Attracting birds in the winter can be challenging since bird baths often freeze over, making it difficult for the birds to use them for drinking and bathing.
To prevent the water in a bird bath from freezing over over the winter, you can do things like stir the water every hour, add floating balls to chip away at the ice, or even switch out two hot water bottles throughout the day. A bird bath can be heated by placing it next to a heat source or by having warm water dripped into it from a garden hose or dripper every hour.
There is no foolproof way to keep a bird bath from freezing over, but you can certainly slow the rate at which ice builds up on the water’s surface.
The solutions you choose will require at least an hourly dose of your attention, but at least you’ll have the night to relax.
By floating plastic balls on the water, you can disturb the ice’s formation and slow the icing over process.
My preferred method, which I believe is an original idea of mine, is to switch back and forth between two hot water bottles to prevent ice from forming at all, although this will still require your assistance every 2 or 3 hours.
If you want to know how to attract birds to a bird bath in the winter, be sure that any solution you use doesn’t prohibit the birds from drinking or bathing in the frigid water.
To prevent water waste, you can also use a garden hose or a bird bath dripper attached to an outdoor faucet to melt the ice. However, this method requires you to adjust the water pressure to a level that is comfortable for you.
The suggestions given are for de-icing your existing bird bath, but a heated bird bath may be the best option.
The bird bath must be placed in direct sunlight to benefit from even a little amount of winter sun, but this problem may be solved by placing it near a warm object in your yard, such as a generator, or by mounting it on the deck.
My recommendations for de-icing bird baths do not require the use of power, but rather your active participation or the use of warmed water.
Regularly disturb water
The water in a bird bath can freeze solid within an hour, therefore in my opinion, you need to take action yourself, and not just once.
Breaking up ice as it builds on the water surface occasionally is the most efficient technique to protect the bird bath from freezing over, and I realize this is not the kind of advice you need right now, but I can’t stress this enough.
In the winter, birds are more likely to use your bird bath in the morning or afternoon, before it gets dark, or in the fall, before it gets too cold.
The only practical approach to break up the overnight ice in a bird bath without causing too much trouble so early in the morning is to agitate the water in the bath on a regular basis at this time, especially in the morning.
You probably need to get the kids ready for school or get to work, so I understand if you don’t want to spend much time thawing out the frozen water first thing in the morning.
Don’t risk getting wet if you want to break open the ice in the bird bath bowl; just use a stick, pole, or something else of similar length and thickness.
Add floating devices to water
Although I can’t stress the importance of your personal intervention in preventing the water from freezing over enough for you to do so every hour (when you’re home or do it once before you leave in the morning), you can add one thing to the water to do so.
Although a plastic hollow ball bobbing on the surface of your bird bath water won’t always stop the bird bath from freezing, it will certainly buy you some time.
The plastic ball floats on the surface of the water and is pushed and pulled by the wind, preventing the water from settling and freezing.
I’ll be the first to say that this isn’t a foolproof method for solving the problem, but it’s worth considering if nothing else.
Numerous plastic balls designed to float on the surface of the water would be required, with even a moderate breeze being enough to maintain them in constant motion.
Again, water will freeze in an overnight forecast, so this won’t be a permanent fix, but it might buy you some time.
Alternate hot water bottles
What I haven’t seen anyone suggest, though, is using hot water bottles to prevent bird baths from freezing over.
Let me preface by saying that this is a concept of mine, but that I haven’t tried it myself; therefore, if you choose to utilize hot water bottles in really cold water, you do it at your own risk.
The obvious solution is to fill a hot water bottle, which may retain heat for up to six hours. To quickly warm the water in the bird bath, simply place a hot water bottle in it.
In the dead of winter, I think a hot water bottle would still stay warm for at least a couple of hours in your bird bath.
Because of the extreme temperature difference between the outside and the inside, cracks or leaks can form; if the crack or leak is minor, you can still use the hot water bottle, but you need be more careful to avoid getting burned.
As it stands, I don’t think one hot water bottle will suffice, as it will take time to refill the one that is already in use.
As a result, I suggest splitting your attention between two hot water bottles, one of which you can keep in the bird bath while you fill up the other in your toasty kitchen.
It’s important to be cautious when removing and replacing hot water bottles in bird bath water to avoid getting frostbite on your fingers.
Occasionally run hot water
To eliminate this problem altogether, all you need is a little bit of warm running water to prevent your bird bath from freezing up during the day.
The water can be dripped into the bird bath from a standard garden hose or a device designed specifically for that purpose. A bird bath dripper is a specialized hose used to lure avian visitors to your backyard.
To preface, a bird bath dripper is typically used in the spring and summer, when people want to attract birds to their bird bath with the use of running water, or the sound of a cascading fountain bird bath water, though it can still be used in the winter.
The bird bath dripper is attached to a faucet, either indoors or ideally outside, to supply water to the bird bath.
Your chosen water pressure will cause the dripper to hang over the edge of the bird bath.
While your water bill may soar, I can tell you that this is a very effective option. Rather, you’ll run warm water for a minute or two every hour or so to prevent any ice from forming.
Your bird bath dripper’s on/off schedule and water pressure requirements are entirely dependent on you.
Now all you have to do is figure out how to maintain the dripper attached to an interior faucet without freezing up the home, or go outside twice an hour to turn on the faucet and then turn it off again a minute or so later.
Locate bird bath to outdoor warm area
Birds will still use bird baths in the winter, but only because the water sources in the nature have frozen.
Since it is winter and cold enough for water to freeze, we can’t count on the sun to melt the ice; otherwise, there would be no reason to find a way to prevent bird baths from freezing.
Even if it’s still very cold outside, the light can help defrost the water in your bird bath.
Your bird bath may need to be relocated from its current location in the yard to a still frosty but sunny area to help speed up the melting process.
Even if the water in the bird bath remains frozen, this may be a good approach to let nature take its course.
Water quality in a bird bath can be maintained by placing it in a shaded area, but in the winter, when the sun’s heat will help maintain the chilly temperature of the water, you can move the bird bath outside.
Place your bird bath in an area that gets plenty of sunlight, but also take use of any air conditioner blocks, heat lamps, or other sources of warmth in your yard.
Your tool of choice should be something you already have and use often, requiring no new purchases or upgrades.
Heated bird bath option
Any advice I give for preventing a bird bath you already own from freezing over in the winter will apply just as well to any future bird bath you might purchase.
To prevent the water from freezing in the bird bath, as I have been advising, you can purchase a heated bird bath.
I know it’s important to protect the bird bath from freezing in the winter, even without energy, but this may be your only option.
Heated bird baths are neither attractive nor inexpensive, but they do prevent the water from freezing. Which is what we want for the birds in our backyards, of course, and not for our own benefit.
The best location for a heated bird bath is the same as that for a standard bird bath: out of the sun during the summer and into the sun during the winter.
One drawback of a heated bird bath is that you’ll need to measure the length of the power wire to make sure it can be laid on the ground and plugged into an outlet.
I don’t sure how you’d plug in a heated bird bath inside while keeping the doors and windows closed, but I imagine it would require some ingenuity and the possibility of an external outlet being made available.
I assure you that heated bird baths are risk-free as long as you purchase from a reputable brand; however, you should still use caution when placing the wire on the icy ground.
Even if the water temperature may be relatively low due to the generated heat, birds can still use the heated bird bath for their usual bathing and drinking needs without worrying about the growth of algae or mildew.
Never use de-icer chemicals
Currently available on the market are safe, non-toxic de-icing chemicals designed specifically for use in bird baths, but you won’t find me using them.
In fact, I’ve never once considered putting anything besides water into a bird bath.
To help keep your bird bath devoid of ice, I will resort to using a hot water bottle or plastic balls, but never any chemicals.
The reason for this is that the temperature at which the safe chemicals used in bird baths to prevent freezing are effective is quite low. You’d be wasting your money after it reaches temperatures below -4 degrees Celsius.
Chemicals are plant-based, so there are no harmful elements, but putting them in a bird bath still isn’t a good idea.
While a shallow water supply can freeze over quickly, I think you can at least delay this problem by making your bird bath deeper.
Since you intend to use as much water as possible to fill the bird bath, a larger quantity of these chemicals will be required to neutralize the de-icing chemical concentration in the water.
Don’t use any chemicals, not even those made from plants, as this was also the advice of Audubon.
The water in a bird bath can be kept from freezing by prodding it with a pole or other instrument every hour or so.
My guess is that this isn’t the answer you’re looking for because it’s such a simple method, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the fundamentals every now and then.
Plus, I know you won’t want to brave the elements every hour to do this.
Therefore, none of my suggestions for maintaining an ice-free bird bath involve the use of any plant-based yet safe-to-use chemicals.
Don’t assume that my suggestions won’t work, because some of them can be used to postpone the ice age.
You can prevent the water from freezing by using one or more small, light, hollow plastic balls and letting the wind drive the floating balls across the water.
Even though the water may feel cold to the touch, you may prevent the bird bath from freezing over by alternating two hot water bottles.
You can hang a garden hose or something called a bird bath dripper over the bird bath in whatever way is most convenient for you. Every hour or so, the bird bath can have warm water filtered into it to melt the ice, and you won’t even have to leave the house to do it.
What you may not know is that a bird bath placed in direct sunlight, even at sub-zero temperatures, may melt ice.
You might also place the bird bath in close proximity to a heated generator, outside lamps, or an air conditioning block that is producing heat.
Finally, a heated bird bath can be relied on to prevent the water from freezing, but it will not warm up enough to attract domesticated birds away from the wild.