Drinking water for wild birds


It’s Winter, and all our wild animals need a little help through these harsh days. I leave food out every day for any passing hungry animal. Please help your local inhabitants… they are precious.

While it’s freezing, it’s essential that there is liquid water available for animals and birds. And it’s NOT good to try to stop it freezing by adding sugars or glycerin, or anything else. So how do you keep water from freezing? I was amazed that there seems to be nothing out there to buy in the way of a bird bath which keeps water unfrozen. So I decided to invent something. Something anyone can improvise. It has to be cheap to make, to run, and not in need of a lot of maintenance. My solution is to apply gentle heat.

My warm bird-bath is constructed from a bucket inverted over a garden light, which forms a stand for a copper dish on top, which is full of water.

The heat from the garden light is enough to keep the water free of ice all day … provided I keep the garden lights on all day. In my case, to make this happen, I had to put a flower pot over the light sensor, so it thinks it’s always night time! But at this time of the year the daylight hours are short anyway.

OK : here is how it works.

Step 1 – the basis is a normal garden light … one of a set of 12 … with a 35 watt bulb in … not an LED type. It’s the kind of light fitting that has a spike on the bottom to fix it in the ground, and a pivot screw to adjust the angle, with a wing nut to tighten it up so it doesn’t move. (I got it at Ryness.) The light throws out quite a bit of heat. I turned it to point upwards, so a bit of radiant heat might hit the underside of the bucket (see Step 2) – but it probably makes little difference which way it points.

Here it is.

Garden light

Step 2 – A metal bucket is inverted over the light – keeping the heat in, pretty much, and becoming a slightly warm stand.


Step 3 – A metal bowl stands on top of the bucket. Because both the bucket and the bowl are metal, they conduct heat from the light, warming up the water just enough to keep it from freezing. I think if the weather got really severe, I’d need to lag the sides of the bucket, to conserve more heat.

That could quite easily be done by wrapping foam rubber around the bucket, but I haven’t had to do it yet.


Step 4 – Make sure the garden light is on all day and all night. If it’s turned off by a daylight sensor, cover the sensor with a plant pot … or a hat ! Result? Free water for your local birds.

Cheers Bri

For those of you who can free-view in stereo, or have an OWL handy … the 3-D versions of these pictures may be much more helpful …

Garden light - stereo

Bucket - stereo

Warm bird bath - stereo

Maybe this is what is meant by ‘hiding your light under a bushel’ !

Light under bucket - dark - stereo