Growing gourds are easy and if you've ever done it yourself you know how plentiful your crop can be. Put those gourds to good use by making cute and safe birdhouses. However, you have to be a bit patient and allow the gourds to dry (or cure) for a season. After that, the fun part begins. You can leave your gourds natural to blend in with the woodlands, or express yourself by decorating your gourd birdhouses. To cure your gourds, simply leave them outside for the winter in a somewhat sheltered site or cure them indoors where they won't rot or be eaten by local wildlife.
To maintain your finished gourd birdhouses, bring them inside during the winter to protect them from freezing and fading. They should last several years, but the more exposure to the elements they weather, the more they'll wear out. 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.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 1/4-inch Drill bit
- 1 3/8-inch Drill bit
- 1 1 3/8-inch Drill bit
- Small knife
- Face mask or respirator
- Rigid wire (such as a coat hanger)
- Wood glue
- 1 1/4-inch diameter Dowel
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Steel wool (not impregnated with soap)
- Outdoor tape or small rubber tubing (for wire)
Drill the Doorway
You'll make the opening doorway for the birdhouse, but don't worry about it coming out perfectly—the birds tend to make adjustments when they move in.
Place the door of the birdhouse so that it is where the bottom bulb of the gourd begins to curve upward. The size of the door will depend on the size of your gourd. This gourd has an opening made with a 1 3/8-inch drill bit. Brace the gourd against a wall or object to hold it in place while drilling. Hold the gourd firmly as you drill using a medium pressure.
Clean up ragged edges of the hole as best as you can using a small knife. The opening will probably not come out clean although the harder the shell, the cleaner the cut.
Wear a Mask Around Gourds
Drilling, sanding, and otherwise working with gourds results in fine dust particles that can be harmful to your lungs if inhaled. The particles contain chemical compounds created from bacterial decay, molds, spores and other microorganisms. Always wear a face mask/respirator when working with gourds.
Clean the Inside of the Gourd
Some gourds dry better than others, but you'll still need to manually empty out your gourd. Use your fingers and a teaspoon to scrape out as much of the gourd's guts as you can. Shake out more loose seeds and debris. (Any residual material left inside will be taken care of by the first residents of your birdhouse.) Examine the gourd for cracks or splits. You will need to proceed with a solid gourd to complete the birdhouse.
What To Do With Gourd Guts
Save the seeds. They are ready to be planted, and there's plenty to share with friends.
Smooth Out the Gourd
Using gentle pressure and fine sandpaper, smooth down all of the peeling flecks of the dry outer shell. Go over the surface a few times with sandpaper. Dust off the residue. See if the gourd feels smooth to your touch.
Clean With Bleach
Wash the birdhouse gourd with a mix of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Use a steel wool pad to scrape off any remaining residue.
The bleach disinfects the outer shell and slightly lightens any imperfections on the gourd. However, it won't make the spots disappear, but that's what makes each gourd birdhouse unique.
Drill Holes for Wire
You'll need to drill holes on the gourd's stem so you can put in wire to hang your birdhouse.
Drill two 1/4 inch diameter holes on each side of the gourd's stem. Clean any ragged edges by sanding them down. Dust off residue until smooth and clean.
Insert the Wire for Hanging
Poke a rigid wire through the two top holes. Once through, twist the ends of the wire together securely. Cover the ends with outdoor tape or a section of rubber hose to protect yourself, birds, and the tree on which you'll be hanging the birdhouse.
Create a Perch
As an option, add a small perch at the front door for the birds to stand on. You can paint the perch in the next step.
Cut a dowel measuring around 2 inches to 2 1/2 inches. Drill a 3/8-inch hole just below the doorway. Angle the hole slightly downward to compensate for the curve in the gourd, and make the perch perpendicular to the doorway.
After the hole is ready, rim it with a good amount of wood glue. Twist the dowel into the hole so that it's approximately 1/4 inch deep inside the gourd. Brace the dowel on an object or wall as it dries so it stays at a perpendicular position to the doorway. Allow it to dry at least overnight.
Paint the Birdhouse
Paint your birdhouse or leave it natural and spray it with varnish to protect it from the elements. Apply two to three coats of paint. Let the birdhouse dry.
Best Painting Technique
Hang the gourd for best coverage when spray painting or spray varnishing. A handy tip for hanging the gourd is to suspend it from a broom handle resting horizontally across two sawhorses. Place a drop cloth below the gourds to catch drips.
Seal the Birdhouse
Apply two coats of varnish as a sealer. (Spray varnish provides even coverage without dripping.)
Sealing the Inside
You can also waterproof the interior of the gourd. Pour in a small amount of waterproof sealant (the type used to seal decks), swish it around, and pour out the excess.
Hang the Birdhouse
Once completely dry, hang the birdhouses in safe spots in your yard and enjoy the show.