Many gardeners help our feathered friends out in winter with a bird feeder. But birds also need water, especially in a frozen landscape. There are numerous electric bird bather heater designs for purchase, but you can also DIY your own in a regular bird bath. A heated bird bath insert will ensure thawed water for animals. You might even try a cordless bird bath heater that relies upon solar energy to keep water from freezing.
Tips on Heated Birdbaths
The shape and where you place the bath are important. A gentle sloping basin will allow you to more easily clean the bowl. This is important because fecal matter, feathers, feed, and other foreign objects will make the water unclean to drink. Some advocate putting sand or rocks in the bottom of the basin, so bird's claws have a purchase, but this is negotiable. What is important is having a non-slip surface like terra cotta. Birds will also bathe in the basin. They need a place nearby to preen and dry their feathers. It should have some cover from predators. The bath can be in ground, but they are vulnerable. Consider a bath on a pedestal so song birds are not prey to low dwelling predators. Ground dwelling species like grouse will find an in-ground feature more attractive.
A Heated Bird Bath Insert
You can find many solutions for keeping a bird bath thawed. An insert is usually electric and will require power to operate. There are thermostat controlled units that allow you to set a temperature, saving money by only activating in the cold. Corded heaters should be plugged into a grounded outlet, with a weather proof cover. A cordless bird bath heater is another great option. These have a small solar panel and battery to collect light, which it translates into power. The solar de-icer will keep water from freezing, especially during the day. Another option is a heated bird bath. These can be pricey but ensure a constant supply of potable water, even at night.
How to Heat a Bird Bath
Making a bird bath heater for winter is relatively simple. You can place a lit light bulb in a container in the center of the bath. This provides enough light to prevent icing. Or you might mount a light over the basin. Install a bubbler in the bath to keep water moving and prevent freezing. An inexpensive heated pet water bowl is another option. Place a large rock in the center and keep it well filled so small birds can easily get a drink. Site it on a high enough location that cats and other animals can't get to the birds easily. Finally, floating a small, darkly colored ball will help break up ice as wind blows it across the surface.
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Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.