Water for Birds: How to Build a Concrete Birdbath
Time Required: Over 1 day
Attract birds to your yard and keep them hydrated with a concrete bird bath. For many of us, a garden isn’t complete without a flock of feathered friends flying around. Birds add life, sound and movement to a garden, particularly in winter.
While birds provide us with entertainment, they need us to provide water to drink and bathe in. Now is the perfect time to build a concrete bird bath. The birds will thank you with all their fluttering around.
We’ll be using a 14-inch plastic plant saucer for the bird bath exterior, a 12-inch plastic plant tray for the interior, and an 8-inch concrete form tube for the stand. If you have other containers that you’d like to use as molds, keep in mind:
- Smooth containers are easier to separate from the concrete than rougher ones, and the texture of the container will show up on the final product.
- Birds prefer fairly shallow puddles, so you’ll want the final bath to be only about 2 inches deep.
- When selecting your molds, think about the parts you’ll see. The inside of the larger mold will be the outer wall of the bird bath. The bottom and outer sides of the smaller mold will show up as the interior of the birdbath.
Once you’ve selected the molds, prime them with a thin coating of the cutting board oil to make the cured concrete easier to remove. Remember to oil the inside of the larger mold and the outside of the smaller one, and oil any ridges especially well.
Measure the concrete form tube to the desired height of your stand. Add a few extra inches for expansion. Cut the tube with a hacksaw. We cut ours to 24 inches tall.
Place a vinyl floor tile on a solid, level surface, such as a piece of wood, driveway or deck. This will provide a solid, waterproof surface for the concrete to sit on.
Tape the tube to the vinyl tile with duct tape. Seal the interior of the tube where it meets the tile with silicone caulk.
Let the caulk cure for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Oil the inside of the tube after the caulk has dried.
Hardware cloth helps strengthen the concrete. It’s not required, but recommended in climates with temperature extremes.
Trim one piece of hardware cloth in a rough circle so that it fits inside the larger mold. Make sure the cloth doesn’t touch the edges of the mold. Cut another piece in a rectangle a few inches shorter than the final desired stand height, about 16 inches tall and 20 inches wide for our example.
Roll the rectangular piece into a long tube, it should be slightly smaller than the concrete form tube.
While wearing gloves, a dust mask and eye protection, add two quarts of water to the bottom of the tub. Add concrete in small amounts, and mix with a trowel or hoe until it reaches the consistency recommended by the manufacturer.
Pour the concrete into the 14-inch mold so that it’s about 1½ inches deep. Press the hardware cloth circle down into the concrete, then cover it with more concrete until it’s no longer visible.
Place the 12-inch mold on top, and add concrete around it to the top of the outer plant pan. Weigh the inner liner down with bricks or other heavy weights. Be sure to shake while filling to help release bubbles from the concrete.
Cover the concrete with plastic bags or plastic sheeting to help keep it moist while it cures.
Pour or scoop a few inches of concrete into the form tube, then add the hardware cloth so that it’s centered in the tube. Continue adding concrete, gently shaking to release air bubbles, until the desired height is reached. Cover both pieces with plastic bags, keep moist, and allow to finish curing as recommended.
After the concrete has cured for at least 24 hours, spray it down with a hose. Remove plastic bags and molds. You should be able to remove the bath itself by pulling out the inner mold, then turning it over to press it out of the outer mold. You’ll most likely need to remove the stand by cutting the cardboard tube with a utility knife.
If you wish to secure the bath to the stand, spread construction adhesive on the surface of the stand, and place the bath on top. Keep in mind that this will make it more difficult to move the bath, if necessary.
Tip: Birds and other pollinators like pebbles or rocks to stand on while they bathe and drink, so add a few to the saucer so that the height of the rocks is at or slightly above the water level.