724-845-8201 Mon--Fri 9-6 Sat 9-5 Sun10-3

Thermostatically controlled Immersion water heater

Garden Article Jan. 3, 2020

Frozen, snow-capped creeks and ponds may be beautiful, but, cold winters mean extra challenges for birds. Water can be hard to find and birds need fresh water all year long.  Birds need to drink just like us.  Although birds can eat snow, it costs them precious energy to warm the snow up to body temperature—a costly expense in severe cold. Flying around in search of water burns more energy and can take birds farther away from food sources. In addition to drinking, birds use water to keep their feathers clean, and some will bathe even in winter.

Birds are slow to recognize water, however, if there is any time of the year when water is at a premium for bathing and drinking it is winter. Birds are eager for water for drinking purposes in winter, and if anything, they need to bathe more often in cold weather.  Birds bathe to keep warm.   It is especially important that their feathers be kept clean and well-groomed during the colder months.

A feather contains interlocking webs known as barbules.  When in place, these shut out the cold and thereby provide proper insulation from the rigors of the weather.  Using the bill the bird careful grooms its feathers and anoints tem with oil from a special gland at the base of the tail.  The first essential requirement in this routine is that the feathers be clean.  This is why bathing is so important in winter even with the temperature hovering around freezing, birds sometimes insist on bathing.

Keeping birdbaths from freezing and in use all winter is easy either with an immersion water heater or a heated bird bath.  This is a heating element that is placed in the bath and that can be attached to an electrical outlet by means of an extension cord.  The warm water will be appreciated for both drinking and bathing.

.To make the water more attractive to the birds and to give them a sense of security add a few stones or branches to the bird bath to give birds a place to perch without standing in the water. Use a container with a gentle slope that birds can easily wade into.   Keep the bird bath clean. Water filled with bird (or squirrel) poop and other nasties can be toxic to birds and defeat the purpose of providing fresh water.  By all means do not add glycerine (an antifreeze) to the water. It is toxic at the levels needed to prevent water from freezing and it can stick to feathers and destroy their insulation value.
Bird bath heaters range from twenty-four to sixty dollars.  The average cost to operate one is pennies a day.

Also available is a one unit heated bird bath from Farm Innovators called a Four Seasons Heated Birdbath.  Its stone-like texture blends well into natural environment.

This attractive sand-coated year-round oasis for the birds has a concealed integrated heating element, the cord tucks away for warm weather use, hidden from sight and it is thermostatically controlled to operate only when necessary.

Garden Tip: If you can’t get electricity to your bird bath or you want to see how the birds will react to water in your backyard.  You can still provide fresh water. Keep a couple heavy-duty plant trays or other basins that will hold water and start a rotation. In the morning, put out fresh water and bring the frozen one in to thaw. You’ll be getting a heater in no time.

Dave Vargo is the owner of   Kiski Plaza Garden & Feed Center (724-845-8201) in Leechburg.  Products mentioned in the article are available at the garden center.  Any questions call or email dvargokiski@comcast.net.  Like us on Facebook @kiskigardencenter.