How to make a bird bath in a few simple steps

Learn how to make a bird bath from just a few basic materials so feathered friends can have somewhere to drink and wash in your yard

Closeup of two common house sparrow birds perched on pan pot drinking water
(Image credit: ablokhin / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

If you've been thinking about how to make a bird bath, chances are you're keen to encourage lots more wildlife to your plot. 

These feathered friends have plenty of reasons to visit our outdoor spaces, and there are lots of ways we can invite them in further. Bird feeders are a great idea, along with safe spots to nest and take shelter in bad weather. 

But the easiest option has to be the humble bird bath. It doesn't have to be a fancy contraption at all, either. In fact, the RSPB say you could even use an upturned trash can lid! It's much more about location, condition, and the way you look after both the bird bath and your bird visitors. 

Boosting the amount of wildlife in your plot is a key part of the growing trend for rewilding our outdoor spaces, so do your bit by giving one of these simple ideas a go. 

Why should you learn how to make a bird bath?

So why is including one or more bird bath ideas in your garden so beneficial? The RSPB (opens in new tab) tells us, 'Water is critical for keeping your garden birds healthy. Birds can’t sweat, so water is a big help in cooling themselves down. 

'They also need water to clean their feathers – healthy and clean feathers mean the bird is in tip-top flying condition to escape from predators, can keep itself warm, and is able to attract a mate. And, of course, they need it to quench their thirst!'

Bird baths are one of the best wildlife garden ideas you can include in your yard. Typically, they will either be at ground level or hanging from a height, but you can mount a DIY bird bath to your deck or wall too. 

bird perched by the side of a bird bath drinking water

Birds will happily use a bird bath to quench their thirst

(Image credit: Andi Edwards / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

How to make a bird bath on the ground

In a word, you can use anything for your bird bath – but it does need to meet a few specifications if you want to attract birds to your garden. The RSPB say it should be a sturdy watertight container that's light enough to refill with ease and big enough to accommodate a few birds at once. 

There are some ready-made decorative bird baths on Amazon (opens in new tab) which either need to be placed on the ground or into a slight hole dug into the earth, but making a bird bath for yourself can be much more satisfying. 

  • An easy option is a plant saucer or simple bowl placed on a flat surface. You can also upcycle a number of different things: old sinks are really popular, as are old pans from the kitchen or recycled glassware like vases.  
  • One key thing you will need to consider is predators, as a bird bath placed directly on the ground can make birds more vulnerable. For a little elevation, put four bricks on the grass and balance a bowl in the centre. This allows the birds to see 360˚ and to quickly escape if they sense a predator. You can build up the number of bricks to raise it off the ground further. 
  • Don't place it less than 6 feet from shrubs or beneath trees though, as a ground-level bird bath increases the risk of predators like cats. Bird baths can also be a prime target for snakes, so be sure to keep an eye out if you live in an area where that might be an issue.
  • If you're in an area with lots of sun and heat, keep the bird bath in a lightly shaded spot and always out of direct sunlight. This will avoid water evaporating too quickly. The same advice applies when choosing a location for a bird house too. 

Bathing blackbird in a tupperware box of water

You can use a lot of household items to make a bird bath

(Image credit: Kerrick / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

How to make a hanging bird bath

It's much better to elevate your bird bath, keeping it out of harm's way from cats and other predators. Placing your bird bath at a height of around 3ft (90cm) means it will be easily visible from the sky, but still accessible for hopping birds too. 

The same advice applies in terms of location: keep it out of direct sunlight, and place it somewhere that's easy to refill without removing the whole thing. 

Follow this simple method for an easy DIY hanging bird bath. 

  1. Take a basic basin or bowl and drill four equally spaced holes around the top. 
  2. Cut a length of chain or strong rope into four sections of equal length. 
  3. Attach each chain to the drilled holes with metal hooks. 
  4. Hang it from a sturdy tree branch or pole.
  5. Check it remains level once filled with water, and adjust the length of the chains accordingly if it doesn't. 
  6. Add a hanging bird feeder nearby so birds can feed and drink in the same location.

blue tit drinking from a hanging bird bath on chains

A hanging bird bath provides good grip for perching claws

(Image credit: Frank Hecker / Alamy Stock Photo)

If you want to provide extra protection for your bird bath, you can create a simple wooden frame for it. This works best if you have a square or rectangular bird bath or container rather than a circular design. 

Simply measure your water dish, then make a frame using offcuts of wood that are all the same length for a square design, or two long and two shorter ones for a rectangular dish, making sure the dish will fit within the frame tightly. 

Once your frame is assembled, drill four holes an inch or so in from each corner and attach a loop of rope, before hanging from a tree or pole as above. Finally, slot the dish in place and fill with water. 

To provide some extra weight to your hanging bird bath to make it more sturdy, you could also add a heavy stone in the center of the dish. 

black drongo bird perched on bird bath hanging from tree in backyard

A bird bath hung at 3ft from the ground is a perfect height for bird visitors 

(Image credit: Ann Smith / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

What can I use for making a DIY bird bath?

Making your own bird bath means thinking outside the box with your materials. Happily, birds will freely drink from or bathe in a lot of different containers, such as plastic tupperware boxes, shallow bowls, old pans or even terracotta plant saucers. 

Ideally, you need to make sure your chosen bird bath container fits the following: 

  • Grippable surface: The surface of the bird bath should be rough so that the birds can grip it with their claws. The RSPB suggests that if you’re reusing a bin lid, or a similarly slippery surface, you can always add a thin layer of gravel on the bottom and a shallow stone in the middle.
  • Sloping sides: They also say to make sure the bird bath has shallow sloping sides so birds of different sizes all have access, with the water at up to 10cm deep at its deepest.
  • Somewhere to perch: You need to provide something for them to perch on. If it's rather a big bird bath, you can put some large stones at the base which will give them better footing, and make them feel less vulnerable during bathtime.
  • Size: If you're lucky, your bird bath could become a regular washing area for flocks of birds. In this case, it needs to be big enough to handle multiple flapping wings splashing all the water out! 
  • Stability: Place your bird bath somewhere sturdy where the water won't spill. 

Two starlings Washing In A Bird Bath

Providing bigger bird baths can welcome multiple bird visitors

(Image credit: Andrea Edwards / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Why do birds avoid my DIY bird bath?

There are a few reasons why birds will avoid a bird bath. The location might be too far from any easily-accessible cover, the water is too deep, or the edges don't provide sufficient grip for perching. 

You can place rocks inside a bird bath to offer more perching spots. Some tips suggest using a few pennies to prevent algae from growing too. 

A scruffy blue jay taking a birdbath

Placing stones in a birdbath will help provide perching space

(Image credit: Denise Taylor / Moment / Getty Images)

How often should you clean a bird bath?

Birds can get sick from the bacteria present in dirty water, so it's a good idea to rinse out your bird baths often. If you can see discoloration inside the bowl it's definitely time to give it a proper scrub.

The RSPB highlight that your bird bath should be cleaned regularly, at least once a week, and replace the water every day if possible. This is to prevent the build-up of faeces and other contaminants, as well as diseases. Birds are sensitive to our chemicals, however, so make sure to use a diluted solution.

Empty out all the stale water at a distance from the bird bath's location. You can use your best garden hose on high pressure to blast off any residual algae and debris for 10 seconds. Then refill the birdbath with nine parts water and add one part vinegar, and get scrubbing with a stiff brush! Make sure you remember to empty this water again once you've finished cleaning, before refilling it with fresh water. 

If you have space, you could even install a water feature to keep the water fresh and moving. Birds are attracted to the sight and sound of dripping water so this provides an extra temptation to bathe, plus it makes a great addition to a sensory garden

Close-Up Of Falcon Bathing In Birdbath

Fresh clean water tempts plenty of birds to wash 

(Image credit: Lynette Darkes / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Will a bird bath be useful in winter?

Though they might not use it for washing in freezing temperatures, birds can only get a certain amount of drinking water from snow so it's still worth keeping your bird bath out for them. 

If you're able, in colder weather make changing the water on a daily basis one of your winter garden jobs so there's fresh drinkable water instead of a build up of ice in there. 

BIRDBATH ICED OVER IN THE WINTER

Bird baths can quickly ice over in the winter

(Image credit: Rodger Tamblyn / Alamy Stock Photo)
Flora Baker
Freelance Writer

Freelance writer and author Flora Baker is a keen amateur gardener and houseplant enthusiast. Her small garden in South London is a constant work in progress as she gets to grips with snail prevention, DIY trellises and what to plant in shady spots overrun with ivy.