How To Keep A Bird Bath From Freezing In Winter

So you want to know how to keep a bird bath from freezing?

It’s a great question to ask if you’re in the thick of winter and your bird bath is freezing over every day.

Water is essential for birds in winter.

Actually, I’d argue that it’s more essential in the winter when natural sources are hard to come by.

Winter birds need water to stay hydrated and to keep warm by preening themselves.

A fresh water supply in winter is hard to come by as most is frozen by the cold weather conditions.

If you find that your local temperatures are dipping below 32F, then you’re going to have issues. Your backyard birds will struggle to get water from your bird bath without a helping hand.

Providing fresh, unfrozen water for your backyard birds must be done safely without causing them any harm.

So how do you do that?

Well, this article will show you 6 different solutions you can try to stop your bird bath from freezing. These methods are safe and won’t cause any harm to your backyard visitors. Plus I’ll show you things you shouldn’t do to stop your bird bath water from freezing

Sound good? Then let’s get started.

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How to keep a bird bath from freezing in winter

How to keep a bird bath from freezing

1. Right design

The best way to prevent your bird bath from freezing is to buy a bird bath that can withstand winter conditions.

The bird bath I see most recommended for winter use is this one.

Why is it so popular? Well, it’s a great design that can withstand winter conditions. Any leaks in your bath will result in your birdbath freezing over quickly due to water loss.

Let’s look at what you should avoid and what you should choose.

You’ll want to avoid delicate materials such as

  • Porcelain
  • Concrete
  • Ceramic
  • Stone
  • Glass
  • Mosaic

These materials are prone to cracking in cold temperatures.

The best bird bath materials for the winter season are:

  • Metal
  • Resin
  • Reinforced plastic

These materials will survive harsh winter conditions without cracking and breaking. 

You may even want to consider buying a bird bath made of one of these materials just to use in the winter season.

2. Right location

Where you put a bird bath in your yard is essential for winter maintenance.

You can choose three locations in your yard to prevent your bird bath from freezing. These are:

  • Sunny areas
  • Sheltered areas
  • Heated areas

Let’s look at each area to see if there are any which look like a good fit for your yard.

Sunny Areas

Placing your bird bath in the sunniest area of your yard will help to slow down the freezing process.

The sun will keep the water’s surface warm and stop ice from forming. This is a great solution for preventing your bird bath from freezing over when temperatures remain low throughout the day.

The only issue is that once the sun goes away your bird bath water will start to freeze over.

Sheltered Areas

Choosing a sheltered area of your yard to place your bird bath can keep the ice away.

Harsh winter weather like snow, sleet, and freezing winds will cause the water temperature to fall quickly and ice over a lot quicker.

A sheltered area such as a pergola, under a tree, hedges or screens will protect your bird bath from these conditions. Be careful that any outdoor cats don’t have easy access to your birds in these areas.

Heated area

If you have a patio area of your yard that you keep heated over winter, then move your bird bath close by.

An area with a patio heater or a fire pit will radiate hot air into your yard and prevent your bird bath from freezing over.

3. Use a heater

One of the best ways to stop water from freezing is by preventing the temperature from falling, right?

And you’d be right.

The best way to keep your bird bath water above freezing temperature is to add an immersion heater.

This bird bath heater is by far the best on the market at the moment.

But any good immersion heater will help to stop your whole bird bath from freezing to keep a fresh water supply.

The good news is that these types of heaters will only usually kick in when the temperatures start to get near freezing. This will save a lot of energy.

But so be careful!

You’ll need outdoor electrics for a heated bird bath. Please make sure your connections are safe and weather proof to prevent electrical injury to your or the backyard birds.

Related: 6 Ways To Care For Your Bird Bath In Winter

4. Move the Water

It’s a lot harder for water to freeze if it’s on the move.

There are simple tricks to keep your bird bath water on the mover and stop the surface from icing over.

Try using a small but movable object like a ping-pong ball or a cork. These can be blown around by the wind and keep the water surface moving.

You can also buy a device called a water wiggler to place in your bird bath. This will create small ripples in the surface of your bird bath.

Just be warned that these types of devices don’t usually last long. You’ll have to replace them after about 2 months of use.

Solar bird bath fountains

You’ve probably seen a solar power water fountain and thought, ‘hey, that’s ingenious.’

The sun powers the water to move and prevents the water from freezing.

But the reality is that Solar bird bath fountains are just not reliable in the winter.

There is simply not enough sunlight hours in winter to provide enough energy to keep your bird bath ice-free.

The cold weather is likely to cause damage and break your fountain device.

My advice would be to keep your solar powered fountain indoors for the winter and put it back out in the spring.

5. Keep topped up

Another great way to stop your water from freezing over it to keep it as topped up as possible.

Deeper pools of water take longer to freeze than a shallow pool.

You can add large flat stones for birds to have a shallower area to sip from.

Keeping your water regularly topped up means there is a fresh supply of water for the birds to use.

You’ll also likely attract other wildlife to your yard as they seek out a good water source in freezing conditions.

These other animals will drink the water, and the levels will go down throughout the day.

6. Use a Dark Surface

A great tip I got from a reader is to place a darker surface on the bottom of your bird bath in the winter.

The idea is that dark surfaces hold onto more heat than a light surface. That means a darker-colored bird bath will stay warmer than a light-colored bath in the winter.

You can do this by adding a cut out piece of a trash bag to line the bottom of your birdbath over the winter.

Other easy ways to darker the surface are adding black river rocks (like these) or a black plate to the bottom of your birdbath.

What not to use in your bird Bath

It’s essential that anything you put out in your yard to help the birds doesn’t actually cause them any harm. Let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t do to keep your bird baths ice free.

Don’t Add Chemicals

It may seem like a simple solution but do not add anything to the water to change the freezing point.

Things you may see recommend are:

  • Antifreeze
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Glycerine/glycol

Remember, the birds are drinking this water. Ingesting these chemicals can actually poison the birds.

These chemicals may also affect the bird’s feathers. Any damage to a bird’s feathers will expose them to cold weather and likely result in them dying.

Play it safe, and don’t add anything to the water to try and prevent it from freezing over.

Is bird bath Antifreeze safe?

You may see products that are labeled as bird-friendly de-icers. The idea is to add them to your bird bath to stop the water from freezing over.

I would strongly advise you not to use these products in your bird bath. Despite ‘bird-safe,’ it really just isn’t worth the risk.

Try an actual bird-safe method that doesn’t involve your bird drinking unnecessary chemicals.

Don’t remove the bath

Please don’t remove your birdbath from your yard. Or even the water from the bird bath.

I understand that maintaining a bird bath in the winter takes a bit of dedication. But, you will be providing a lifeline for the bird braving the harsh winter conditions.

Please consider buying a durable winter replacement if your summer bird bath isn’t suitable for winter conditions.

Frozen bird bath FAQ

These are the most frequent questions I get asked about trying to prevent bird baths from freezing over in the winter.

Can I use salt to stop my bird bath freezing?

Don’t add salt to your bird bath as an antifreeze method. A bird’s digestive system is very delicate, and even a small amount of salt can throw it out of sync.

Overdosing on saltwater in your bird bath can make birds thirsty, dehydrated, or even cause kidney failure.

Can I use a fountain to stop my bird bath freezing?

Don’t use fountains in the winter months, as the cold weather will damage the device. Keep your bird bath fountain for the using in spring through to the fall.

Final thoughts

Keeping your bird baths ice-free in winter will be a life saver for your backyard birds.

This article has shown you 6 easy ways to prevent your bird bath from freezing in the winter. Choosing the right design of bird bath and placing it in the right location will save a lot of headaches from the start. For an easy way to keep your birdbath ice-free, use an immersion heater or keep the water moving.

If you take anything from this guide, let it be that you shouldn’t use any type of anti freeze in your bird bath. It may be convenient, but you’ll harm the birds.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips to keep a bird bath from freezing in winter.

3 thoughts on “How To Keep A Bird Bath From Freezing In Winter”

  1. I had to improvise some years ago. I used a heated dog bowl. It worked like a dream, though it was a bit deep. I added a couple of rocks for the birds to stand on. They seemed happy with the results.

  2. I agree with Sheila Lea – a heated water bowl is the only way to go. All the other options listed will not work. You’ll be running yourself ragged on a 25 degree day waiting for the sun to come out, constantly moving or changing the water, etc.

  3. I think all these ideas are good, but I have had the same concrete/cement bird bath for 19 yrs and it’s out in the winter months and what I do for the birds and the other animals that drink from it is, I don’t fill it to the rim because I add warm/hot water on top of the ice and it does melt it and it lasts which also at the same time it gives them more water in the day, especially when there is Sun.


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