Keeping a bird bath clean is essential to keep birds coming to visit it, otherwise it can become an unhealthy place for the birds to bathe. There is no easy way to keep bird bath water clean naturally, but follow these steps and you can keep your bird bath fresh and clean and ready for birds.
A well used bird bath will soon get dirty. Some of the things which go towards making it dirty are:
- Bird poop
- Seeds, seed hulls or berries where the birds have been eating
- Leaves and grass
- General dust and dirt in the air
- Bird feathers
- Dead bugs
As you can imagine, any combination of these would put the birds off visiting and bathing. There are many reasons to keep the water in your bird bath clean, including:
- Preventing birds from catching diseases
- Helping them keep their feathers in good condition
- Providing them with fresh drinking water.
Some bird baths come with additional features and these can help you to keep the bird bath clean naturally. Pumps and misters create movement in the water which can help prevent the build up of algae.
A recirculating pump has a few uses in a bird bath.
- They circulate the water in the bird bath so it creates movement in the water to attract birds.
- By moving the water they can also help to keep the bird bath clean. Algae won’t be able to form so well on water which is moving and insects may find it harder to lay eggs.
These pumps are included in some bird baths and to make them even better, they can even be solar powered. This makes them easier to set up and operate so you get the full benefit of them.
Tips to help keep your bird bath clean
You cannot prevent a bird bath from getting dirty, but you can do a few things which will mean it needs cleaning less often.
- When you top up the water, empty out any remaining water before you refill it.
- Hose out or wipe down the bird bath every time you change the water.
- When you site your bird bath, don’t place it directly underneath trees or feeders.
- A shady spot can help minimize algae growth, particularly during the summer.
- Add some pennies or use a copper bird bath, as this can help reduce the growth of algae.
Here’s a great little video full of tips for cleaning your bird bath without chemicals.
Clean your bird bath
Bird baths must be kept clean or the birds simply won’t want to use them. The water can be changed every day or two, and if you empty out any remaining water before you refill it, this will help to keep the bird bath cleaner. Depending on how well used the bird bath is, it will need a proper clean at least once a week.
Here are some simple steps for cleaning the bath as naturally as possible.
1. Empty it
The first step is to simply get rid of all the dirty water already in it. This can be done by just tipping the bird bath until all the water is out.
- Don’t tip it where it can form a puddle or the birds may come and use the contaminated water.
- Pour it over the grass, flowerbeds or down a drain.
Once you’ve done this you’ll probably see a nice layer of grime and dirt at the bottom. A garden hose or buckets of water can get rid of some of the looser dirt at the bottom.
2. Remove ornaments
If you have stones or gravel in the bath, these will need to be removed as well and cleaned with fresh water or a brush to remove fecal matter, dead insects and algae. It’s no use having a nice clean bath, if you put dirty stones back in it.
3. Scrub it
To give the base a good clean, take an ordinary hard brush and some water and scrub the base. The brush will allow you to get right inside any gaps and get the bath as clean as possible.
You don’t need to add any detergents or chemicals to the water, as a good scrub will clear out all the dirt, particularly if your bird bath is a stone one.
Some bird baths may not be so easy to scrub clean, so you may need to add something to the water. Do so with caution as all chemicals are harmful to birds. If you do choose to use any detergents or chemicals, be sure to cover the bird bath so birds cannot use it until it is ready.
4. Soak if necessary
If the bird bath is particularly dirty you may need to soak it, and this is where you will need to use chemicals.
One way to clean a bird bath is using diluted white vinegar. Mix up a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 9 parts water.
- Use the mixture to scrub the bath to loosen any dirt.
- If the bird bath is particularly dirty, leave the solution to soak for a while, covering it first so the birds cannot get to the bath.
- When it has done its work, rinse the bath thoroughly with a garden hose. When the water stops frothing you will know that all the vinegar has been removed.
- Allow the bath to dry completely before refilling with water.
It goes without saying that using bleach on a bird bath should be done with caution but if you have stubborn algae it will remove it. The bleach should be well diluted, 200ml of bleach to 5 liters of water.
- Scrub out as much dirt as you can and then pour the bleach solution in to the bird bath
- It will need to be left for approximately 15 minutes, so cover the bird bath well.
- Tip the solution away, but be sure not to leave this water anywhere where it can be harmful to any birds or animals.
- Rinse the bath thoroughly with a hose or several buckets and leave the bath to dry. If you can, leave it in direct sunlight as this will help to break down any remaining chlorine.
When your bird bath is nice and clean, you can refill it with clean water. If you had stones or gravel, these can be placed back in the bath when they too are nice and clean.
In winter, it can be a difficult decision whether to store your bird bath or leave it out. In cold conditions, the water will simply freeze and the birds won’t be able to use it. It’s during the winter that the birds need the water to bathe, however, as some fresh sources of water may be frozen as well.
You may think that you only need to clean the bath in the winter when it is warm enough not to freeze the water, but bird baths are still prone to gather dirt in winter too.
One solution is to use something which will prevent the water from freezing over, then it can be regularly used and regularly cleaned. Solar powered bird bath heaters are a great way to do this. They can be added to the bird bath with minimal fitting and they contain no harmful chemicals for the birds.