself and for the birds—when providing winter water.
- Do not add any salts, anti-freeze, or other chemicals to the water, as these are highly toxic and poisonous to birds.
- If the bath does freeze, do not use boiling water or sharp blows to break or melt the ice, since these dramatic gestures can damage the bath.
- Never use space heaters or other external heaters nearby to try and warm up the bath either, as these appliances are not rated for outdoor use and there is a risk of short circuits and fires.
With just a few simple steps, you can keep your birdbath flowing freely even in the chilliest weather, and you’ll be amazed at how many birds enjoy an easy drink on cold, snowy days.
Need tips for feeding birds during the winter months? Try these!
Melissa Mayntz is a writer who specializes in birds and birding, though her work spans a wide range—from folklore to healthy living. Her first book, Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds was published in 2020. Mayntz also writes for National Wildlife Magazine and The Spruce. Find her at MelissaMayntz.com.
why aren’t there solar bird baths? it doesn’t seem like it would be rocket science, but I can’t find one anywhere!!
I’ve had a concrete bird bath for years. I live in the Southeast but when the water freezes, I have always poured hot water into the bird bath without EVER having a problem. The hot water is quickly cooled and unless it’s in the single digits (which it rarely is here) the water remains liquid, at least long enough for the birds to drink. I can see if your bath is made of some other material introducing hot water possibly could damage it, but I’ve never once experienced a problem. JMO
Heated dog bowl-$20. Has a thermostat for efficiency.
Thanks! This is my first year having a birdbath for my neighborhood birds and am surprised at how much they use it. I was wondering what to do about our freezing winters and this article was very helpful.
I build a diy heater for my bird water using a empty gallon paint can, a light bulb and some water pipe insulation. Put small hole in side of paint can to allow for the extension cord, put a light bulb socket in side can with a 40 watt old fashion light bulb. 2” of pipe insulation then the lightbulb then fill the rest of the can with the pipe insulation loosely, Put lid on Paint can, Turn that can lid size down and used gorilla tape to secure the can from the wind and plug in to a outdoor time( which I had laying around) light bulb turns on 1hour BEFORE sunrise and shuts of a sunset. Total cost was under ten dollars, light bulb and paint can and outdoor extension cord I had on hand. All I paid for was the light bulb socket, gorilla tape and insulation. I put my plastic water(about 3” deep) container on top of paint can and so far the water has stayed liquid. We will see how well it works when we get below zero weather for weeks on end, I let you know.
I use a small 3ft. Diameter satellite dish for my annual bird waterer Is it safe to put an electric heating tape in the dish to keep water unfrozen.
Doesn’t the cord for bird bath heaters look like a snake to the birds? Won’t it scare them away?
For a winter bird bath I use a metal pan about 16″ x 12″ x 2″ deep. I support it on a small “wood frame of 1x 4’s leaving the middle of the bottom of the pan exposed where I attach a magnetic Auto engine block heater (about 2″ x 4” ) and using an extension cord I plug it in whenever the temp will be below freezing. I bought the engine block heater online.
I live in So. Indiana and we get some pretty cold weather and often snow. I keep two metal trays on the rail of my porch filled with birdseed. I have a large dog dish that plugs in to keep it from freezing. Do you think this would suffice for bird water?