NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

Keeping bird baths clean

I know there was a post ( maybe by Lorax ? ) recently about using a weak bleach solution to clean out bird baths to prevent spreading disease. Of course I can't find it now.

I have a question about how I can keep the birdbaths clean without the bleach. It just wouldn't be doable, except at the beginning and end of the season. Also bleach is a very strong toxic substance that I try my best to avoid when possible. I scrub out the birdbaths 2Xs a day with a stiff brush and rinse, then fill with filtered water.

I did find a letter in Garden Gate magazine that recommended the addition of 6 to 8 sprigs of lavender tied with a daylily leaf to prevent green algae. It is supposed to prevent the formation of algae for 2 to 3 weeks if you start with a clean bird bath. Anyone have any other ideas?

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Interesting. Sprigs of lavender and daylily leaf? Can you put two birdbaths side by side somewhere in your garden and try a few sprigs plus the daylily leaf in one birdbath and leave the other one as is to get a feel for whether or not it works?

NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

So you want a science experiment Lorax! Well, I already placed lavender in all three bird baths so I'll have to wait for the next round in 2 weeks. I'll keep you posted.

cheshirekat
Senior Member
Posts: 264
Joined: Tue May 13, 2008 3:13 am
Location: Denver, CO (zone 5)

I have been using bleach. What I frequently read is a 10% solution. I have a lot of finches and sparrows visiting my birdbaths and after seeing photos of some of the growths and stuff they can get from unclean water, I deemed it was better to use bleach to rid them of one less filthy water source. Birdbaths that aren't cleaned well will be a source of disease transfer to all the native songbirds, bees and wasps that visit my yard. I use a little less bleach than recommended, but let the birdbath soak a while. I cover the birdbath with a tarp to cut down on the fumes.
"Love all God's creatures, the animals, the plants. Love everything to perceive the divine mystery in all." -Fyodor Dostoyevsky

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7501
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

I don't know whether this procedure transfers to birdbaths, but when I was working at a grooming shop and also when volunteering at the local shelter (which also houses a vet clinic), we were told to make a 3% solution (1 oz. bleach per 32 oz., or 1 quart, of water) and spray it on the tubs after we had bathed an animal with any skin condition: ringworm, fungus, mange, etc.

And then to let it air dry. (Or, in the case of the shelter--which has only the one tub--to let it sit for 3 minutes and then rinse.)

Maybe the 10% is because birdbaths are generally made from porous materials and the bathtubs are porcelainized???

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

How does everyone get the bleach solution out of the birdbath without spilling it on the plants underneath?

The only way I could do this is remove the heavy concrete tops and lug them through the garden to the driveway and back again. With an injured shoulder I can't imagine doing it daily. I need a good alternative. I know there are products that say they keep birdbaths clean. Anyone use them?

I scrub out the bird baths with a brush twice a day and rinse well and refill with filtered water. Do I need to do more for the birds health?

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27483
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Birdbaths are a PIN! They have to be refilled and topped off and scrubbed! Birds regularly drink out of mud puddles for crying out loud! I realize the "breeding ground of bacteria" issues of a small, shallow, dirty, warm water in a "dead" environment (i.e. living mud puddles are probably MUCH cleaner in comparison). On the other hand, wouldn't constantly cleaning with bleach create the supergerm effect? I'm sorry but the most I'll do on daily basis is dump, jet-spray off whatever comes off with the hose, and refill. I scrub once a week.

NJ tea, do you have a filter on your garden hose? I saw a garden hose de-chlorinating filter in a catalog.... As for products, I think the barley straw/barley straw extract only keeps down algae. There's also a little basket that you fill with some kind of mineral (zeolite?) pellets that's supposed to keep down the bacteria. I used a larger one of these for a kiddie pool once, but the trouble with that was I had no way of knowing whether it was working or not. NOW, for a large fill-up pool (10'x30" -- kept at depth of 18" for my kids) I put a UV sterilizer (for ponds) in line with the pool filter. The filter pumps the water through it. You might be able to fit an AQUARIUM-sized UV/filter combo unit to your birdbath. (Yeah, yeah, me and my crazy ideas... :wink: ) I think I've also seen a depth-sensor/water dispenser you can attach to a garden hose to keep your birdbath filled (an alternative would be a drip irrigator). Someone should develop a birth bath that comes with all these features -- one of those 3-gallons inside the hollow pedestal types would probably be ideal.

I have a soaker hose snaking over a large flowerpot saucer in my shade garden. The robins, catbirds, even chickadees love it when I turn on the soaker. A project on my to-do list is a pond-less waterfall with a biological filter.

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Yes, I want a kitchen science experiment with the lavender and daylily leaf but I think the number of times you're cleaning the birdbaths daily would cut down on algae so you'd have to stop scrubbing them twice a day and then you'd have to leave one devoid of the lavender and daylily leaves.

I'm in the cheshirecat camp on the use of bleach. I use a 10% bleach solution on all of my birdbaths routinely. Feel really bad about offering

I spill the diluted bleach all the time. It has never affected the plants around the base of any of my birdbaths but then again I only do my birdbaths once a week.

A diluted solution of bleach will not do in a demodectic or sarcoptic mange mite.

NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

applestar, I have been eyeing the filters attached to the hose for some time but have not purchased one. I cart containers of filtered water out from the house to the garden.

I might have too much activity for the experiment, Lorax. If I don't refill 2Xs a day I don't have any water left . In fact sometimes I refill 3 or 4 times because there is so much debris brought to the baths by the birds.

Even with this much changing of water in the past I had to clean out and scrub the concrete of a black substance that lodges itself in the porous concrete daily. Some is dirt but I always assumed it was algae. So far with the lavender there doesn't seem to be any black. But the bird bath in back, this one is a synthetic material that has a built in heater for the winter, still has a small build up of green algae on the bowl. That one is in a shadier spot and some type of plastic so the lavendar might not work for it.

If the bleach solution doesn't kill off the demodectic or scarcoptic mange mite what does it kill off?

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

I refill frequently myself but I only scrub down and use the bleach solution once a week. Sealing off the concrete combined with using a mild bleach solution has helped tremendously with that black algae which is deadly that you spoke of.

My comments about bleach not killing those types of mites were directed toward something posted by somebody else regarding a vet clinic or animal shelter or something like that. I forgot who commented but those species of mites can plague cats and dogs and people not birds. Bleach doesn't kill mites or lice anyway regardless of what species you have. One almost has to use a miticide or an insecticide. There are products out there that are kill-alls (anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic) for disinfection. No "nice" way to get rid of some nasties. For what it's worth, I've used SaniGuard spray to help disinfect areas where I have kept stray animals. You do the best you can.

If you offer nest boxes, you have to be careful. I've alleviated some of the issues by having metal trays created that fit into the nest box that can be removed for easy cleaning. Purple Martin landlords and Blue Bird landlords are expert at keeping nestlings free of blow flies and mites. If you are interested, I can put you in contact with someone who will talk you through all the options out there. The mites around here are pretty bad so I will admit to using Sevin powder after nestlings have fledged to kill off avian mites. Then I dip the bird houses and nest boxes in a bleach solution and hose them down well so they are clean for the next occupant.

Feather, quill, and red mites are big problems around here as are lice. This product can help for in-use nest boxes and natural cavities-
http://www.vetafarm.com.au/show_product ... mber=00275

For the birdbaths, just scrub them and blast them well with the hose. The bleach is more to help control other diseases and black algae that the lavender and daylily leaves would have absolutely no effect on.

Please consider using a bleach solution on the birdbath that has the black algae.

NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

What causes the black algae?
I tried googling it and only found a reference to high temperatures and rain.

The bird baths have been clear of any black algae since I started to use the lavender.

What about the commercial birdbath cleaners with enzymes advertised?

Since I removed any black algae daily I assume it has something to do with the concrete. Is there a non toxic sealer?

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Who knows what causes the black algae to end up in our birdbaths but once it's there, it seems to be there to stay. I've got a bunch of birdbaths here and if I leave for a bit and come back I seem to have all the major color groups represented in my birdbaths and ponds and water features. I suspect birds carry the spores from water feature to water feature and if conditions are favorable for their growth (high temps, poor circulation) they bloom. Never really checked into where it comes from but we're dealing with spores here so they could be coming in on the wind.

One thing I know is that the algae doesn't cause disease. But, it turns sunlight and carbon dioxide into food and creates nutrients that help bacteria thrive. It's the resulting bacteria that is the problem. Algae harbors pathogens. The pathogenic bacteria isn't exactly harmless, think coliform bacteria as in e-coli. This is one reason why I have been religiously scrubbing and bleaching my birdbaths. Although lavender and daylily leaves may or may not keep the black algae at bay, doubtful they can kill off those types of bacteria.

Good explainer here of why black algae is so hard to get rid of-
http://www.floridapoolpro.com/maintenance/algae.asp
Black algae is a very common type of algae, and is the most difficult to remove once it has formed. A colony of black algae always forms on the pool surface, and usually is first visible when it is about the size of a small fingernail, but can grow rapidly and eventually become larger than a dinner plate. The spores settle in a porous surfaces, such as Tough plaster (mostly caused by Calcium buildup), and begins to anchor itself to the surface. It is able to dig a root into the porous surface and from there can develop an extensive root network beneath the pool surface, usually between the plaster and the concrete. Once the root has been formed, the algae become visible, but at this time it is already too late. Destruction of the visible portion is by no means a guarantee that the entire colony is destroyed.


The black algae I get in one birdbath has been particularly hard for me to deal with. We're talking major elbow grease to keep it at bay since it's taken root in an older concrete birdbath that is pitted from the elements. I presume I've never gotten the roots regardless of how much scrubbing I've done so it has been coming back to haunt me. I once tossed in a copper product out of frustration and then though better of that and took the basin off to soak it in a kiddie pool for a bit. I don't know about other products because I've not used them for black algae or green algae or yellow algae or that rusty red crap that ends up in two of my bird baths that isn't really an algae. I was never comfortable with what I read on the labels when checking out products so I didn't buy them. Don't know about the enzyme products being marketed.

I never could get my hands on the G4 products that were advertised in the UK or the Cromelin or Bondall products used by the Aussies so I gave up and ordered the Hecht Neoprene product-
http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/v ... php?t=7815
I'd search for a more affordable product if I were you. It's got to be out there and available in a quantity for a few birdbaths however I didn't have the time to keep poking around on the Internet. The only reason why I bit the bullet and bought the Hecht product was because I've got 10 birdbaths here not 9 like I originally counted, one small concrete pond, one concrete water feature, and oodles of ornamental concrete planters that I'm growing everything form cucumbers to bell peppers and rhubarb in. I wanted a product that was as safe as possible for the birds and for us to seal off all the concrete around here.

NewjerseyTea
Senior Member
Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:14 pm
Location: Piedmont Area, Northern NJ

Thanks Lorax, I remember that thread but couldn't find it. The information on the black algae taking root makes sense of why I have to scrub the concrete daily.

Those pretty glass bird baths are starting to look more attractive now. I wonder how long I could keep one without cracking it? Anybody have the glass ones? It looks like they are easy to clean but you'd probably have to store it inside for the winter.

I figured out if I need to bleach the birdbath I could tarp the wheelbarrow and place the top in it and wheel away the 10% bleach solution.

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

The black algae is a major pain. It's right up there with string algae I keep getting in one pond.

A glass birdbath would not be an option here, that's for sure.

User avatar
Kisal
Mod Emeritus
Posts: 7648
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:04 am
Location: Oregon

A weak bleach solution will kill almost anything ...

that grows in your birdbath, and it shouldn't cause any problems for the plants. I was a wildlife rehabilitator for 15 years, and routinely used bleach to clean all my big outdoor habitat cages. We used 2 T household bleach to 1 quart of water. Once time, when I received a rather nasty bite from a sick raccoon and couldn't go to the doctor right away, I was advised by the vet who euthanized the animal to soak my hand in straight bleach for several minutes off and on throughout the day. (This was to prevent infection, not rabies. I always kept up to date on my rabies shots.) I was surprised to discover that the treatment didn't even cause me any pain.

These days, I buy a commercial enzyme solution to keep my birdbaths free of algae. I get it at one of the local nurseries. It keeps the baths algae free for about a week or longer, and by then, I have to scrub the birdie doo-doo out, anyway. :lol:

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Which commercially available enzyme product do you use please?

User avatar
Kisal
Mod Emeritus
Posts: 7648
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:04 am
Location: Oregon

The brand is "Fountec." It's not safe for mammals or fish, but specifies on the label that it's safe for birds. I have 2 birdbaths, one of which is a huge old cement thing that is impossible for me to keep algae free without the use of something like this. (The other bath is much smaller and lighter weight, and I just scrub it out and refill it every day.) I don't have any mammals that drink from the big birdbath in my back yard, and the birds haven't shown any ill effects from the algaecide. They come in flocks to bathe, 6 to 8 birds in the bath all at the same time! The larger birds -- crows, jays, starlings, evening grosbeaks, robins, etc. -- use the bath in the back yard, while the smaller species, such as finches, use the smaller bath in the front yard. (I've even seen a seagull in the big birdbath a few times!)

My handyman is going to install a solar powered submersible pump in the cement bath soon, which will turn it into a fountain. He's also going to set up a mister in one of my trees in my front yard. It all should be quite lovely! :)

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Thanks for letting me know the brand name.

Does it work on black algae?

The bird bath with the problem is in an area where nothing but birds uses it so I would be ok using this product in that area.

User avatar
Kisal
Mod Emeritus
Posts: 7648
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:04 am
Location: Oregon

Yes, it does. The label states that the product "helps remove and prevent green, blue-green, yellow, and black type algae in water." I also get red algae in my cement birdbath, and it seems to take care of that quite well, too.

BTW, the label indicates that the liquid is "safe for birds, plants, and animals (not for fish.)" Based on the information on the back of the label, it appears that it is the concentrated liquid that is harmful. In birdbaths and fountains, you use one drop per gallon of water.

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:40 am
Location: US

Thank you kisal.

mcook27
Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:09 pm
Location: Elgin, TX

product

I haven't used this but have used other products from this company. They are all natural/organic. The one product I use on a regular basis is the cupboard moth catcher, works great. You might want to try this product from Gardens Alive and then report on it if you wish.

http://www.gardensalive.com/bird-bath-cleaner/p/2369/

Gilla
Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 5:26 pm

Re: Keeping bird baths clean

I've been cleaning my concrete birdbath for years with vinegar. I just splash in a cup or two, scrub with a stiff brush and that gets most of the muck out. Then I rinse with water from the hose and fill the bath. I do this once a week or whenever it looks like it needs it. Anyone know of any problem with using vinegar? The birds seem to be happy and healthy.

Ohio Tiller
Green Thumb
Posts: 463
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:39 pm
Location: Ohio

Re: Keeping bird baths clean

I just use the power washer and soap and water. I never really figured I had to keep them spotless seeing how birds drink from mud holes all day long!

User avatar
ElizabethB
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2109
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2012 5:53 am
Location: Lafayette, LA

Re: Keeping bird baths clean

Lots of post so I just scanned through. What is the big issue in the first place? The birds are happy to have water. I see them drinking from mud holes. I have a couple of 24" clay pot saucers set on stumps for bird baths. Because the clay is porous I sprayed the inside with that stuff advertised on TV - the one where they spray a screen door in the bottom of a boat. Both basins are under the live oak tree so lots of leaves fall. I scoop out the leaves and add water daily. Every week or 2 I just scrub them out with a brush and water to get the any mold out. Keeping the leaves out and the containers full seems to help reduce the algae build up. If I am out of town and the basins get low on water there seems to be more build up. The birds are happy. Occasionally I will clean the basins with a mild vinegar/water solution and rinse well. I never use bleach. Too toxic for the birds.

The birds don't seem to mind a little algae in there baths. I think it is more of a human aesthetic issue. A little algae in your bird bath is a non issue for the birds.

Good luck
Don't worry - Be Happy :-()
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “Wildlife - Gardening with Local Critters in Mind”