What Do I Need to Do With My Bird Bath in Winter? 4 Simple Things to Help Your Garden's Feathered Friends

According to experts, these small tasks may help birds survive the colder months

birds around a bird bath in winter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Birds and other wildlife need our help more than ever. Many people have responded to this by making their yards more bird-friendly with native plants, feeders and baths. If you have too, you may be wondering "what should I do with a bird bath in winter?".

The good news is there are some simple steps to maintain a bird bath when the temperature drops. According to experts, this will ensure our feathered friends can still drink and bathe in the colder months in our backyards. What's more, your yard will be filled with their meditative avian antics.

'Winter birdbaths are pretty low maintenance and not too different from maintaining birdbaths in summer,' says Dr. Emma Greig, FeederWatch project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

1. Keep it clean

birds on a bird bath in winter

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jackie Bale)

Birds can become ill from bacteria build-up, so it's good to keep your bird bath clean, with a regular scrub. Although, this may be required less often in winter.

'How often you clean your birdbath depends on how warm it is where you live and how many birds are using it,' says Dr Greig at FeederWatch. 'In warmer locations where bacteria may grow more rapidly, or where lots of birds are using the bath, you might consider cleaning it every couple of days. 

'But if only a few birds visit and it is cool weather, and you can see that the bath remains clean looking, then less frequently may be fine.

'Just rinsing out a birdbath and using a scrub brush of some type to clean out any “slime” can be a perfectly fine way to change the water, especially if you are cleaning it daily. 

'Harsh cleaning products are best avoided. However, if you want to do a more thorough clean, you can use a diluted bleach solution and wash it with that. 

'However, make sure you rinse it thoroughly to remove all bleach residue before refilling. We don’t want our feathered friends ingesting toxic cleaning products.'

2. Place a rock or two in your bird bath

Birds are most at risk when bathing, as their feathers get wet and the sound of the splashing alerts predators. Placing a rock or two in your bird bath will give birds somewhere to perch. 

If they can perch, they won’t get out of their depth. There’s plenty of space for them to flap about, and the chance to do it in the company of others, which is always safer.

3. Check it's not frozen

A frozen bird bath in winter

(Image credit: Getty Images / Annie Otzen)

Bird baths are essential for all times of year, so it's best not to put it away when winterizing a backyard. In cold weather, check for ice every morning and remove it manually, or melt it by pouring a kettle of hot water over it. 

Some bird enthusiasts pop a small rubber ball in the water. Unless it's subzero for days, the bobbing ball can often prevent ice forming.

4. Top the water up daily

When the heat of the sun is less intense and it's colder outside, it's easy to forget to top up your bird bath. But birds need water all year round. 

'Birds will certainly use a birdbath to drink in cold weather, and they may even bathe too depending on how chilly it is,' says Dr Grieg. 'They are less likely to bathe in the depths of winter compared to a hot sunny summer day, but keeping their plumage clean is a high priority in every season.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites

A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.