Making a Birdbath
You’d like to add a birdbath to your lawn or garden, but can’t find just the sort you had in mind. Or perhaps the prices at the local garden center are enough to make even your white lilies blanch. Why not make one (or more!) yourself?
The basic property of a birdbath is that it must be able to hold water. After that, the design and materials are up to you. Garbage can lids that have had any screw holes sealed up will hold water, but a very shiny surface can increase the sun’s heat in the water, and thus the growth of algae. There is also the issue of a slippery surface/bottom. Small birds in particular may not be able to lift off a bath where the water is deep and they can't get a grip with their feet. The solution is either a thin layer of gravel on the bottom, which can be a nuisance to clean, or else a thin layer of cement applied to the inside of the lid, equally as difficult to clean.
One popular and inexpensive birdbath is the terracotta "saucers" that come with many pots. The larger the better of course, but a series of five or six scattered throughout a garden can be very attractive. Know where you can find a slab of soft rock? Grind or chip away at the center until you have a reasonable depression and mount it on the top of a tree stump. You have an avant garde garden that your neighbors will envy.
Cement and chicken wire are cheap too, and can make you several birdbath basins for one low price. Make a depression in the ground, either by carefully digging a round, shallow hole, or use a broad and not too deep bowl to "mold" your depression. Remove the bowl, press the sides of raw earth firmly to compact the loose bits of dirt, then mix a batch of cement that is relatively thick. Cut a section of chicken wire and bend it to cover the bottom of the hole, and fold down any extra from the rim. Put on rubber gloves and apply a thin layer of cement as evenly as possible to the sides and bottom of the depression. Take your chicken wire liner and fit it into the hole, patting it into the wet cement. Apply another thin layer of cement and let it dry. Then dig around the outside until you can get enough leverage to lift your basin out of the hole.
Your homemade birdbath can be placed on the ground, but this is not a favorite location for the birds. They’re wary of predators, and like to be up where they have a 360 degree view of things. You can make simple pedestals for your birdbaths out of rigid pipe, tree stumps, fence posts, or sundial pedestals.