When the gourd is completely dry, use a wire brush and sandpaper to clean the outside surface. Next, you should treat the gourd with a 10% solution of bleach and water. This will protect the gourd from rot and fungal molds. Handle with care and be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection! Soak the gourd in the bleach solution for 15 minutes. Remove the gourd from the solution and place on a clean surface and allow to dry. To avoid this first step, buy a gourd that has been dried and cleaned.
For an entrance, using an expansion bit or
hole saw, cut a hole* slightly above the center of the gourd. Clean out the inside of the gourd using a serrated knife to break up the pith and seeds. The gourd is now ready for finishing.
To hang the gourd drill two 1/4 inch-diameter holes at the stem end for the hanger, which may be a piece of rigid wire (such as a coat hanger) or a strip of rawhide.
Drill four or five holes in the bottom, approximately 3/8″ using a drill bit, and possibly 2 or 3, 3/8″ holes on the sides for drainage and ventilation.
The outside of the gourd may be finished with an oil based primer, followed by enamel paint. Lightly sand first with fine sandpaper so the primer adheres well to the surface of the gourd. White is a good color choice as the white will reflect the sun, keeping the inside of the birdhouse cool. For a more natural look, just use 2 -3 coatings of clear polyurethane directly on the gourd.
Hang from a tree branch or from wire suspended between sturdy structures.**
*The size of the gourd and the size of the entrance will determine the type of birds that will use the gourd for their home. See
hole size chart.
**The distance from the ground will also determine what type of birds will use the gourd for their home. See
hole size chart.
Do you know why there are no perches on the gourd birdhouse?
Birds do not need a perch to enter the nest, they have such precise flying skills that they can land on the edge of the entrance opening. A perch would be an invitation for other predator birds to enter the nest. Therefore you do not need a perch.
By Birds & Blooms Editors
Gourds have been used to make purple martin houses for centuries. Native Americans used to hang them to attract martins to their settlements to help control insects. Today, purple martins easy of the Rocky Mountains depend on people to supply them with houses and gourds. Time spent creating a purple martin gourd birdhouse is a worthwhile investment. Cured hard-shell gourds are almost as tough as plywood, and they will last up to 30 years if properly coated with a preservative and handled with a little care.
These basic gourd birdhouses are popular with the birds and purple martin “landlords”. The best part is, there’s no limit to the number of homemade birdhouses you can produce and hang right in your yard. We’ve heard of one martin enthusiast who puts up and maintains more than 600 gourd houses every year!
- Gourd Birdhouses for Other Birds
- Prepping the Gourd
- Step 1
- Step 2
- Step 3
- Step 4
- Step 5
- Step 6
- Step 7
- Step 8
- Gourds As Birdhouses
- Growing and Making a Gourd Birdhouse
- Making a gourd birdhouse
- DIY Decorative Gourd Birdhouse
- Here’s how to make a gourd birdhouse:
- Leftover pumpkins and gourds make great DIY birdhouses
Gourd Birdhouses for Other Birds
If you live in an area that’s not the most suitable for attracting purple martins, don’t despair. Gourds make fine homes for several varieties of cavity nesters, including bluebirds, swallows, chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers, titmice, screech owls, kestrels and nuthatches.
Each bird has its own requirements for habitat, entrance-hole size and cavity dimensions. For instance, house wrens need a 1-inch entrance hole in a gourd 5 to 6 inches in diameter and prefer gourds hung in a shady area close to brush.
Chickadees need a 1-1/4-inch hole and like to nest in wooded areas. Bluebirds and tree swallows require a 1-1/2-inch hole and prefer to nest in open areas. For flycatchers, make the hole 1-3/4 to 2 inches in diameter and hang the gourd in a tree close to a brushy area.
Prepping the Gourd
To start, you’ll need one hard-shell gourd, also known as a bottle gourd or birdhouse gourd. Harvest a hard-shell gourd when the vine has withered. Be careful to leave the stem attached. It’s best to cut the stem with a pruning shears so you don’t bruise it. A good purple martin gourd has a diameter of about 8 to 13 inches. Wash it thoroughly in water, rinse in a solution of 1 part disinfectant (bleach works fine) and 10 parts water, and dry it with a towel.
Hang the gourd in a sunny spot or place it on newspaper in a warm dry spot (such as an attic or basement) for 3 to 6 months. If the gourd is lying on a flat surface, be sure to frequently turn it. The gourd will begin to mold as it dries—don’t throw it out! This is a natural part of the curing process. Gourds dried indoors will grow the most mold and should be wiped clean frequently with the same concentration (1 to 10) of disinfectant you used for cleaning. However, discard any gourds that become soft or wrinkled.
Check if the gourd is dry by giving it a good shake—if the seeds rattle, it’s time to make a purple martin gourd birdhouse!
- One hard-shell gourd, also known as a bottle gourd or birdhouse gourd
- Bleach (for disinfectant)
- Fine steel wool
- Wood preservative or copper sulfate
- Oil-based primer
- Oil-based white enamel paint
- Plastic-coated copper wire, 24 inches long
- Face mask
- Power drill
- 2-1/8-inch hole saw or a keyhole saw
Soak the gourd for 15 minutes in hot soapy water, then scrape it with a dull knife to remove the outer skin and mold. Scrub the gourd in the water with fine steel wool. Rinse it well and allow it to thoroughly dry.
To locate the entrance hole, hold the gourd by its stem between your index finger and thumb and let it hang. Mark a center point along the outermost part of the curve so the hole faces straight out—not towards the sky or the ground. The hole should measure 2-1/8 inches and can be easily and quickly drilled with the proper-size hole saw. (Be sure to wear a face mask.) You can also use a keyhole saw to cut the entrance by hand. If you do, it’s best to cut the hole immediately after washing the gourd, while it’s still wet.
Make seven drainage holes in the bottom of the gourd about 2 inches apart using a 5/16-inch drill bit. With the same bit, drill two sets of holes about 2 inches from the top of the gourd’s neck for hanging and ventilation. One set should be drilled perpendicular to the entrance hole and the other in line with it. (You’ll only use one set of holes for hanging. Choose the pair that will allow the entrance hole to face the most open direction.)
Remove seeds and membrane through the entrance hole with a long-handled metal spoon, screwdriver or a wire coat hanger (wear a face mask). If this is difficult, soak the gourd in water for several hours. The inside does not have to be completely clean.
Dip the gourd in a wood preservative for 15 minutes, weighting it down with a brick. Then remove the gourd and hang it up to dry for several days. (For a cheaper alternative, dissolve 1 pound of copper sulfate (available at garden centers and farm-supply stores) in 5 gallons of warm water and dip the gourd as instructed above. Wear rubber gloves while handling it.)
Tip: Gourds need to be retreated and repainted every few years. So whatever preservative you use, store the solution in a covered plastic bucket for reuse, but keep it away from children and pets.
Sand the gourd smooth and paint with an oil-based primer. Allow it to dry. Paint the gourd house with white exterior enamel paint with a nylon brush. (Do not use water-based latex paint because it will peel.) Apply two coats. Be careful not to clog drainage holes.
When dry, you can hang your gourd (you’ll need at least 4 to 6 gourds to attract martins) from a 24-inch plastic-coated copper wire. Thread the wire through two of the holes directly across from each other and hang it from a support line, below a martin house or on a specially made gourd rack. Hang the gourd 10 to 15 feet high, with the entrance hole facing an open area. The gourd will swing, making it less attractive to nest competitors, such as starlings.
Gourd Birdhouse Maintenance: In late August or early September, after the martins depart for their winter homes in the tropics, take the gourd house down for cleaning. Break up nests with the handle of a wooden spoon and shake out the contents. Then store until early spring (the martins return as early as February in the deep South) in a spot inaccessible to rodents. Your gourd house will be ready to use again, but you might want to prepare a few more over winter, because the martins will probably bring along a few more friends!
Gourds As Birdhouses
Ever wanted to grow your own gourds to use for making Wren or Purple Martin bird houses? Read on to learn what it takes and the types it takes to make it happen.
Grow Your Own Birdhouse by Jackie Carroll
Bottle types (Lagenaria siceraria) are easy to grow on fences or trellises, and once dried they make an ideal home for purple martins, swallows, chickadees and wrens.
Although they can be grown in hills as you would grow squash and pumpkin, if left lying on the ground will they will flatten on one side and may be susceptible to rot.
If you prefer to grow them in hills, provide several inches of hay as a mulch to keep them off the ground. Bottle types will tolerate light frost, so allow them to dry on the vine as long as possible.
The longer they stay on the vine the better the chance at not rotting. Once harvested, they will need a cool, dry place to finish drying, which may take several months.
During the drying time mold will grow on the outside. It’s important to keep cleaning them off during this time.
They are completely dry when you can hear the seeds rattle inside when you shake them.
To fashion your birdhouse drill an entry hole 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Smaller holes will accommodate small birds such as wrens, while a larger hole will allow larger birds such as martins to take up residence.
You should also drill a few tiny holes in the bottom for drainage. Drill two holes in the top, and thread a cord through them for hanging your birdhouse.
Untreated birdhouses will last up to two years. For a longer lasting birdhouse add a coat of varnish.
Here is an excellent resource on other things you can do with gourds Gourd Craft Ideas
About the Author:
Jackie Carroll is the editor of GardenGuides.com, a leading internet destination for gardening information and ideas.
Visitor Shows Their Hand Painted Gourds
Read Stories of Others Who Had Birds In Their Gourd Houses
Making Gourd Birdhouses Harvesting, Drying, and Painting
Create a Backyard Habitat for Attracting Nesting Birds.
The Importance of Shrubs, Trees, Bushes for Attracting Birds.
Subscribe To Our YouTube Channel To See All Our Bird Videos!
Growing and Making a Gourd Birdhouse
Making a gourd birdhouse
Making your own gourd birdhouse is a fulfilling project anyone can participate in and enjoy. Keep in mind that it is important to handle undried gourds carefully, as they can break easily, and bruised areas can rot during the drying process.
After harvesting, the first step is to wash your gourds. Some people wash them in warm, soapy water and rinse with a strong solution of non-bleaching disinfectant. Other sources recommend washing the fruit in a mild solution of water containing 10-percent bleach to protect gourds from rot and fungal mold. To do this, soak gourds in the bleach solution for 15 minutes, rinse thoroughly, and then dry them with a soft cloth.
Store the gourds for five to six weeks in a well-ventilated room until they turn light brown or straw-colored and are light in weight. Hanging the gourds is best for maximum air circulation, as other curing and drying methods can take longer — from two to four months or more, depending on size of gourds. If desired, you can poke a small wire-sized hole in the blossom end of the gourd, which may speed up the internal drying time. Inspect drying gourds regularly, and discard any that are immature, soft, or rotting.
Your gourds are cured when thoroughly dry and hard shelled. If you shake the gourds and hear seeds rattling, they are ready to make into birdhouses.
But before this, your dried gourds should be washed in warm, soapy water again. Any tough stains or marks may need to be scrubbed with sandpaper. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Now that all these steps have been taken and the gourds are fully dried, you are ready for drilling holes, etc. – put your craft skills to work!
The entry hole for your bird friends can vary in size, dependent on the size of gourd, though 1-inch-diameter seems pretty standard. Chickadees, swallows, and purple martins are a few of the bird species that will enjoy these homes. The diameter of entry hole you drill and height of birdhouse will help determine the species it will attract, so determine the species of bird you’d like hanging around, and research that species’ preference. Use a hole saw or drill bit of the appropriate size. You may wish to drill a small 1⁄8-inch or so hole under the entry hole to insert a perch for the birds to stand on. Drill two holes at the top of the gourd, one on each side, to insert the wire for hanging the birdhouse.
Next, use your fingers and a long knife or spoon to clean out any seeds and pulp that may have remained in the gourd. Save the seeds for planting and sharing for next year.
Now you can wax and polish, paint, or varnish your birdhouses, if desired. If you prefer to leave your gourd natural, it will last about one year. Weatherproof paint, etc., will provide a longer-lasting house, but remember to clean out the inside at the end of each nesting season.
Hang your gourd birdhouse in a suitable spot, ideally under some shelter protected from predators.
Then watch and wait, as you’ve grown and created a beautiful fixture assured to attract a beautiful creature or three.
If you’re looking for a woodworking project to attract bluebirds, we have easy DIY plans.
Jesse Vernon Trail is an author and former instructor of environment, horticulture, and natural history studies.
DIY Decorative Gourd Birdhouse
Turn the season’s bounty into a lifetime home for lucky birds or a unique object d’art to add whimsy and color for to outdoor spaces.
Whether you have a garden full of gourds that need harvesting this time of year, or you’re just looking for a fun craft to make for yourself or for gifts, painted gourd birdhouses make great do-it-yourself projects. We’ll tell you how to turn the season’s bounty into a lifetime home for lucky birds or a unique object d’art to add whimsy and color for to outdoor spaces. You can even assemble the supplies and invite some guests over for a gourd birdhouse party.
Gourds make good birdhouses for many types of birds, including wrens, chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, purple martins, and others. You can dry your own gourd, or purchase gourds that have already been dried. Dry gourds can be found at some craft stores, farms and farmers markets, as well as online sources.
Here’s how to make a gourd birdhouse:
Step1 – Choose your gourd. Bottle gourds are popular choices for birdhouses. The size of gourd and the size of the hole you need to make in the gourd will depend on the type of bird that you wish to attract. Harvest mature gourds that have hard shells, and leave at least a few inches of the stem on the gourd.
Step 2 – If you are drying your own gourd, wash it in water followed by a rinse of 1 part disinfectant or bleach to 10 parts water. Or, wash it in warm vinegar water. Blot well with a towel, and hang it to dry. If mold begins to form as it dries, wipe it with the 1:10 bleach and water solution. It may take a few months to completely dry.
Step 3 – When the gourd is dry, or if you are starting with a dried gourd, decide what size entrance hole you need and where it should be placed. You can make the hole with a drill or a small saw. It’s also a good idea to drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and a hole or holes in the top for hanging. You can also attach a perch just below the entrance hole if you’d like.
Step 4 – Remove seeds from the gourd through the entrance hole.
Step 5 – To help it last, you can dip the gourd in wood preservative or copper sulfate.
Step 6 – Use sandpaper to smooth the exterior of the gourd and the entrance hole.
Step 7 – You can use varnish, shellac, or paint on the outside of the gourd. If you’re using paint, choose an enamel or exterior latex paint and consider adding a primer first. Make sure that drainage holes remain open after painting.
Step 8 – Hang your gourd birdhouse and watch the birds come flocking to it.
You can leave your birdhouse plain or decorate it with painted designs such as bird pictures, nature scenes, geometric patterns, monograms, holiday motifs, or favorite team mascots and colors. With proper care and occasional re-sealing, gourd birdhouses can last for years, giving you – and the birds – hours and hours of pleasure.
Leftover pumpkins and gourds make great DIY birdhouses
Okay, so you stopped to get just one pumpkin this past week, came home with three or four instead, plus a gourd someone convinced you would make a great birdhouse.
It will. Just be patient. It is fresh from the patch and it will need to dry for a few months. And as it dries it will be begin to mold. In fact, if you dry it indoor it will mold even faster.
So get out the bleach or bleach wipes and clean it up. You may have to do this quite often.
To check if it is dry, shake it. Once the seeds rattle, and it feels light, it’s time to make that birdhouse. It could be spring by then, which meant you’ll be just in time for the birds coming back north,
My source says to soak the gourd in hot soapy water for at least 15 minutes and then take a dull knife and scrape off the outer skin and mold. Get out the steel wool and scrub it again and rinse. Let it dry very thoroughly.
Now it is time to decide where the bird entrance hole should be. This isn’t an exact science but you want the hole straight out, not facing up or down. Hold the gourd by your index finger and thumb and mark the spot.
Drill or use a keyhole saw to make the hole. Wrens like a 1 inch hole, chickadees a little bigger. Since you don’t know who is going to move in, you might just check to see what some other birds need. You do not want it too large because bigger birds or even squirrels could decide to visit,
Drill two sets of holes from the neck for hanging and air circulation, and add a few more in the bottom for drainage. Loop a piece of rawhide if you have it for hanging,
These are small holes, maybe a ¼ inch.
To get the seeds out and the membrane, go through the entrance hole with a spoon or screwdriver or a wire coat hanger.
Dipping it in wood preservative for a few minutes and hanging it to dry for a few days will be the last thing before you sand it and paint it. Don’t use water-based paint as it peels. House paint works fine, after all, you are building a birdhouse.
Get creative and decorate it and then find a place to hang it to attract the birds. But first show it off to your friends and give them a few seeds to grow their own next year.