My kids love watching birds in the backyard, so I decided to put up a bird feeder and install a birdbath. Bird feeders are relatively straightforward; birdbaths, I discovered, not so much.
It only took me about an hour of shopping to discover that buying a birdbath presents three general challenges:
- There isn’t a very good selection at most home and garden stores. I suppose birdbaths are probably pretty passé at this point — relics from our grandparents’ generation — so there wasn’t much of a selection. Which leads to the second challenge…
- The overwhelming majority of birdbaths we found were, in my opinion, gaudy at best, and at worst, outright unsightly. Not much available for the modern, minimalist backyard. But lest you assume an ugly birdbath is a cheap birdbath…
- Most high-quality birdbaths we found were somewhat pricy, ranging from $75 to over $300. It’s not that I don’t consider clean birds to be a worthwhile investment, but when you’re expecting to spend $25 – $50, that’s a fair amount of economic recalibration.
So I decided to assemble my own. The base is a $13, 9-inch, painted steel plant stand, and the bath itself is a $20, 16-inch, ceramic planter saucer similar to this one. Total cost was about $35, and so far the beta testers seem to love it. It even has the added benefit of being very convenient to clean since I can pick up the saucer, dump it out, hose it down, and refill it in about sixty seconds.
Which leads me to my next ornithological epiphany: birds are surprisingly dirty. If you decide to take on the responsibility of avian hygiene, expect to change out the bath water every few days.
And finally, if you’re curious about why birds bathe in the first place, the answer is that we’re not entirely sure, but here are some pretty good guesses.