Pheathers – Water


The backyard birds need water as well as food at this time of year. You can see from my photos how barren the landscape is in the Mid-Atlantic states by December. I put out a bit of food every day, and keep this stand-in birdbath refilled at least once per day.


A flexible plastic bowl from the dollar store works very well in place of my summer birdbaths. I’ve seen birds drinking and bathing in the water during this frigid weather.


Even though the water freezes solid overnight, the plastic has some give, and so far has not cracked. A concrete birdbath would likely crack and be ruined by the melt and thaw of wintertime water.


I accidentally created a birdbath by leaving a plastic bucket of gravel outdoors. This collects rainwater, giving small birds another place to drink.

Here’s an article form the Chicago Tribune with some good ideas for feeding/watering/sheltering backyard birds in the winter. Helping Birds Survive Winter in Your Backyard ~ Chicago Tribune

Pheathers – Creating Crystalline for Birds in Winter


I am in the midst of creating layers of crystalline on a stump in the backyard. Placed near the border of ivy and pines, I am hoping the birds will flock to the stump and enjoy the salt crystals as they form. The crystalline should help ease their craving for salt and keep them from ingesting rock salt and ice melt when the ground is covered in snow.

Recipe for Crystalline
Wood ashes*
Mix salt and ashes with enough water to dissolve and pour over a large rock, stump or wood block. As the water evaporates, crystals form that attract mineral-hungry birds. (Be sure to keep the salt water away from areas that are planted with shrubs or near gardens ? salinating the soil can create problems for plant growth.) *These can be fireplace ashes as long as they do not contain residues from colored (especially red) or slick paper
~ Mother Earth News & “Country Wisdom and Know-How

First I burned some small sticks and oak shavings. I used only natural wood and newspaper without colored ink to give it a quick start.


I let the ashes cool down and then used a large tin can filled with a 1/4 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of water. I added all the small pieces of ashes I could scoop out of the fire pit. The recipe doesn’t give exact measurements so I am just guessing about quantities.


I poured the crystalline over the stump and  used the trowel I mixed with to batter down any lumps. The consistency resembled cement and easily stuck to the stump.


I will continue mixing up the crystalline after campfires, and build up layers on the stump. In a few weeks, if the birds don’t notice the stump, I will scatter some bird seed and hopefully they will come and dine.

Crystals can also be formed by using mixing up plain saltwater.


“Many birds crave salt as an essential mineral, particularly in the winter when roads are regularly salted. Unfortunately, feeding on the side of the road can be deadly for birds, and offering salt crystals at your feeders will help keep them safe. Create a strong saltwater solution and let it evaporate in a shallow dish to make larger crystals, or pour it over a log or stump if there is no danger of freezing.

TIP: Salt can kill grass and make it difficult to grow plants, so keep the salt you’re offering the birds well away from gardens and other plantings.” ~ About Home / Birding

Providing bird grit (available in pet sections) in cleared out areas also helps with digestion when ground is covered with snow. As always, a water source is vital for birds in all weather.