All birds need water. If you make sure it is available to them year-round, you’ll find that it can be as much of an attraction as putting out seed or suet. In fact, birds that might have no interest in eating at a feeder may come to visit your yard if there is water available. Providing water when the temperatures dip into freezing levels, requires some adjustments, but it isn’t hard.
During warm weather, providing clean water can be as easy as putting some water out in a wide shallow container and refilling it with fresh water every day or two and cleaning it with a brush every now and then as needed. You can get more elaborate, with purchased birdbaths or adding bubblers or fountains to keep the water moving. But a do-it-yourself birdbath can work just as well.
In the winter, if you live in an area where the temperatures gets down to freezing, you need to make some choices. Some birdbaths are not meant to be year-round and can crack in cold weather. (Read tags and labels when you go to purchase a birdbath to see whether it can be used in winter weather.)
Two of my do-it-yourself birdbaths are terracotta plant saucers that can crack, so I empty them and take them in for the winter months. I understand that using a de-icer in a birdbath might eliminate water freeze-thaw cycles and reduce the potential for cracking, but I haven’t experimented with this myself with these terracotta containers.
During warm months, I have five birdbaths, two in the back and three in the front. In the winter, I have four, two back and two front. One of the two in the back is a small metal birdbath. It does not crack but isn’t really big enough to accommodate a de-icer, so in the winter, I just put water in this one and if it does freeze, I’ll clear out the ice and/or top it off with hot water to melt the ice for a little while.
The other birdbath in the back and one in the front are plastic plant saucers placed on the ground. Last year I purchased a de-icer to use in the back bath and it worked beautifully to keep fresh unfrozen water available at all times. It was water the local birds could always count on to be there.
The front plastic saucer bath did not have a de-icer so like the metal birdbath, there were times when it had ice-free water and times when its water was frozen. I’m tempted to get a second de-icer for this one, but I’d have to run the power cord right underneath the front door, which is awkward, so I hesitate.
The last birdbath sits on a small table on the front porch. For this one, I swap out the deep terracotta pot I use in warm weather with a deep heated plastic pet bowl. Because I put it in the same spot, the birds quickly get used to the replacement.
Like the terracotta pot, the pet bowl is deep and so isn’t actually meant to serve as a bath, but it does provide ice-free water in freezing temperatures. The birds will perch on the rim to drink. So even though it is deep, it is quite popular in the winter, with birds often queuing up to use it.
I do have a second heated pet bowl under a bench on the back step that birds will occasionally use. (A small flock of American Robins once visited it on a winter day to take turns bathing in the bowl.) But mostly it is used by squirrels and neighborhood cats.
I’ve written a few other posts about birdbaths on this blog. If you’d like to read more about my birdbath set-up, find out more about the de-icer and the heated pet bowls I use and see more pictures, check out these posts:
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