Having a water feature in your yard is a fantastic way to attract more birds. Baths are especially attractive to birds if they feature moving water, such as a fountain. There are many pre-made bird baths you can buy, but sometimes the designs just aren’t quite what you are looking for, or they are too expensive. That is where I found myself when I was in the market for a new birdbath, so I decided to design my own. My main criteria were, it had to be easy to build, easy to maintain, inexpensive, and solar powered. This DIY solar bird bath fountain fits the bill.
There are so many neat DIY fountain ideas out there. However sometimes they require a lot of tools, or a lot of heavy lifting and effort. This design is easy enough for anyone to put together. It doesn’t require many materials or a lot of time. Once you understand the basic design, you can let your creativity flow.
How to Make Solar Bird Bath Fountain
The basic idea behind this simple fountain is the water pump sits inside a planter pot. Then a tube runs from the pump, up through a saucer that sits in the top of the pot. The water is pumped up and falls into the saucer and voila, you have a fountain!
- Plastic Plant saucer aka plant drip tray
- Planter pot
- Solding iron or hot knife or drill with a bit for drilling through plastic (for making holes in saucer)
- Pump – Solar powered or Electric
- Plastic tubing (this is standard size for many small pumps but double check your pump’s specs)
- Rocks / Decor of Choice
Planter Pot & Saucer: The planter pot will be your water reservoir, and the saucer will sit on top as the basin. The saucer must be the correct size to sit inside the mouth of the pot. Too big and it will just be resting on the top and may not be very secure, too small and it will fall into the pot. You want that perfect goldilocks fit. For this reason I suggest purchasing these items in person. I found mine at Lowe’s in the outdoor section. Find a saucer that is the size you want (I used 15.3 inch diameter), and then sit it in different pots until you find a good fit.
Pump: You need to make sure the pump you choose has enough power to lift the water high enough to match the height of your pot. So when looking at pumps make sure you check their spec’s for “max lift”. When it comes to solar, decide if you want to spend a little more money and get something with a battery that will help hold charge in the shade. The solar pump I linked is what I am using and I think it does a pretty good job of continuing to work for a while in the shade, especially if it has been charging up in direct sun for awhile. I can get two or more hours of flow even after the sun has set. But you don’t need that feature and can find a less expensive option. I needed solar because I do not have an outdoor outlet, but if you do, you can certainly use an electric pump instead.
Tubing: The plastic tubing has to be the right diameter to match the outflow of the pump. Check your pump specifications for this measurement. The length of tubing you will need will depend on the height of your pot. I would recommend getting 1-2 feet more than you think you need so you have some wiggle room.
Step 1: Preparing Your Pot
Make sure your planter pot is water tight. This is the fountains reservoir and needs to hold water without leaking. If your pot has a drain hole you will need to seal it up, silicone should do the trick. Fill it up to test it out and make sure there are no leaks.
Step 2: Cutting The Tube Hole
Mark the spot on the saucer where you will cut the hole for the water tube. You can do this by placing your tube on the saucer and tracing around it with a marker.
Use a hot tool or a drill to cut out the hole. I found an inexpensive soldering iron that I used and it melted through the plastic easily. I would recommend making the hole on the smaller side first. See if the tube fits and if not, keep slowly expanding the hole until you get a perfect fit. I made my hole a little too large, and the extra space around the tube made the water drain quickly out of the basin. If that happens to you don’t worry, I’ll talk about a fix in step 5.
Step 3: Cut the drain holes
You will need a few drain holes so the water can drain back into the pot. Place your saucer on top of the pot the way you intend it to sit. With a pen, mark a few spots on the saucer that are well within the edges of the planter, to ensure the water drains back into the pot. Start with just a few holes. You can always add more later if it isn’t draining fast enough, and it’s easier to add more than to plug holes up if you made too many.
Step 4: Place Your Pump
Put your planter pot into position outside. Place your pump at the bottom of the pot. You may need something to keep the pump from floating. I put a small rock on top of mine. A small upside down flower pot could work as well. If you choose electric, make sure you have enough cord length to put the pot where you want, or you may need an extension cord. If you choose solar, you’ll need to put the panel in a spot that gets as much direct sunlight as possible. Some solar pumps do ok in the shade, but most will stop working unless there is direct sun.
The pump I bought came with a mesh baggie that you put the pump inside of. The mesh helps filter out any larger dirt particles that could get inside the pump and clog it up. I don’t think it’s an absolutely necessary thing to have, but it is a good idea. You can get some inexpensive mesh bags on Amazon or at most aquarium stores. For even more filtering, put some pea gravel into the bag. This could even work as your weight to keep the pump from floating.
Step 5: Creating The Right Water Level
Connect your tubing to the pump, then run it up through the hole in the saucer. Place the saucer on the pot. (The saucer can sit right on the pump cord. You can drill a hole in the pot for it to run through if you’d like, but it’s not necessary) Now that everything is in place, fill up your pot with water about 75% full, then turn on the pump by plugging it in or connecting it to the solar panel. Watch it for several minutes to make sure the water level in the basin stays where you want it.
- If the basin starts to overflow, that means you need more or larger drain holes to speed up the draining.
- If the basin isn’t holding enough water, then you may have too many drain holes or you are loosing too much water down the tube hole. You can try putting very flat rocks over some of the drain holes. If that is still letting too much water through you will probably need to plug a few holes with rubber or silicone sealant. If your tube hole is the problem, as mine was, you can either add silicone around the tube to plug up the hole or try some mesh. I had an extra mesh bag that I cut a few squares out of and placed around and in the extra space around the tube.
Step 6: Decorate Your Basin
Decorate the basin however you want around the tubing. I really wanted to use stacked rocks for mine. I love the natural look of rocks, plus I wanted to give the birds some rough surface to grip and some options for places to stand that were more shallow. Many birds like to rub up against wet rocks as part of bathing. I used some fieldstone pavers that we had leftover from making flowerbed boarders, and also bought a few pieces of slate. This part is totally up to you. Different colors of gravel, a small statue, or just leave it as-is.
After you have figured out what you want your basin to look like, you can cut the tubing length to match. Most pumps come with a few different “caps” that create different styles of spraying water, such as “shower” or “bubbler”. If you want to use this, place it on the end of your tubing.
And there you have it, a simple DIY solar bird bath fountain design that is very easy to customize!
The Pro’s of a Container Fountain
This Youtube video of how to make a hummingbird fountain out of a plastic bucket was the genesis of my design. This idea appealed to me for several reasons.
- It’s inexpensive
- The pot reservoir holds a lot of water. This means you won’t be refilling it daily when the summer heat arrives.
- The lid prevents leaves and other debris from getting into the water reservoir.
- With most of the water being inside the shade of pot, it will actually stay a bit cooler in the summer than a shallow bath.
- You can throw a heater in the pot in the winter to help prevent freeze.
- The moving water attracts more birds, and you can use solar or electric pumps.
- It’s portable so you can move it around to different areas of the yard.
- It’s easy to take apart so it won’t be a hassle to clean or if you need to replace the pump.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that it gives you a creative spark to come up with your own design. Just remember to give the birds time to find your new bath. Birds are naturally curious but wary of new things, and it may take some time before they decide to give it a try. We have some more tips in this article on attracting birds to your bath.