Make your own bird bath

Cover Photo: Baltimore Orioles love oranges! Ohio, Magee Marsh May 2010 from the Surfbirds galleries © Glyn Sellors

Most of us start watching birds close to home, at a window or in our backyard. One more way to see more birds is to make your home and backyard more attractive to them. The key is to provide the basic necessities for birds: food, water, and shelter.

Water for BIRDS

You can make your own bird bath very easily. A cheap electric fountain motor placed in a large flower pot will attract many different types of birds, with the sound of running water, including warblers. Most birds will perch on the top of the fountain to drink and bathe.

A flower pot from a hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowes will often work prefectly. A small fountain motor can also be cheaply bought for less than $20.Depending on how far from the nearest power outlet you intend to place the bath, you may also need an outdoor electric extension cord.

You will need to provide somewhere for the birds to perch, so we would recommend putting some chicken wire across the top of the pot and placing some medium sized decorative stones on top of the chicken wire for perches. You will need some wire cutters to enlarge a hole for the power cable to fit through.

An alternative is a pot with a hole at the bottom that the power cable can go through. You will need to then fill up the rest of the hole around the cable with plumber's putty to prevent water leakage.

Do make sure to clean the bath once per month and replace the water. Place the fountain in a visible location so you can enjoy the birds coming and going but try to provide nearby shelter such as bushes or trees that birds can quickly move to if a predator is in the vicinity.

Birds need drinking and bathing water just as much as they need food. Birds are attracted to the sound of running water. They are attracted to moving, shallow water. A bird bath is an excellent way to attract a greater variety of birds to your backyard. A dripping hose or a trickle of water running into a one-inch pan with gravel on the bottom will do the job. An old bucket with a triangular piece of cloth pulled through a drip hole and hung over an old baking pan will do as well as an elaborate pool. Another cheap alternative is to buy an electric fountain motor from a hardware store such as Home Depot and put it in an a large plant pot with some rocks at the bottom.

Common Bird Bath Questions

My Heated Bird Bath Does Not Turn On

Heated bird baths are a great addition to a bird feeding station. Since they are electrical, sometimes there are things can make the customer think that the bath is not working correctly. Often times the problem is just a quick fix or not even a fix - just a little cleaning or adjustment to get the heated bird bath back on track.

This is a common question in early winter when backyard birders are just starting to put their heated bath outside. Where are you testing the heater? About 99 percent of the time people are turning the heater or bath on in their home to test it and that is the reason why the units aren't starting up. Customers sometimes expect that when they plug a heating unit in the wall that it will warm up similar to a curling iron. But bird bath heaters are thermostat controlled and shut off when the temperature is around 40 degrees

Most people tend to keep their homes a little warmer than that. The first question I always ask is "Are you testing the unit indoors?" If the answer is yes, you need to try it outside where it is cold.

It is important for people to keep in mind that heaters are not going to keep the water hot tub warm. Many people expect it to be really warm water, when fact it is just warm enough to keep the water open.

For small heaters like the Nelson Blue Devil Heater you can test those indoors by sticking them in a freezer for a few hours and then plugging them in. If after you have it plugged in for a few moments you see steam rise, then the heater is working. Sometimes Nelson heaters will get mineral deposits built up on the unit. This can affect the heater's performance.

A trick to try is to soak the heating unit in white vinegar overnight and then rinsing and scrubbing off the deposits the next day. An old toothbrush works very well for this. Clearing off the deposits can go a long way to improve the heating capability of a bird bath heater.

Are Heated Baths Harmful to Birds?

There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim. If a bird is bathing during freezing temperatures, then there is probably something else wrong with the bird. A heated bird bath is to keep the water open not for birds to have a hot tub bathe.