Soo….turns out bird baths are extremely high maintenance. How did I not know this before we got one?! Just 24 hours after filling the bird bath with water, the algae started taking over and if we didn’t stay on top of it (aka replace the water and clean it daily) it’d turn into a green sludgy mess.
I shared this dilemma with you on Instagram and the suggestions for keeping bird baths clean longer came rolling in. Three solutions in particular seemed to be the most popular and I thought a proper experiment was in order.
I tested each solution for one week and documented the progress each day. I checked for algae, the color of the water, how often I needed to replace the water, and at the end of the week I photographed the bird bath.
This one surprised me! Of all the experiments, I thought surely this one would be a flop. But as it turns out, copper pennies do a pretty good job of keeping algae away for a few days!
Pennies made before 1982 contain copper and according to Google, “copper kills algae by binding to it, which damages the algae cells, causing them to leak and die.” I tossed in 10 pennies and waited for the results. (For reference, I previously had to replace the water & scrub it daily to prevent algae) It stayed clean for about 3 days and on day 4, I noticed the water was starting to turn green. I added/replaced the water days 4-7 and by day 7 it was spotty with algae, but not nearly as much as it used to get without any solution in the water.
Apparently this solution works best when the bird bath is in a shady spot and the temperatures are below 90 degrees. Ours is in the sun for half the day and it was above 90° for the second half of the week. One thing to note is that copper pennies can be toxic to birds if they ingest too much water. It’s not likely to happen apparently, but something to keep in mind.
VERDICT: Good up to 3 days in shady spots with mild temperatures.
I bought this algae preventer liquid that’s safe for birds and wildlife and it’s intended to prevent stains, sludge, and algae. I was expecting this one to be the winner, but frankly it was a fail. The instructions said to add one ounce of solution per 5 gallons of water and to use it weekly. I added a few capfuls of the solution and it stayed significantly clean the first 3 days, but on days 4-7 the algae came quick and got bad fast. Worse than it was with the pennies or without any solution at all.
The main issue I had with this experiment was that I had to add more solution almost daily. If the bird bath water got low and I had to refill it, if it rained, or if I needed to replace the water because the algae was so bad, I had to add more solution. By the end of the week, I was nearly halfway through the bottle.
A solar fountain was probably the most suggested solution from you guys and at first I didn’t love the look of a solar fountain in the bird bath. But for the sake of delaying the vigorous cleaning schedule, I gave it a shot! I was pleasantly surprised, it actually works! If you’ve got a decent amount of direct sunlight on the bird bath throughout the day, this is the solution! You just put it in, and when the sun comes out, the fountain starts on its own. Then at night (or when the water is too low) the motor stops on its own.
It’s worth trying the different spray heads it comes with to find one that doesn’t splash out a lot of water. I had to refill the water daily to account for that which ultimately probably helped deter the algae. (I’ve also heard you can drill larger holes in the spray head to reduce splash.)
But in terms of keeping the algae away, this was the clear winner! It stayed clean for over a week even in 90+ degree weather and the sound of the fountain is so relaxing.
VERDICT: The winner! Kept the bird bath clean the longest with the least amount of work required in between.
Where behind the scenes, exclusive advice, and candid conversations are sent straight to your inbox every week.