12

For the last few months, we've experienced long spells of drought and heat in Massachusetts, on the East Coast of the United States. At least thirty birds and three generations of squirrels and chipmunks are drinking and bathing here at any given time, and they're not alone. At night, we've seen raccoons climb clumsily up the birdbaths and knock them over.

We have a number of different water vessels. Keeping them filled is very important to us, but we don't always have time to thoroughly clean out the dirt, old food, and bird droppings. Not surprisingly, algae is more prevalent this year than usual, especially in the cement baths, where it hides in crevices. We really don't like that slime, and generally scrape it off with a wire brush, but it is time-consuming and we're probably not doing it as frequently as we should. We could stop using the cement and stone vessels, but many of those we're feeding prefer them over all others, so that's not our first choice.

Depriving the animals of water seems dangerous, even for a few hours on an intermittent basis. However, we're concerned that after having what looks like a refreshing drink and bath, they go off and become ill or die due to negligence on our part.

Is anyone aware of a consensus as to whether or not dirty birdbath water is worse than none at all?

  • 2
    I've just blasted my stone birdbath with water from the hose and refilled it, thanks to your question. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Aug 12 '16 at 0:03
  • 6
    Can it be any worse than the small puddles, scummy ponds, and almost dried up bits of water they find on their own anyway? I doubt it very much. Birds thrived for millions of years before anyone thought of providing water for them and they'll do just fine if you never bother to clean that birdbath again. – Carey Gregory Aug 12 '16 at 3:44
  • 2
    @Carey Gregory: precisely this. What seems "dirty" or "unhygienic" to us today, is often natural and normal in nature - or even in human society just a few generations back. We are so obsessed with cleanliness (even if only superficially) that it's started to become unnatural, and in some cases can be actively harmful to nature, when considering not only chemical cleaners, but also the removal of certain bacteria or insects that are part of the natural balance. Nature gave many animals robust organs (such as how dogs have filters on their tongues) for a reason. – flith Aug 13 '16 at 15:19
8

I guess dirty water is better than no water. I don't think algae will kill them. The primary danger is parasites.

Concrete cleaner is the easiest way to remove algae but be sure to rinse thoroughly.

You can also get animal safe algaecide.

I use a 5 gallon paint bucket for my dogs. In the summer by the time they finish it will have a little bit of algae. I clean with a bottle brush and dish washing liquid. Then a splash of bleach. It cleans really fast. Not pretty but maybe put one out of view for the raccoons. In the shade - algae and other plants need sun light.

  • You are not going to drown chipmunk. A chipmunk can find it's way out or a 5 gallon bucket. – paparazzo Aug 15 '16 at 0:27
  • You are more likely to make them sick with soap, bleach. algaecide , etc. than the natural water and mud they have been living with for millions of years. – blacksmith37 Feb 1 '18 at 1:30
  • If it's concrete and pretty solid you can also pressure wash with just water. – Aravona Sep 24 at 7:55

protected by Charlie Brumbaugh Sep 23 at 17:59

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.