Birds drink water all year, and it’s important to try to maintain a water source during the cold winter months. As a good bird host, you’ll need to pay special attention to keeping extra water sources unfrozen.
Here are some easy tips that will keep your wild birds’ water thawed:
1. Place your bird bath where it will receive a good dose of sunshine to keep it from icing over. You could also place it on the south side of the house and out of the wind.
2. If you plan to use a heater or pump, be sure to locate the bath near electricity.
3. Remember that you’ll need to walk to your bath to fill it when the snow is deep, so choose a spot with easy access. Garden hoses are out of the question in winter, and unless you have a water faucet next to your bath, you probably won’t enjoy trudging through deep snow toting a bucket of water.
4. Consider buying a bird bath with a built-in heater or, in somewhat milder climates, a built-in aerating pump.
5. You can simply fill your regular birdbath with hot water, if you don’t want to invest in a heater.
6. A black bird bath will warm up faster in the sun than lighter-colored baths.
7. You can also cover your bird bath at night with a piece of swimming-pool solar cover to help prevent heat loss.
8. Try using a moving float in your birdbath, such as a plastic milk jug tied to a rock for an anchor. The bobbing action will keep the water open in the same way a duck paddling atop icy water keeps the water from freezing.
9. If your winter weather conditions are extremely harsh, prevent the birds from bathing because their feathers might freeze before they can dry. Cover your birdbath with a plywood platform, with a small hole cut out for drinking, or place of section of pool liner or other cover over part of your bath to create a smaller opening. Add weights to the edges of the cover or tie it on securely so it won’t blow or flap in the wind.
Adapted from Natural Gardening for Birds by Julie Zickefoose and the Editors and Writers of Bird Watcher’s Digest (Rodale Press, 2001). Copyright (c) 2001 by Julie Zickefoose. Reprinted by permission of Rodale Press.