It all started when I found an old cement bowl at a garage sale. A perfect birdbath for my garden! I repurposed the find so successfully that I decided to make a couple more bathing vessels for my feathered friends. Placed strategically around my yard they add beauty and, to my delight, attract myriad songbirds to my garden.
Birdbaths are good for a garden as well as for the birds: The birds will come to get a drink, bathe and groom, and while they are in the area they eat insect pests and hunt for worms. I’m sure the birds do more than their fair share of work to keep my plants healthy.
Birdbaths can be fun and functional as well as attractive. They don’t need to be fancy or expensive, although I do love those pretty ones I see advertised in garden magazines. Thrift shops are a good starting place and can offer inspiration for make-it-yourself birdbath projects.
In general, birds will come to drink from any kind of shallow container on a hot summer day. They prefer water 1 to 2 inches deep. If the water is much deeper than that they will avoid it. FYI: I remedied this problem by placing large rocks in the center of my cement basin for the birds to land on. But remember: Shallow birdbaths will dry out more quickly than deeper ones and will have to be refilled frequently. I top mine off just about every day.
It’s also essential to keep your birdbaths clean. In the summer gloppy stuff grows pretty fast when the water warms up. Birdbaths may need to be scrubbed every week or so to keep them looking nice and fresh. Discarded seed hulls (a problem if the bath is situated near a feeder), stray feathers, feces, algae and other debris can cause the water to go bad fast.
Although I love the look of a pedestal-style birdbath, which has the benefit of being predator-safe, the families of raccoons (those little rascals!) in my neighborhood seem to make a habit of knocking them down at night and spilling all of the water that I’ve set out for the birds. So I found a good solid spot on top of an old tree stump. The birds love it.
In the past I have made birdbaths from old hubcaps and an upside-down garbage can lid, but I’ve learned that metal can become hot in the sun. Warm water is less appealing to birds and more likely to become a breeding ground for bacteria.
My birdbaths attract critters besides birds to my garden. Frisky pine squirrels will often come to take a sip of water before they dash away, always alert for the foxes that inhabit my neighborhood. Birdbaths will also attract wasps.
Perennial flowers — those that come up every year from last year’s roots — are nice to plant around birdbaths, creating a lovely spot in your yard. Or place a birdbath in an existing flowerbed surrounded by tall perennials such as Shasta daisies, bee balm or coneflowers.