Blue tit juvenile, bathing in garden bird bath, County Durham

How to make a bird bath

Having a birdbath in your garden will provide birds with water to bathe in and drink.

Making a bird bath

There are many ways of providing water in the garden, but the simplest way is a bird bath. This is essentially a dish of water - the aesthetic aspects are there to please us, not the birds!

A good bird bath has a simple, sturdy construction, but is light enough to make it easy to clean and refill.

  • It needs to have shallow sloping sides with a shallow approach to water.
  • To allow different species to bathe, provide a sloping bath, so the water is between 2.5cm and 10cm (1-4 inches) deep.
  • Make sure the surface of the bath is rough so birds can grip it with their claws, and not slip.
  • The vigorous bathing of a flock of starlings can use up a lot of water, so make sure your bird bath is big enough!
  • The simplest bird bath is a plant saucer with textured finish and a stone in the middle. You could set several of these around your garden.
  • You could use a dustbin lid sunk into the ground, or supported on stones or posts. If the lid is shiny or slippery, a thin layer of gravel on the bottom (this makes it more difficult to clean though) and a shallow stone in the middle will help birds get to the water in comfort. 
  • Concrete baths can be made by digging a hole of the desired size and shape, and lining this with concrete. Once the concrete has set, the bath can be removed, trimmed, and placed in the final location.

If you'd prefer to buy a custom made bird bath, we stock a good range.

Where to put your bird bath

The location of your garden and the type of vegetation immediately around it will determine what birds will visit your bird bath, and in what numbers. Siting of the bath is very important - birds will only use it if they feel safe. Birds get excited and pre-occupied about bathing, and tend to be more vulnerable than at other times.

Make sure birds have clear visibility as they bathe, with bushes or trees nearby to provide cover if alarmed, and perches to use when preening. Ensure cats cannot use the cover to attack bathing birds. You can do this by placing a thick layer of clippings from thorny vegetation, such as rose or pyracantha, beneath the bushes. Try placing the bath at different points around the garden to find the most popular site.

During droughts birds will try to use water barrels or drinking troughs. Sadly, many drown. If these containers cannot be covered, they can be made safer if a plank of wood or a branch is placed in the water so that birds can land, drink and even partially bathe in safety.