Attract Birds to Your Yard with a DIY Modern Birdbath.

If you’re looking for a classic cast iron birdbath all you have to do is head to your local garden centre, they have tons of them. But if you want a modern birdbath – for you know, the modern bird – you might to have to DIY it. 

 

 

I live in a mullet house. What appears in the front is completely different than the back. The front is all original Ontario workman’s cottage complete with red brick, a white porch and picket fence. The back however? The back is the party area paved with square cut flagstone, modern planters, a contemporary pond and of course the Restoration Hardware furniture I hacked. This means if I wanted a birdbath that matched my outdoor space I was going to have to make one.

And I wanted one.  This story will explain why.

I would like for you to imagine me truckin’ along on my way to the corner store.  Just walking on the sidewalk, minding my own business.   (To make the picture in your mind’s eye incredibly realistic you might want to picture me as Christy Turlington.  ‘Cause we’re often mistaken for one another on account of me looking exactly like a supermodel from the 1980’s.)

So you have that image in your head?  O.K., then imagine my gazelle like legs getting tangled in each other as I do something worse than a face plant.  I do an *almost* face plant; which is where you don’t completely fall but instead catch yourself in mid-air, give out a little toot and correct yourself before you actually hit the ground.  Instead of road rash you end up with a really red face and that gross tingling feeling in your toes that comes from a startling scare.  I hate that toe tingling feeling.

All because of a bird.  Now, I’ve been startled by birds before. I have been pooed on.  I have ducked behind my steering wheel as they aim right at my windshield before laughing and swerving away, I have had a bird fly out of nowhere to take a single, big peck at my head (definitely not a feathered friend).  But this incident was different.

This bird got me tripping all over my  (supermodel-like)  legs by taking a bath.  There he was, hidden behind the hedge in my neighbour’s incredibly peaceful looking yard, fluttering his wings and splashing himself quietly in their birdbath.  I say “he” because let’s face it, only a man would bounce around, bathing, NAKED for all the world to see and not give a crap.

And that was it.  I had to have a birdbath in my backyard immediately.

The pickings at my local nurseries and hardware stores were slim in terms of what would match my modern backyard. So I made one. And you can too.


FYI if you want to attract birds to your yard a birdbath is a better bet than a bird feeder. The bath will attract only birds, whereas the feeder will attract everything around that eats. Plus in the summer birds usually have an easier time finding food than they do water.


DIY Modern Birdbath

You just need a shallow dish or bowl and 3 wood dowels.

 

MATERIALS

3 wood dowels @ $3 each (or 3 old wood broom handles if you have them around)

Paint or stain (optional)

Varathane (satin finish)

Shallow dish or bowl

  1. Paint, stain and varnish your dowels to make them more weather resistant.
  2. Hammer them into the ground so they’re stable. 
  3. Use a level to make sure they’re all even so the dish you put on top won’t be lopsided.

As you may have noticed I stained my dowels dark brown. You can leave yours natural if you like. Or you can paint them purple. Or green or pink or blue or black or saffron or eggplant or polka dotted. 

Your dowels need to be at least 3 or 4 feet long if you want a really elevated birdbath like I have. I like the drama of it, plus it makes the birdbath easier to see from the other end of the backyard where I eat and lounge and daydream. Pfftt. I don’t do any of those things.

I went with an organic shaped candle plate from Ikea for my shallow bowl on top but you can use anything that will withstand being outside. It should be able to hold 2″ of water.

If the bowl has some sort of edge on the bottom it will help to keep the bowl stable and aligned.

Where to place your birdbath

    • It’s O.K. to have trees or fences around the birdbath. In fact the birds like a tree or fence nearby because it gives them something to land and sit on before entering the birdbath.
    • You have to have at least one clear path to the birdbath. It can’t be among a tangle of trees.
    • If it can go in the shade, that’s the best place for your birdbath because it’ll help stop the water from evaporating so quickly plus it’ll keep the water a bit cooler those days that it’s blindingly hot.
    • Wash out and change the water in the bath every couple of days so it doesn’t get grungy.
    • Birds LOVE running water and they’re attracted to the sight of it so one of these little solar powered birdbath sprinklers should help attract more birds. In fact I just ordered one so fingers crossed they actually work.*  
    • Once they find the birdbath they’ll be back with their friends so remember to keep it filled.
    • Stick a rock in the centre of the birdbath to give drinking birds a place to stand on when they just want a drink and aren’t wanting to get all wet because they just had their hair done.

*I chose this solar fountain as the one to buy because it doesn’t just work with solar power, it actually stores it so if there’s shade or clouds it will keep running.  The one from my local hardware store only works while every single panel is in complete sun. So if there’s a cloud or even one of the solar panels on it is shaded by a single leaf it won’t work at all.

DIY Modern Birdbath.

DIY Modern Birdbath.

Yield: 1 birdbath
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Estimated Cost: $10

If you don't want a traditional birdbath and also don't want to spend hundreds on a modern one, this DIY organic birdbath is nicer than anything you'll see in a store.

Materials

  • 3, 4' long wood dowels
  • Stain or paint (optional)
  • Varathane (or other waterproofing finish)
  • A heavy shallow bowl or dish

Instructions

  1. Finish the dowels with paint or stain and weather proofing if you want. You don't *have* to, it'll just help keep your dowels from rotting quickly.
  2. Hammer your dowels into the ground at least 1' so they're firmly in the ground and steady.
  3. Lay a level over the tops of the dowels to make sure they're the exact same height so your bowl won't spill water when it's full.
  4. Place your bowl or dish on top and fill it with 2" of water.

After a few years my wood dowels rotted away at ground level so keep that in mind. You’ll have to replace them every few years. To avoid this you can use metal pipes from your local hardware store.  

I really like the wood in the garden as opposed to metal so I’ll just continue to replace the dowels as they rot.

I’m  happy to report that since installing birdbaths around my property I haven’t been pecked in the head even once.

Attract Birds to Your Yard with a DIY Modern Birdbath.

68 Comments

  1. Ellen Adolf says:

    KAREN!!!!
    I always follow your recommendations- Well, a lot of the time I dream of following your recommendations and then I get too busy with life, but admire your projects nonetheless.
    SO- I bought that fabulous solar birdbath and I just loved it for about a week. Actual birds seemed to love it too! Then, it stopped working- just stopped. Now what? How long did yours last?
    Please help.
    Ellen in Buffalo, NY

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen! I haven’t set mine up yet. Check to see if your fountain has a filter! If it does, clean it and that *should* get it working again. ~ karen!

  2. Laura Thiessen says:

    One picture with a bird in it. ONE! You’re hilarious. I hope traffic picks up. Cuz naked man-birds are a great addition to any backyard.

  3. Mary Kay Wilburn says:

    Good Morning Karen,

    About how big circumference wise is your “bowl”? And will you have a rock and the little fountain in the same bowl? I just trying to gauge how big of a bowl I need. We had a birdbath and it broke (it was OLD) and just couldn’t be fixed and I love the style of these better than anything I have found. Plus I like the cost of a DIY not to mention this is a great reason to venture to Ikea!!!

    • Karen says:

      To fit the fountain you’ll need a fairly large bowl. The fountain itself is around 8″ in diameter. I actually ordered it for the birdbath in my front yard but then realized that it has a little bird statue in the centre so the fountain won’t fit. :/ So into the backyard it will go. ~ karen!

  4. Deb says:

    Love the look. If you wanted to replace the dowels you could use copper pipes. They would patina nicely if you didn’t seal them.

  5. Grammy says:

    I’m aware that your original post was ten years ago, so I’m going to assume you have experienced birds using your beautiful birdbath. So — is the stone you placed in the middle working for those who want to just stand to drink? I’m a lifelong birder who has all kinds of bird-related crap all around our property, and my experience has been a somewhat flatter stone that doesn’t rise too far out of the water seems to appeal to the guys we have around my California backyard.

    Also, after more than forty years living in this house, we’ve given up completely on trying to keep a birdbath because neighbor’s cats prey on the birds we’ve so nicely lured for them. About 25 years ago I had to remove my favorite birdbath right outside my sewing room window because one day I came home from work and found out the cat next door had killed several birds in one day and left them (or parts of them) lying around my yard near the birdbath. She was still sitting behind a nearby shrub waiting for another victim when I drove up.

    So, I had and enjoyed birdbaths for years but finally had to give up on them because of other people’s cats. But if I could still have one, I’d copy yours. It’s exquisite. And I hope other birds in other places have enjoyed people using your DIY instructions to make a birdbath fit for a modern-day prince.

    • Karen says:

      Here is a hilarious anecdote to the birdbath post. I have recently installed a birdbath that has attracted more birds than I have EVER seen before. It is busy all day long with birds in and out, drinking and splashing. It is a stainless steel bowl that I put outside my garden gate for dogs to drink from as they walk by.😂 Not a word of a lie. It’s down on the ground in a spot no bird should want to be and they LOVE it. ~ karen!

      • Grammy says:

        That is hilarious! But when you think about it, most natural bodies of water where birds would bathe and cool off are at ground level — puddles, streams, ponds, etc. Seems the more unusual thing would be to find water a few feet above ground level. Also, some birds will flock to seed on the ground but don’t go to hanging feeders (like mourning doves) so they’ll pretty much always find whatever is within easy reach.

        I think the birdbaths are more for our enjoyment than the birds. Whenever a neighbor near my house doesn’t watch their lawn sprinklers and water flows down the gutters, all manner of birds come down and drink and splash and strut back and forth like opening day at the public pool.

        It’s nice that you put a bowl out for local dogs, too. Everybody wins!

  6. J. Casey says:

    Can you post a link to the sprinkler ? Thank you!

  7. Leslie says:

    Karen, I’m glad you are reposting/updating these old ones because I never would have seen this otherwise. I love the idea and it’s pretty.
    However, I don’t believe you live in Canada. I live in Missouri and all my birdbaths, expensive or not, are broken. The tops fall off constantly, whether they are glued, soldered or just sitting on base.
    We do have bad weather — wind, rain, snow, etc. Don’t they have bad weather too in canada. Plus critters and dogs are often in my yard and who knows whether they are jostling bird baths or just purposefully knocking over. I just can’t believe your plates/bowls don’t fall off the base and break. Please respond

  8. Toni says:

    Hi, thought this was a great idea, but my dowels would have been almost $5 a piece so I bought the $1.60 fencing stakes that have like an arrow like thing on the bottom (to stand on when pushing onto the soil). They are kind of a rusty red color and the stake is kind of twisty like rebar. They worked great, I placed the top (bowl part) from a plastic bird bath that broke of its base last winter. Wist I could post photo.

  9. DIAPH says:

    very nice bird bath! however, Ikea doesn’t seem to selling the plate any more, if it’s called ‘candle plate’?
    thanks! love your photos.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Diaph! Yes, Ikea is notorious for carrying things then not carrying things. However, the good news is, is sometimes after a year or so they suddenly start carrying them again so keep checking! ~ karen

  10. Wow, amazing blog structure! How lengthy have you
    ever bedn blogging for? you make blogging glance easy. The
    entire glance of your website is fantastic, let alone the
    content material!

  11. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this FABULOUS tutorial. I was about to spend $$$ on a mediocre bird bath, and then I ran across your tutorial. Your instructions made this project very enjoyable, and now I have a stunning bird bath for 1/3 of the price!

    Thank You!
    Sarah

  12. kimberly says:

    My favorite bird bath in all the worl! And Pinterest makes my world pretty darn big.

    • Karen says:

      Hah! That’s true isn’t it? The Pinterest thing I mean. Not bragging about my bird bath. Tho it is pretty good. ;) ~ karen

  13. Maria de santis says:

    Suzy
    Try putting a smooth,tumbled looking, rock in the center of the container. It will help weigh it down as well serve as a perch for the birds and the pigeons will, probably like it,too. It sounds good in theory and may work.
    Maria

  14. Suzy says:

    Brilliant! This is my new project having hunted for a contemporary birdbath with no luck (& not prepared to spend what most are asking?!)
    My question-how did you attach the dish to the dowelling…?
    I’m going to need to attach mine somehow….if the pigeons round here land on the edge of it,& the plate is just balanced,I’m liable to end up picking the dish up from the ground a zillion times if it’s not broken by then…but I also need to get it off for cleaning…..
    *rubs chin & ponders***

    • Karen says:

      Suzy – There’s a rim under the plate so when you put your plate on the dowels it can’t slip off. Also the candle plate is quite heavy. Add in the fact that it’s also going to be weighed down with water, about 30 pigeons would have to land on one side of it to make it budge. You’ll be O.K. Just set the plate on the dowels. No need to attach. :) ~ karen

  15. Cat says:

    Great idea!
    I went to the thrift shop and purchased, for $1.00…a frosted ceiling lamp globe about 14 in. in diam and 4 in deep. Put a cork to fill the hole where it was screwed to the ceiling fixture and
    sat it on a cast concrete stone in my garden. A couple copper pennies tossed in helps with the algae.

    • Karen says:

      Cat – Wait. I’m confused. Algae? Did you turn it into a pond? Which would be brilliant! ~ karen

      • Cat says:

        LOL…no pond, it’s only about 14 in. in diameter…
        but my friend told me if you put a couple copper pennies in the water, it helps keep the water and birdbath clean. So far it has :)

  16. Trish says:

    I’ve been watching the birds play at the neighbors house all spring and I needed something to give my yard the edge. I knew a bird bath would do the trick,(it’s going to be the only one around.)But finding a sturdy, attractive setup has been a disaster. Finally my search is over, thanks to you and your amazing ability to come up with answers to questions that haunt me in my dreams. Hammer the base into the ground;no gluing, no rocks: so simple and looks fantastic. I’m heading to the thrift store today so I can make 1 or 2 more of these beauties. With all my past failures with this project I was running out of steam, but you’ve given me new found inspiration. THANK YOU! -Trish

    • Karen says:

      No problem Trish! Make sure your vessel is around 2″ deep. The fact that this candle plate also has a rim around the bottom of it is helpful too because it ensures that it’ll never fall/get knocked off. Good luck! ~ karen!

  17. Elise says:

    i absolutely LOVE this DIY! Definitely want to try it!

  18. Michele says:

    Love your blog! I’m a bird fancier and LOVE the idea of being able to simply lift off the bowl to clean out the algae….FABULOUS idea! I like the large 18″ clay saucers made to catch potted plant water — but I never thought of putting them on wood dowels. Thanks for the tip!

  19. Tonya says:

    Your candle plate looks white (which I like, it looks more modern) But, The one I found at ikea is a beige-ish color.

    Any suggestions on how to paint it? spray painting it seems to peel.

    • Karen says:

      Tonya – No, my candle plate is beige. It must look different in the pictures. I like it beige because it’s more organic looking for outdoors. Less shocking. If you want yours white you’d have to give it a light sanding and then paint it. If you’re already painted it, go ahead and sand it, use a primer and then paint it again. The primer will help stop the peeling. Good luck. ~ karen!

  20. Tonya says:

    Hi Karen
    Your candle plate looks white. The one I found at ikea is a beige-ish color.

  21. Tonya says:

    Hi I am interested in making this bird bath. Can you tell me of the name of the candle plate you used from IKEA.
    I don’t think the IKEA in houston, texas has it in stock. Anyone want to ship me one? :-) I can paypal the money to you before hand?

  22. Theresa says:

    Great birdbath….but how about that fountain/pond you’ve got going on! Did you do that too, cause…I want one!!!!

  23. soupprincess says:

    Or, if you don’t have the dowels and are feeling thrifty, go find one of those round wooden “decorator’s tables” that they used to carry at Dollar General and Walmart for $3, and just glue the hell out of whatever large basin, old ashtray, fancy old platter you have lying around…The word is customized…your project are excellent!!! Thank you so much for posting them :)

  24. Fabricio says:

    Very clever solution! I don’t know about it in the US, but here in Brazil it’s not recommended to create baths like this, because still water would proliferate dengue mosquitos.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fabricio. Thanks! There’s no problem with Dengue in Canada, but we do have West Nile Virus that is carried by mosquitos. However, if there are enough birds coming to the birdbath the water doesn’t stay still for very long. :) Plus I change the water in the bath every day or two to keep it fresh and help deter larvae. – karen.

  25. @my says:

    AND easy to clean! Thanks!! I am so making this when I get home…

  26. I want one-it’s so fresh and sleek!
    jana

  27. Tickled Red says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your endless creativity. Great birdbaths!!

  28. ginger says:

    Fantastic bird bath ! Outstanding idea thank you for sharing it with all of us!

  29. Renee says:

    This is awesome! I was just thinking if people were afraid of the dish blowing off/tipping off, you could glue/epoxy some of those copper )or pvc caps to the dish so it still lifts off and the legs are separate from the dish.
    I did something similar a while back with iron pipe, but yours is waaaay more beautiful and graceful!

  30. Deborah Wall says:

    Absolutely gorgeous, I love the shape with the Ikea candle plate and the dowels – simple and yet devine…

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Deborah! Yeah, I’m kindda pleased with the end result too. Takes up a lot of time though. I’m constantly running outside to see if there’s any evidence (you know, feathers, poo …) of a bird having been in it. Nothing yet, but I know it can take a few days to attract the birds. I will wait. And watch. :)

  31. Alissa says:

    Between the bathing options and watching the purdy fish, your yard is definitely going to be the trendy hang out spot for any feathered creature in the know.

  32. Lynne says:

    You do have mad skillz with more than just a camera & it just makes my day to read your posts!

    Loving the birdbaths & I got a huge kick out of showing my sweetheart your back yard makeover. He said it was good to know that I wasn’t the only girl on the planet capable of such stuff…he gives me way too much credit as I’ve never attempted any thing on that grand a scale. That being said he told me that none of his friends married a woman who owned her own reciprocating saw.

    This summer we are going to be removing and replacing a poorly done retaining wall so I’m pretty excited to be ripping out fencing, cutting cement, digging out the ground and then making it all look better.
    Of course it won’t look at all fabulous in the end like your yard does but we’ll know that the neighbours aren’t in danger of having our wall land in their yard.

    Hope you have a glorious summer…I miss Ontario but am loving BC so it’s all good :)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lynne! Fellow Ont-ari-aree-areeo lady. Good luck with your retaining wall! It’ll still be fun to see a finished product. Plus knowing you’ve potentially saved the lives of all your neighbours is a good thing. Unless … well you know … they borrowed some power tools a lonngggggg time ago and never returned them and now pretend they don’t know what you’re talking about. If you catch my drift. ;)

  33. Tish says:

    In a previous post (I think it was the Easter moss one which I loved. I love all your posts. You already know that. FYI, I also love stating the obvious.) you mentioned having sub-par photog skills. But these pics are awesome so to me it looks like you got mad skillz with the camera. I know that has nothing to do with making a $20 birdbath, but I still thinks it’s really important…

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Tish! I’m definitely getting better and more comfortable with the camera. I’ll give you that. But I still mainly suck at it. I only picked up a camera for the first time 3 months ago so I’m sure it’ll get easier and easier. The Art of Doing Stuff … right? Photography included I guess.

  34. Carol says:

    Love it Karen! Looks gorgeous. Do you think you could report back with an update on how the birds like it!? Would love to see it in action. : )

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Carol! I love it too. This is the birdbath that’s going to have a permanent home in the garden. (I had to choose one lest I look like a crazy person) I’ll let you know if it attracts the birdies! I have one of those ceramic egg shaped contemporary hanging birdfeeders in the tree next to it and they compliment each other really well.

  35. amy says:

    Hi! OK, I know this might be a silly question, but I’ve been wondering this since the last bird baths – they all seem to be placed (the plate) directly on broom handles, etc with nothing else (glue, adhesion, etc). Don’t they blow off when it gets very windy? Especially the smaller plates Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy – so far so good with the plates/vessels staying put. They’re pretty heavy espcially when they’re fulla water. The trickier part is making sure you only take one shot when you’re hammering the dowels/broomsticks into the ground. If you fool around too much with hammering them in and pulling them out your hole won’t be solid enough to hold the rods up straight. They’ll be all wiggly and shifty. That’s more a worry than the plates sitting on top. A wiggly rod will end up toppling the plate before wind will.

  36. movita says:

    Have you been using an agglutinate (shout out to thesaurus.com) to keep the bowls on the legs? Or do you just set ’em on the legs and hope the portly birds don’t all congregate on one edge?

    Wait. Maybe you aren’t using an agglutinate to allow for cleaning. This comment is turning into a stream of consciousness type thing…

    Please advise.

    • Karen says:

      Pftt. Agglutinate schmootinate. No, I just set the bowls on top. They’re all heavy enough to stay stable. Especially when they’re filled with water. This way they are easy to clean and put away for the winter. Unless I get a birdbath heater! Something else to start obsessing on.

  37. Tricia Rose says:

    I thought you were going to cast one! You can do it – and it would certainly support even portly birds… Awww, gowon,

    • Karen says:

      That’s right! I WAS going to cast one. O.K. That’s on the list of birdbath to-do’s as well. Um … I … um … I’m not sure I want that many birdbaths and that many birds bathing around me. I may have to make them just to see if I can do it and give em away. How much do you think it would cost to mail a solid cement birdbath as a contest giveaway? I can afford $1.27. If it’s any more than that the cement birdbath giveaway deal is OFF.

    • Glenda says:

      Darling idea. I like the simplicity of it. Wondering if some other kind of plate would work just as well.
      Thanks for the tutorial.

      • Karen says:

        HI Glenda – I’m sure you could use any plate that has a rim around underside to keep it from falling off the poles. It also has to be heavy enough not to topple over with a few birds on it of course. :) ~ karen

        • Karen says:

          I love the idea and look of the bird bath. My only thought is about the occasional stray cat or other small animal that may also want a drink. I’ve had cats literally topple the basin of heavier store bought bird baths and they cracked. Any idea on how the basin can be permanently secured to the dowels?

        • Karen says:

          Hi Karen – I would probably use outdoor silicone. I haven’t had any trouble with toppling so I keep mine free so it’s easier to clean and bring inside for the winter. ~ karen!

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