Birdbath Care During the Winter
Birds need water during the wintertime to remain hydrated and keep their tissues insulated for proper preening.
Birds often find it difficult to obtain a few precious drops of water during the winter, so they have to melt ice and snow with their bodies or visit melting puddles to scrounge for fresh water. Unfortunately, many people winterize or put away their birdbaths when the weather turns colder, unknowingly depriving birds of much-needed water. You can offer birds water year-around and still enjoy their company in the coldest weather by keeping your birdbath fully accessible and functional during the wintertime. Preparing birdbaths for winter use is simple and, most of all, extremely helpful to birds during freezing weather. The tips below can help you properly care for your birdbath during the winter without much effort.
Not all types of birdbaths are suitable for wintertime use, so take notice to which birdbath you use. Stone, glass, mosaic, concrete, solar, and ceramic birdbaths are susceptible to damage as freezing temperatures cause these materials to expand and crack. Metal, resin, and plastic birdbaths, however, are typically impervious to freeze damage and most suitable for the winter use. Do not risk breaking your expensive or ornamental bird bath due to negligence; plastic or resin ones cost under $20 at major hardware stores and work best during the wintertime.
Empty the birdbath and thoroughly sterilize it with a weak bleach solution to start the season with a clean, healthy basin for birds to drink from. If the basin is not already dark, cover the bottom of the basin with a black plastic trash bag or liner to absorb more solar energy throughout the wintertime. Solar energy helps warm the basin and ensures the water stays liquid and doesnít freeze as easily. You can also easily lift the plastic bag or liner out of the basin to remove any blocks of ice from the birdbath.
The location of your birdbath can determine how much maintenance is needed throughout the wintertime. Move the birdbath to an area exposed to direct sunlight to take advantage of the warm rays, which naturally help keep the water liquid. You may also want to remove the basin from its pedestal and into an insulated blanket. Relocating the birdbath closer to your home or garage can also make it more accessible and convenient for cleaning or refilling. If youíll be using an extension cord for heating purposes, try to choose a location where snow and moisture donít accumulate as much.
Unless you have a fully heated bird bath, you will need to continuously prevent ice from forming. Although more expensive, an immersible heater can help keep the water liquid in any temperature. Itís best to use a heavy-duty extension cord for outdoor use only, and protect the cord from becoming buried in the snow or exposed to excessive moisture. To avoid short circuits, youíll also need to protect the electrical outlet from moisture. Another tip is to place a tennis ball or rubber ball in the birdbath, allowing the ball to float around and break up fresh ice that begins forming. A dripper, which you can make yourself, or aerator can also help prevent ice from developing in your birdbath.
If your birdbath does happen to freeze over, you can easily melt the ice by pour a bit of warm water over it. Also, heat water in a saucepan or kettle, and then sit the hot saucepan or kettle directly on the frozen ice to slowly melt it. Never attempt to break the ice or force it out of the basin as this can break your birdbath. In any case, never use salt, antifreeze, additives, or chemicals (even so-called ìnon-toxicî ones) as they can be toxic or deadly to birds.
Properly maintaining your birdbath throughout the winter season is essential to keeping it appealing to birds and preventing damage. Allowing water levels to become too low makes the water more likely to freeze over, so always keep the basin full of fresh water. Regularly clean the birdbath as needed, focusing especially on the edges or perches were birds drink from. Lay a couple of sturdy twigs over the top of the basin to provide additional for birds to perch from while drinking. Although most birds do not bathe during freezing temperatures, encouraging bird to stay out of the water helps keep the birdbath cleaner and reduces the need for excessive cleaning.
Maintaining a winter birdbath can make a difference in your feathered friendsí lives. Birds of all varieties will definitely appreciate your efforts every winter when finding a fresh water supply becomes difficult. They will also be sure to return to your birdbath throughout the other seasons, as well.