Winter is here and the birds in your backyard are thirsty. Sure, they can get liquid from snow, but in order to process it, they have to warm it up. Birds have to expend precious calories and use the warmth of their bodies to melt the snow.
When the temperature drops below freezing, how do you keep your bird bath from freezing over?
Birds need fresh water even in the winter. Use these tips to keep your bird bath filled with water in liquid not solid form. Having a consistent source of liquid water can be a huge draw for birds in the winter.
Creating Backyard Habitat
Did you know there are three main things that backyard wildlife needs to be able to survive in your yard? These three things are food, water, and cover. If you provide all three in your garden, you’ll be blessed with wildlife – birds, small mammals, and sometimes more!
We readily think of adding bird feeders in the fall and winter when plants aren’t producing berries or seeds, but sometimes we don’t think about helping out birds and other wildlife by providing a water source.
On really cold days in the winter, a liquid water source might even attract more birds and animals than the feeders.
My Friendly Reminder From a Squirrel
After 7 days of lovely, seventy-degree temperatures, the weather turned bitterly cold this week. I awoke to temperatures in the 20’s.
While I was eating my breakfast, I looked out the window to find a squirrel perched on our bird bath, sipping at the edges. Most of the water in the bath was completely frozen, but there was a tiny liquid portion at the very edge.
That was my reminder to change the water in the bird bath. Even in the winter, maybe especially in the winter, birds and other backyard wildlife need water (in liquid form) to survive.
I dumped out the solid block of ice and then refilled the bird bath with fresh, non-frozen water. Just a few minutes later, the first bird landed on it and took a sip.
What Type of Bird Bath to Use in Winter
As water freezes, it expands, which can cause cracks or even break certain types of bird baths. Bird baths made of concrete or glass can crack or even shatter. Pick a bird bath made of sturdier material that can withstand the fluctuating temperatures.
I forgot a lovely glass bird bath out one night when the temperatures dropped down below freezing and found it shattered in pieces the next morning. Lesson learned. The metal bird bath we now have handles the winter temperatures just fine without fear of it cracking.
If you really like the look of a glass or concrete bird bath, you can always switch it out seasonally.
Your bird bath should give birds the opportunity to drink without having to get in the water. So if your birdbath is deep, consider placing some rocks in it to provide a place for birds to perch on to stay dry while drinking.
How to Keep Water from Freezing in Your Bird Bath in Winter
There are several options for making sure your bird bath has liquid water available for wildlife and birds. The option you choose may depend on where you live and how often the water freezes.
Change the Water Daily
Where I live, the water doesn’t freeze all that often. Generally, I just dump out the ice and fill the bird bath back up with water from the house.
If you need to pour warmer water into the bath to break up the ice first, just make sure that you use cool water to fill the bath when you are finished.
Hot water is not recommended for wildlife and may really injure an animal. Hot water may also crack your bird bath if the temperature difference is too great.
Use a Bird Bath Heater or Heated Bird Bath
If you live farther north and have many days where your bird bath is frozen over, you might want a solution that is a little less labor intense.
A bird bath heater (also known as a de-icer) that sits in the water or a bird bath with a built-in heater is the perfect solution.
Consider which options will work best for you when picking a bird bath heater. Some heaters are thermostat controlled and only turn on at certain temperatures; others will turn off if the water level drops too far. The more features it has, the more it will cost.
You should only plug in a heated bird bath or a bird bath de-icer into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. This type of outlet reduces the risk that you or the birds get a shock (since we are dealing with water).
GFCI outlets are the same ones required for use next to sinks and baths in your house. So if you drop your hair dryer into a sink full of water, it will cut the power, saving you from electrocution.
If you use an extension cord to reach your bird bath, consider using waterproof plastic covers for the outlet for outdoor use that protect the connections from the weather. Don’t let your cords get buried in the snow. There are many options for these covers as well.
DO NOT mix anything in the water to keep it from freezing such as antifreeze, glycerin, sugar, salt, or other chemical. All of these things can cause harm to birds and wildlife.
Bonus Tips for Your Winter Bird Bath
- If you move your bird bath into a sunny spot for the winter, the ice will melt faster and the water will warm up a little quicker too.
- Don’t forget to clean your bird bath. Even in winter, bird baths will get dirty and need to be cleaned. Clean it out every couple of days – and even more frequently if you have lots of leaves falling in it or lots of birds visiting.
DIY Bird Bath Heater
A homemade solution is to put a light bulb in a flower pot and place the water basin on top. The light bulb will provide more than enough heat to keep the water from freezing.
Again, I recommend using a GFCI outlet for outdoor use and a waterproof plastic cover for any plug connections.
Try it and see if it works for you!