Why You Should Put A Tennis Ball In Your Bird Bath This Winter

While many bird watchers neglect to continue filling their bird baths with water in the winter, this could negatively impact the birds in the area. This is because it can be hard for birds to find water in cold weather, since most water sources are frozen. Therefore, to ensure your bird bath is useful, you need to not only fill it regularly but also keep it from freezing over. Surprisingly, you can prevent your bird bath from becoming ice by placing a tennis ball on the surface of the water. When the wind blows, the tennis ball will float around the basin and work to prevent ice from forming while also breaking up any thin ice that does form. This will allow your feathered friends to stop by for a much-needed drink when other water sources have turned to ice. 

While other anti-freezing options such as glycerin or chemicals could be dangerous for the birds that drink the water, a tennis ball poses no threat to your thirsty visitors. Additionally, this hack could actually help birds locate the fresh water you're providing, since the vibrant yellow color of the ball will stand out from the dead, dreary vegetation. However, while this method is effective in some frigid conditions, those with harsher winters may need to take more steps to keep their baths from freezing. 

How tennis balls will help your bird bath

During winter, lots of bird lovers use heated bird baths to prevent the water inside the basin from freezing. While this option is extremely effective and helpful, you may not want to purchase and use this accessory to support your feathered friends. While bird bath heaters typically only cost about $20 to $30, they sometimes have to be plugged into an outlet and could increase your energy bill. In comparison, tennis balls are even less expensive and don't require an outlet or electricity. These balls are rather cheap, as you can by an 18-pack of Athletic Works Pressureless Tennis Balls from Walmart for about $10. If you already have a tennis ball, that's even better, as this hack will cost you nothing. 

It's also extremely easy to use this hack to keep your bath unfrozen. Before dropping a tennis ball into your bird bath, break up and pull out any ice that may have already formed. The movement of the tennis ball in the water will help keep it from freezing and can break up a thin layer of ice, but it will not melt or break thick ice. Once your bath is set up, check on it often to see if the tennis ball is working and to remove any small pieces of ice. If the ball starts to look dirty or is breaking, simply replace it with another. 

Alternatives for tennis balls in your bird bath

If you can't seem to get your hands on a tennis ball, ping pong balls and other plastic balls, such as wiffle balls, will have a similar effect. Any small object that will float and won't be harmed by the cold, including leftover wine corks, will help to shift the water in your winter bird bath and break up the ice. 

However, though tennis balls and other small balls are great for tackling thin ice, they're not going to do much if your bath has completely frozen over or if you live in an extra-cold climate. Maintain your bird bath in the winter by placing it in a spot that receives a lot of sunlight. In extremely bitter weather, ice will likely be in your bird bath even with tennis balls and sunlight. For thick layers of ice, try carefully pouring warm water over the bath to slowly melt it before adding a tennis or ping pong ball. With a little care and a few tennis or plastic balls, your bath will benefit the birds in your area all year long.