It's vital we learn how to stop a bird bath from freezing, to provide this much-needed resource for our feathered friends over winter. Like us, birds need water daily to survive. And over cold periods fresh drinking water can be harder to come by.
You might think it's not worth the effort to keep your bird bath frost-free, and wait for it to thaw naturally as the weather warms up. However, during winter the daylight hours are fewer, meaning birds have a tougher time finding food and water.
As the American Bird Conservancy tells us: 'In less than a single human lifetime, 2.9 billion breeding adult birds have been lost from the United States and Canada.'
This is mainly caused by habitat loss and degradation. So, it's important we do everything we can to prevent the decline in populations by giving birds a little of what they need in our backyards.
6 ways to stop a bird bath from freezing over winter
There are several wildlife-safe ways to go about this. Methods which won't cause any damage to your bird bath ideas, either.
1. Keep a floating object in your bird bath
'To prevent a birdbath from freezing in winter, consider using a floating object like a small rubber ball, or we often will use a wine cork to create movement in the water, to inhibit freezing', suggests Amy Hovis, Principal and Landscape Designer at Eden Garden Design.
This is a low-cost, easy method, which will cause minimal disruption to your bird bath and visiting birds.
2. Position it in a bright location
A common bird bath mistake is not choosing a bright spot in the garden, which is in direct sun for most of the day. Bird baths placed in winter sunlight will have a better chance of not icing over than one in a shaded spot.
It's important that birds can stop and take a drink in safety. Therefore try and position them in a place to keep them safe from cats, too.
Howard Youth, senior writer at the American Bird Conservation advises making sure there is a clear line of sight for birds to spot ambushing cats. Be mindful of this when placing your bird house ideas as well.
3. Consider an electrical de-icer
'There are plug-in bird bath de-icers you can buy that you can use with a long outdoor extension cord,' says Amy Hovis.
These plug into a power source and float in the water of your bird bath, keeping the temperature above freezing. They are also good for keeping garden ponds from freezing. You will of course need an outdoor power socket and be sure to stop leads becoming a trip hazard.
Options with built-in heaters are also available to buy like this heated bird bath with stand at Macy's.
4. Try a solar option
If you don't have an outdoor power source try a solar option. 'Solar-powered aerators or fountains can also be effective by maintaining water movement,' says Amy Hovis.
Similar to how the floating object works, solar aerators keep constant movement in the bird bath making it difficult for water to freeze over.
Amy Hovis is Principal at Eden Garden Design, an award-winning landscape Design + Build Studio as well as the owner of Barton Springs Nursery, an inspiring design-driven Garden Center in Austin, TX that specializes in native plants.
5. Remove ice regularly
The old-fashioned way, though a little tenuous perhaps, is to regularly remove ice from a bird bath as it starts to form.
If you want to try this method, Amy Hovis recommends removing ice during extremely cold periods, as this prevents the formation of a thick layer of ice. Perhaps try to remember doing so when you go out to top up your bird feeder.
6. Empty your bird bath before nightfall
If your wildlife garden is in a region where temperatures drop below freezing overnight, Amy Hovis suggests you could remove water when the sun goes down and top it up again the next morning, with warm water.
Birds won't be searching for water in the dark, and it means you won't need to worry about defrosting the water the next day. Replace your chosen floating device each time to prevent freezing during the day.
Some places will recommend you throw boiling water down. However, depending on the material of your bird bath, this sudden drastic temperature shift could see your bird bath crack.
What can I put in my bird bath to keep it from freezing?
We recommend steering clear of wildlife garden mistakes, such as chemicals which claim to keep your bird bath and ponds from freezing. These may be harmful to birds or upset the natural ecosystem of your backyard.
The best options are to keep a floating object in the water which will keep motion in the water as it's blown about by the wind. This helps stop the water from freezing.
You can also buy plug-in de-icers which will stop the water reaching zero.
How do you defrost a frozen bird bath?
If your bird bath has frozen over the best way to defrost it is to pour over cold or warm water. Some people recommend using boiling water from a kettle, however this sudden temperature change could cause damage to your bird bath.
Your garden birds will greatly benefit from the fresh drinking water available to keep them alive over winter when resources are scarce. If you like the idea of helping out birds even more, you might be interested in tips on how to feed birds over winter, too.
Sign up to the Homes & Gardens newsletter
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
Teresa was part of a team that launched Easy Gardens magazine two years ago and edited it for some time. Teresa has been a Gardens Editor at Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Living Etc magazine since 2020 and has developed close working relationships with top garden designers, and has been exposed to an array of rich garden content and expertise.
Would you use red in a bathroom? 5 spaces that will convince you this is the best room to try the on-trend color
The unexpected red theory is still gaining traction. With the help of 5 interior design experts, we consider whether the bathroom is the best place to introduce red
By Linda Clayton Published
6 designer-approved features for a low-maintenance home
Embrace these 6 designer-approved features for a low-maintenance home that's easy to clean and navigate year-round
By Lola Houlton Published