The “teeth-chattering-cold” 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 bird bath 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 bird bath 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 bird bath 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 bird bath. 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 bird bath 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 bird bath 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 risk of short circuits and fires.
With just a few simple steps, you can keep your bird bath flowing freely even in the chilliest weather, and you’ll be amazed at how many birds enjoy an easy drink on cold, snowy days.