|Birdbaths are one of the most delightful lawn and garden accents that you can add to your outdoor decor. Not just for their own attractive designs, but the beautiful variety of birds that you'll attract by offering a watering hole close to your feeders and natural food provided by grasses and other plants.
However, there is a down side, and that is cleaning them, particularly if you find that algae is a problem. When choosing a birdbath, your first consideration should be how difficult this very necessary chore is going to be. Large, one-piece cement baths are lovely, but they’re also porous, and hard to scrub out. Not to mention that they are heavy, and you may have difficulty tipping them over and setting them back up again. Birdbaths with a removable basin, or at least a drain in the bottom of it will much easier to care for.
One way to avoid excessive algae build-up is to place them out of direct sunlight, particularly the strong afternoon sun. If you must, or really want to place them where they catch all the rays, then you’ll need to clean more frequently.
Algae grows from a lack of aeration. Simple oxygen in the air is not enough. They require more in the water, and preferably movement with it. Many people have found the key to less algae is to put aquatic plants in their deeper birdbaths. This supplies the needed oxygen and the birds won’t mind at all. You can also purchase inexpensive outdoor pumps that are placed in the bottom of the basin for a gentle circulation of the water. Another popular trick is to place several pennies, or a very small section of copper pipe in the basin. The copper retards algae growth, but while toxicity in birds is relatively uncommon, acids can cause the copper to break down.
If you have a cement birdbath and are having a problem keeping it clean, you might try the local hardware store for a sealant that is used on the inside of swimming pools. If this is not toxic to humans in the pool, it shouldn’t harm the birds, either. But do ask the salesmen whether there are any potential interactions between the ingredients in the sealant, and whatever you clean the birdbath with.
Actual cleaning is relatively simple if your algae growth is under control. Simply empty your basin, pour in some clean water and scrub with a hard bristle brush. Disinfect and get rid of algae stains by filling the bath and adding 3/4 of a cup of bleach for every gallon of water. Cover the basin and let stand for 30 minutes. Empty out and rinse thoroughly. Some homeowners prefer the more natural treatment of adding vinegar to the water and letting it sit.
Heavy birdbaths that can’t be taken apart, can be washed with high-powered water sprays from garden hoses with special nozzles. But they should still be bleached and disinfected, as algae often has a bacterial component.