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Water fountains add beauty to gardens, inside the house, or outside a restaurant – anywhere, really! Most pet lovers also put up ornamental fountains to provide water for birds.
Such fountains not only help local birds but also species that migrate. Whether they’re leaving or arriving, finding a ready source of water replenishes their strength. As a bonus, any bird that discovers your fountain can also look forward to a lovely bath! Birdwatchers know that splashing around in water is one of the favorite activities of our feathered friends.
But outdoors water is prone to getting dirty – especially if the conditions are windy or plenty of birds visit the fountain. Let’s see what you can do to keep your fountain in great shape.
How To Keep Fountain Water Clean
Once birds realize that there is a fountain, their numbers will grow! But this also tends to dirty the water faster – which is a problem. With so many birds visiting, one must avoid stagnant or contaminated water to ensure that our feathered wildlife stays protected.
There are several products that can be used to clean a water fountain or bird bath. However, fair warning, not all of them are suitable for birds. When you find a product, scrutinize its safety claims and if it doesn’t clearly say that it is non-toxic to birds, then buy something else.
One of the safest and most effective ways is to manually clean the water basin. If the latter looks even the slightest bit disgusting, scrub it with a hard-core brush and flush it a couple of times.
Empty the fountain
Throw out the dirty water! Inevitably, you’ll notice that your fountain’s water is contaminated with leaves, feathers, seeds, bird poop, mud, and algae. This cocktail is a no-no. Dump the water, preferably into a drain but you can also use it to water your vegetable garden (it’s safe for that). Emptying the fountain will give you the opportunity to thoroughly scrub the bowl and see up-close whether the surface material is spotless.
Flush the Basin
Set your hose pipe to a powerful spray and zing the water basin for 10 to 15 seconds. This would dislodge any sticky materials. You may not see a lot of progress from flushing in this manner but it’s a good way to start your cleaning chore.
On the off chance that the surface is fragile, maintain a strategic distance so that you don’t chip the bowl or dislodge a mosaic tile! If there’s any chance of damaging your old fountain in this manner, rather don’t do it. There are other ways to clean a bird bath that are less abrasive.
One way is to take a cloth and environmentally friendly cleaner and using a little pressure, simply wipe the algae and other debris from the empty basin. The effect is basically the same, if not more effective, than spraying the surface.
The bleach method will certainly clean your fountain but you need to work very cautiously with this step. Improper use of bleach can kill birds.
Add a small amount of bleach to the water, no more than a bottle cap or two, and then use a stick to make sure that it’s evenly distributed through the water. Take care not to spill any bleach on the lawn or your own clothing.
It’s also a good idea to wear gloves and make sure that you have a drain to discard the water in if you decide to use this method. Needless to say, bleach water is not something one can throw on those prize veggies! Also, resist the temptation to use other products instead of bleach. Avoid using things like window cleaners or powdered cleaning agents.
Are you worried that some bleach might remain behind? There is a simple test to gauge when you are done. Just use your nose! After you’ve emptied the bowl and flushed it with fresh water a few times, smell the surface. A very weak smell is acceptable but if you catch a strong whiff of bleach, that’s a sign that you need to flush the bowl again.
Sun Dry the Birdbath
Once you have finished washing the bowl, allow it to completely dry in the sun. This is a good way to stop any remaining algae from recovering. It will also sanitize the bowl, killing microbes and other nasties. It can also help to get rid of that weak bleach smell.
Since sunbathing offers your fountain so many health benefits, it’s best to schedule this chore to fall on a hot, sunny day! You only need to keep it in the sun until the surface is fully dry which can be about twenty minutes to an hour, depending on what type of fountain you have.
Add Some Clean Water
Now that your bird bath is clean and sparkling, the time has arrived to top it up with fresh water! Make sure that the water level is shallow enough to give the birds a safe depth to stand in. But in no time, your garden flock will return and provide you with hours of satisfying bird-watching.