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Keeping water ice-free

Male house sparrow bathing in garden pond

Image: Ray Kennedy

Birds need to drink regularly, whether the weather's hot or cold. They'll even bathe in the depths of winter.

In freezing conditions, bird baths and garden ponds become even more important, since many natural sources of water are frozen over. 

It can be difficult to stop a bird bath from freezing, but try these simple methods:

  • A light ball floating in the water will be moved by even a gentle breeze, and will keep a small amount of water ice-free
  • Pour on hot water to melt the ice
  • Line the bath with a polythene sheet that you can lift out along with the ice
  • Put a metal container on three or four bricks with a night light candle underneath, sheltering the flame from the wind with extra bricks
  • Use an immersion heater controlled by a thermostat, or a lightbulb inside a tiling pipe on which the dish is resting. They must be fitted with suitable external wiring
  • The ultimate is the Solar Sipper, a bird bath that uses solar energy to prevent the water from freezing.

Avoid chemicals 

Never add any chemicals (such as glycerine, anti-freeze or salt) to the water. It could stop the birds' feathers from being waterproof, or poison the birds themselves.

How you can help

Carder bumblebee harvesting nectar

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