Gourd Bird Houses

Purple martin bird houses
Arthur Tilley / Getty Images
  • 01 of 12

    Making Gourd Bird Houses

    Gourd Bird Houses - Dried Gourds
    Gourd Bird Houses - Dried Gourds. Marie Iannotti

    They don't call them birdhouse gourds for nothing. Gourds are ridiculously easy to grow and if you've ever done it yourself, you know how many gourds you wind up with. So why not put them to good use?

    Making a gourd birdhouse is almost as easy as growing the gourds. You'll need to dry and clean the gourds first, inside and out. After that, the fun part begins. You can leave your gourds au natural, to blend in with the woodlands, or express yourself anyway your mood suggests and decorate your gourd birdhouses as well as the trees from which they'll be hanging. The birds don't seem to care either way, so let's get started.​

    Growing birdhouse gourds is easy and turning them into birdhouses is just as simple. However, you have to be a bit patient and allow the gourds to dry, or cure, for a season, before you can begin the transformation from gourd to birdhouse.

    To cure your gourds, you can simply leave them outside for the winter, in a somewhat sheltered site, or you can take matters into your own hands and cure the gourds indoors where they won't rot or get eaten.

    If you didn't grow your own gourds, you're not excluded from the fun. Birdhouse gourds are available almost everywhere that ornamental gourds are sold. They may even have done some of the cleaning for you.

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  • 02 of 12

    Turning Your Birdhouse Gourd into a Gourd Bird House

    How to Make Gourd Bird Houses
    Here's What You'll Need to Get Started How to Make Gourd Bird Houses. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    First things first: gather the following tools and supplies to begin the transformation from gourd to birdhouse.

    • Gourds
    • Drill
    • 3/8" 1/4" and 1 3/8" Drill Bits
    • Small Knife
    • Sand Paper
    • Wire
    • 1/4" Dowel

      teaspoon

    • Wood Glue

    Later on, we're also going to use a little bleach and maybe some steel wool.

    And if you plan on decorating your birdhouse, you'll need paints, brushes, and varnish. I recommend using a spray varnish on the final gourd birdhouse, whether or not you paint it.

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  • 03 of 12

    Drilling the Doorway

    Gourd Bird Houses - Getting Started
    Gourd Bird Houses - Getting Started. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Before you can start making your birdhouse, you’ll need to fully dry, or cure, the gourd, so that the exterior is hard and the interior can be cleaned out. This can be done during the winter.

    Once your gourd is fully cured, you can begin making your birdhouse by drilling the opening doorway. The size will depend on the size of your gourd. I used a 1 3/8 drill bit for mine. Eyeball the placement so that it is where the bottom bulb of the gourd begins to curve upward.

    It helps to brace the gourd against something, so it doesn’t roll. Hold the gourd and the drill firmly, but you don’t need to use heavy pressure. The gourds are usually the consistency of thin plasterboard.

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  • 04 of 12

    Making the Entrance

    Gourd Bird Houses - Making the Opening
    Gourd Bird Houses - Making the Opening. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The hole will probably not come out clean. The texture of birdhouse gourds will vary. The harder the shell, the cleaner the cut. You can clean up the ragged edges with a small knife. But don’t fret if the opening turns out imperfect. The birds tend to make adjustments when they move in anyway.

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  • 05 of 12

    Cleaning the Inside of the Gourd

    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning Out the Gourd
    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning Out the Gourd. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Some birdhouse gourds will dry better than others. You may be lucky and have a gourd who's seeds are all loosened and can simply be shaken out. Or, you may find yourself with a gourds like this; chuck full of clumps of seeds and peeling inner walls. Either way, use your finders and a teaspoon to scrap as much of the gourd guts out as you can. Again, what's left will be taken care of by the first residents of your birdhouse.

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  • 06 of 12

    Saving the Seeds

    Gourd Bird Houses - Gourd Seeds
    Gourd Bird Houses - Gourd Seeds. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Don't waste all these gourd seeds. They are ready to be planted to grow even more birdhouse gourds. There's plenty to share with friends.

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  • 07 of 12

    Creating a Pearch to Stand On

    Gourd Bird Houses - Making the Perch
    Gourd Bird Houses - Making the Perch. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Although not absolutely necessary, I like to add a small perch at the front door, for the birds to stand on and look out. To do this, cut a 1/4" dowel to a length of about 2 - 2 1/2".

    Drill a 3/8" hole just below the doorway. Try to angle the hole slightly downward, to compensate for the curve in the gourd and make the perch perpendicular to the doorway.

    Don't attach the perch yet. It will be easier to finish cleaning the gourd without it.

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  • 08 of 12

    A Final Cleaning

    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning
    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    I like to wait until I'm sure the gourd isn't going to crack or split on me, before I do my final clean-up. At this point, I get my bleach, a bowl of water, a sheet of fine sand paper and same steel wool.

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  • 09 of 12

    Smoothing Out the Gourd

    Gourd Bird Houses - Smoothing Them Out.
    Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Begin the final clean-up with a piece of the fine sand paper. Right now we're concerned with smoothing off all the peeling flecks of dried outer shell. This shouldn't take too much pressure. Go over the surface a few times, dust off the residue and test to see if it's smooth to your touch. When you're satisfied with the feel, you can move on to washing the gourd with bleach.

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  • 10 of 12

    One Last Touch Up

    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning the Gourds
    Gourd Bird Houses - Cleaning the Gourds. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The last thing I like to do is to wash the birdhouse gourd with a mix of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. I use a steel wool pad to do this, so that any remaining residue comes off with it. The bleach disinfects the outer gourd and slightly lightens any imperfections on the gourd. It won't make the spots disappear. For perfection, you'll need a fake plastic gourd. The imperfections are what make each birdhouse unique.

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  • 11 of 12

    Painting and Finishing Touches

    Gourd Bird Houses - Painting Gourds
    Gourd Bird Houses - Painting Gourds. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    At this point, you can leave your birdhouse gourd as is, au natural, or you can get creative and paint it. Even if you want to leave it natural, I'd suggest a few coats of a spray on varnish, to protect it from the elements.

    There are just two more steps before we get to painting. First, we need to poke wire through the 2 top holes. Hopefully you've made the holes large enough to maneuver the wire through. If not, it's not to late to drill them a bit larger. Once through, twist the end together securely. You can cover the ends with plastic tape, to keep them from jabbing you. I like to wrap a section of rubber hose over that part of the wire, to protect me and the tree I'll be hanging the gourd from.

    Next, we need to glue on the perch. Rim the hole with a good amount of wood glue, then twist the dowel into the hole so that approximately 1/4" is inside the gourd.

    You may need to brace the dowel on something as it dries, to get it at a perpendicular position to the doorway. Allow to dry, at least overnight.

    Finally - it's time to paint. I'm going for the colors that will complement the flowers nearby. I've found hanging the gourds and spray painting is the easiest way for me to get good coverage. I'm doing that here by suspending a broom handle across 2 saw horses.

    Apply 2-3 coats of paint and let the birdhouses dry. Then apply 2 coats of varnish as a sealer. Again, I prefer the spray varnish because I get an even coverage without dripping.

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  • 12 of 12

    Hanging Your Gourd Birdhouse

    Gourd Bird Houses - Finishing and Hanging Gourd Bird Houses
    Gourd Bird Houses - Finishing and Hanging Gourd Bird Houses. Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

    That's pretty much all there is to it, except for displaying and enjoying your birdhouses. I don't keep my outdoors all winter, just to keep them from freezing and fading. They should last several years, but the more wear they get, the more they wear out. Go figure.

    At the end of the season, clean out the old nest material and store your birdhouses in a dry spot in the garage or basement, to enjoy again next year.