Winter weather can be hard on everyone, including the birds. When the temperatures drop, your birdbath can transform from a refreshing pool into a frozen puddle. Taking steps to prevent your birdbath from freezing over can provide a fresh supply of water for your feathered friends and keep them coming to your yard to visit. This article will tell you the best ways to care for your birdbath during the winter months as well as teach you a few methods to avoid.
Should I Fill My Birdbath During the Winter?
During long stretches of cold weather, you might wonder if it’s worth the effort of filling your birdbath with water. Why bother if it’s only going to freeze over? Haven’t the birds all migrated south anyway? Do they really want to play in cold water? The answers may surprise you.
Contrary to popular belief, not all birds migrate. According to the All About Birds article The Basics of Bird Migration: How, Why, and Where?, many birds stay put for the winter season or only travel short distances to find food. Because they stay in cold climates where many of the water sources freeze, finding fresh water can be very difficult during this time. Birdbaths can provide a reliable source of water for birds to use for drinking and preening.
5 Do’s for Winterizing Your Birdbath
#1 Choose the Right Birdbath
If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures, you must choose a birdbath that is durable enough to resist the winter conditions. Certain materials like glass, stone, or cement are more susceptible to cracking when the water freezes and thaws. Look for a birdbath made from plastic or resin or that are described as “frost-resistant” when choosing a birdbath. Choosing a dark-colored birdbath can also help keep the birdbath warmer longer during the winter months. Darker colors tend to absorb heat more efficiently than lighter colors.
#2 Find the Perfect Location
Place your birdbath in a location that receives a large amount of sunlight. This will help melt any ice that forms in the birdbath. For additional protection, find a location that also has a windbreak or create a windbreak. A windbreak is anything that can be used to help prevent the wind from blowing snow into the birdbath. Using your old Christmas tree as a windbreak after the holiday season is over is a great way to recycle your tree.
#3 Keep the Surface Dark
In addition to choosing a dark-colored birdbath, you can further darken the surface by adding black river rocks to the bowl of the birdbath or placing a piece of black plastic on the bottom of the basin. This will help retain the heat of the sun longer.
#4 Keep the Birdbath Full
Small amounts of water freeze faster. Keeping your birdbath full at all times is a simple way to help ensure that the water won’t freeze. Plus, filling and emptying the water everyday will keep the water clean and fresh for the birds.
#5 Add an “Icebreaker”
Keeping ice from forming is easier than you might think. Simply add a small plastic ball to the water. A ping pong ball works very well. The ball will float on the surface of the water and break up ice as it forms.
5 Don’ts For Winterizing Your Birdbath
#1 Don’t Use a Space Heater
Electronics and water are NEVER a good combination. Do NOT place a space heater near your birdbath to warm it up. Most space heaters are not designed for outdoor use and the risk of fire is too great. If you really want to ensure that your birdbath is warm and toasty, choose a birdbath with a built-in heated basin or purchase an immersion heater which is designed to be submerged. These are the only types of heaters that can be safely used with birdbaths.
#2 Don’t Break the Ice
This advice might seem a bit counterintuitive, but if ice forms over your bird bath do not attempt to break it. If you try, you might break more than simply the ice. Breaking the ice can lead to cracks and damage to your birdbath. A safer alternative is to melt the ice, fill a saucepan with water and boil it on the stove. Next, set the hot pan on the surface of the ice until it melts away.
#3 Don’t Add Boiling Water
While we are on the subject of hot water, adding a bit of boiling water to your birdbath may seem like a natural solution. However, like breaking the ice, dousing a freezing cold birdbath with very hot water may also cause the bowl of the birdbath to shatter. A very small amount of warm, not boiling, water can be added to the water of the birdbath to keep the temperatures above freezing.
#4 Don’t Use Salts or Chemicals
Salts, chemicals, and other antifreeze materials are a convenient way to manage ice and snow in other locations around your home, but adding these to your birdbath is a surefire way to make your local birds sick. Save these items for your walkway instead.
#5 Don’t Forget to Clean Your Birdbath
During the winter most birds are not going to be splashing and bathing in your birdbath like they do during the spring or summer months. However, it is still important to clean out the birdbath regularly in order to keep the water fresh and clean. Remember, birds are still drinking from the birdbath and using the water to preen their feathers. To clean your birdbath, dump out the stagnant water and any debris. Then, use a solution of one part distilled white vinegar to nine parts water to scrub the bowl and ledge clean. Allow the birdbath to dry completely before filling it again with fresh water.
Just because the summer months are gone, doesn’t mean that all of the birds have gone with them. Keep your feathered friends happy and healthy by properly maintaining your birdbath during the winter season. Not only will you make their lives a little easier, you will also get to enjoy their company all year long.
For more tips on how to bring birds to your yard, check out the article, 5 Must-Know Strategies to Attract Birds to Your Bird Feeder.