5 Ways To Maintain Your Bird Bath (And What To Avoid)


Birds will fly to your bird bath as often as possible if it’s out in the open, but they’ll make it dirty very quickly. When this happens, bacteria, parasites, and algae develop, which is harmful to the birds and smells terrible.

Just scrubbing the bird bath with water isn’t going to do it, so let’s take a look at the five ways that will keep your bird bath as good as new.

1. Empty And Clean The Bird Bath At Least Twice A Month

Ideally, you’d have enough free time to do this once a week, but there’s nothing wrong with cleaning your bird bath every other week. You’ll notice that the water gets dirty very quickly either way.

Not only are the birds getting rid of all the dirt, excess oil, and skin cells, but they’re also defecating in the bird bath. The feces mix with the water and it quickly becomes unhealthy to bathe in.

On top of all that, a dirty bird bath grows algae and attracts insects, but more on that later.

To keep it clean, you’re going to have to empty the bird bath and clean it. Don’t empty the bird bath water into your plants or somewhere your dog will get it.

That water is a contaminated breeding ground for bacteria and parasites.

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The best way of cleaning the bird bath includes pressure-washing it first. This way, you’re getting rid of all the large pieces of dirt and feces.

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If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can use a simple hose with a water gun attachment – that’ll be enough to clean out the larger pieces.

2. Scrub The Bird Bath With Vinegar Or Bleach

Once you cleaned out the old grit, you’ll need to scrub the bird bath until it’s clean. Bleach solutions are very effective at cleaning feces and dirt – a 1:9 (bleach to water) solution is usually recommended, but you can try stronger solutions too.

All you have to do is pour the solution into the bird bath and scrub it with a hard-bristled brush until it’s clean. Know that bleach can kill birds, so it’s imperative that you rinse the bird bath well after cleaning it!

After rinsing the bird bath, you should let it out to dry in the sun. If any algae somehow survived your treatment, the sun will burn them.

You can also use a vinegar solution if you don’t have bleach at hand. Vinegar is known as the go-to cleaning liquid if you’re in a hurry and don’t have anything else at home.

The formula for the solution is the same as with bleach – 1:9. Once the bird bath is clean, rinse it thoroughly and fill it up.

Alternative solutions are hydrogen peroxide and water (1:1) or baking soda and water.

3. Clean The Ornaments And The Area Around The Bird Bath

Birds are messy animals, and they’ll poop all around the bird feeder. You’ll need to clean the surrounding area regularly, otherwise, it’ll start to smell and develop bacteria.

Don’t forget to clean the ornaments from your bird bath – they get just as dirty as the bottom, not to mention that algae are likely to use them for a base.

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4. Slowing Down Algae Growth In Bird Baths

You’re still going to have to clean your bird bath regularly, even if you minimize algae growth, so don’t think of this as a method of avoiding cleaning your bird bath.

It’s impossible to completely prevent the growth of algae in bird baths, but you can certainly slow it down.

You can’t prevent algae from forming because they’re carried by spores from nearby water sources. If there’s a pond nearby, algae will definitely form in your bird bath.

To slow down their growth, keep the bird bath in a shaded spot (but not under a tree). Algae are still plants, and they can’t survive without sunlight – keeping them away from direct sunlight will slow down their growth.

Adding a bubbling machine, which is usually inexpensive, will make it more difficult for algae to settle because of the constant water stream. Bubblers are also useful in the winter as they prevent the water from freezing.

Even with these methods, algae will form, albeit slower. The only true way of keeping them away is by cleaning the bird bath regularly.

Don’t Use Pool Algicides or Copper for Algae

We use chlorine and other algicides in our pool to prevent algae from forming and it’s safe to swim, so the same applies to birds, right? Wrong.

You shouldn’t use pool chemicals to stop algae growth as they’re toxic to birds.

There’s also the questionable method of adding copper pennies or a copper pipe in the bird bath to prevent algae growth.

While copper sulfate (a liquid solution you can find in most large stores) will kill algae, it might also kill the birds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared it toxic to birds, so you shouldn’t use it in your bird bath.

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Copper objects, such as pennies or pipes, aren’t the same as copper sulfate and they won’t noticeably prevent algae growth.

5. Prevent Dirt Buildup With Proper Placement

Birds will make your bird bath dirty enough, so don’t make it harder on yourself by putting the bird bath under a tree, a plant, or a feeder. Leaves, twigs, moss, and other stuff will fall into the bird bath and only make it dirtier.

When feeding, birds will drop food debris and wind can easily carry it to your bird bath. They’ll also defecate as they eat, and if the feeder is placed directly above the bird bath, it’ll build up even more feces.

To prevent this, set up your bird bath in a spot that’s unreachable by plants or feeders.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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