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July 5, 2012

DIY Chilling Stations for Wildlife

Make your own!

  • The sound from a backyard waterfall alerted this robin to an ideal bathing spot. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • A chipmunk reaches for a drink from the same water feature. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • You must look closely to see the visitor to this backyard wildlife pond. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Butterflies “puddle” to get water and nutrients from wet soil including mud and sand. Nature Niche/iStockphoto

Summer is upon us and when the temperatures soar, humans are not the only ones desperate to cool off.

Throw some extra ice cubes into your tea, and dig into these tips and tricks to help our animal friends cool down.

Fill up the (bird) tub

Birds will totally use a backyard bird bath to have a drink and cool off. Look for a bath with a non-slip surface, wide edges, and gently sloping sides that come to a center no deeper than three inches. Choose one made of non-toxic materials that won’t rust or leach chemicals.

Place it near a bush or tree birds can fly to for cover, but not near low vegetation in which a predator might hide.

Refill and give a quick scrubbing every couple days, and clean it weekly with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water. (Rinse well before refilling!) Really ambitious? Add sound effects with a dripper feature: suspend a jug over the bath with a hook or wire, fill with water, and punch a hole 1/2 inch from the bottom. A mister (sold at garden and home improvement stores) will attract hummingbirds to your bath, too.

Learn how to keep your pets cool, too »

Make “puddling” places for butterflies

Butterflies love “puddling”—gathering water and nutrients from mud puddles. Even a very young child can help with this kid-friendly project!

Just find a pie plate, and fill it with a mixture of soil and sand. Add water until the mixture is saturated and some water puddles on top, then set it in a sunny spot.

Put in a mini toad pool

Cooling stations for amphibians can be win-wins: you'll help them beat the heat and help limit those garden-dwellers you may like seeing less of (mosquitoes, earwigs, flies, slugs, and snails).  Install this quick and easy pool for toads (and maybe frogs and salamanders, too).

Place a shallow flowerpot saucer or trashcan lid (10-inch diameter or larger) in the ground with the lip at ground level and fill with water. Plant grasses, sedges, or ferns around the edge, and add stones or branches for easy entry and exit. Keep the water as clean and fresh as you would with a birdbath. Install a toad abode nearby to offer shady relief from the heat.

Create a Humane Backyard

A place that offers food, shelter, water, refuge from toxic sprays, and safety from mowers—it’s what every creature wants, right? They want a Humane Backyard. By making simple changes, you can create that haven of comfort and security for local wildlife. And you can do it anywhere: in the city, suburbs, or country. So look around--at your backyard, balcony, or the park down the street—then let us teach you how to make your own Humane Backyard. Once you’ve learned how, take our Humane Backyard pledge.

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