Water is vital to birds year-round for drinking and bathing, consequently bird baths are a great way to attract birds to your garden. Don’t set it and forget it though, here are 5 basic steps to maintain a healthy, inviting bird bath in your garden:
1. Choose a Birdbath Wisely
Make your cleaning routine easier by selecting a bird bath with a somewhat smooth surface, but not overly smooth and slippery for the birds to have secure footing. The depth of water should be no more than 2 inches deep. If the depth is greater than 2 inches, place a large stone in the center for the birds to stand.
2. Location, Location, Location
Provide the birds a safe place by setting the bath 30 feet from windows and away from feeders, which keeps it cleaner. Position the bird bath in an open clearing, but within 10 feet of a tree or shrub. The tree or shrub provides an escape route for protection.
Ideal trees and shrubs for birds:
- American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
- Oak (Quercus species)
- Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca)
- Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
3. Clean Birdbaths Every 1-3 Days
Dump the remaining water from the bath every few days and refill the bird bath with fresh water. If the basin has a textured bottom, spray the bath on a weekly basis with pressurized hose-water to remove debris and scrub with a brush before refilling it with fresh water. Dumping the water regularly also stops mosquitoes from breeding in the water. Be sure to wash your hands after handling bird feeders, nesting boxes, or cleaning bird baths. Birds can carry pathogens that have the potential to cause illness in humans.
4. Limit Algae Growth in Birdbaths
Submerge a piece of copper tubing in the water. The copper is safe for birds and will slow the growth of algae in the bird bath water. Position the bird bath in a shaded or partly shaded location to further reduce algae growth.
5. Sterilize Birdbaths Twice a Year (at least)
Pour a diluted bleach solution in the basin in spring and again in autumn. Cover the basin with a tarp or plastic bag to keep birds and other animals from drinking the chemical-treated water, and then leave for 10 minutes. Thoroughly rinse the bird bath with hose water for 2 minutes, until the chlorine scent is gone. Refill the basin with fresh water.
Keep your birdbaths in good shape year-round with these tips on How to Winterize a Bird Bath.