Gourd Birdhouses
by Carroll Neidhart
CHOOSING A GOURD
Gourds can make excellent homes for the birds because they are natural. Take time to learn how to prepare the properly and your rewards will be many. Harvest your gourds when mature, leaving a few inches of stem intact. Wash them in a warm vinegar water, rinse well and dry thoroughly in a warm dark place. Darkness is not absolutely essential but will help keep colors bright. Choose dry gourds that have hard, firm shells. The gourd size will govern the kind of bird that will be attracted. The ball of the gourd should be large enough for a bird to turn around easily. Many birds delight in the long deep cavity offered by some gourd shapes.

MAKING THE ENTRANCE HOLE
The entrance hole should conform to the size of the bird that you wish to attract. An irregular shaped hole sometimes  works as you can see in the photograph. A hole may be cut with an expansion bit or a key hole saw. A few holes drilled in the bottom of the gourd will provide drainage and help keep the gourd dry. Drill a hold through the top and place a thong or wire for hanging.

The placement of the hole is very important and one should remember the habits of the birds that you hope to attract. Most birds like to hop down into the gourd, therefore, place the entrance hole in the upper portion. This will also keep the babies from falling out should the hole be too low. A perch can be attached just below the hole. A twisted piece of gourd stem or a twig or a cluster of seed pods makes an excellent perch and are in keeping with the natural gourd. After the gourd is cleaned out several coats of varnish or shellac will seal the outer surface. Paint may also be used but avoid the bright colors. Browns and greens are a better choice.
 

TYPE OF BIRD    SIZE GOURD     SIZE HOLE  
House or Bewick' Wren  6" 1"
Carolina Wren  6" 1 1/2"
Chickadee  8" 1 1/8"
Tufted Titmouse   8" 1 14"
Downy Woodpecker   8" 1 1/4"
White Breasted Nuthatch   8" 1 1/4"
Small Owl  10" 2 1/4"
Bluebird    8" 1 1/2" 
Hairy Woodpecker  12"  1 5/8"
Crested Flycatcher  8"  2"
Purple Martin 10"  2 1/2"
Flicker  16"  2 1/2"

 

PLACEMENT OF BIRDHOUSE
Hang your birdhouse outdoors in early spring before the birds arrive. Attach it to a post or tree with plenty of space between houses. Since Purple Martins want to live together, wire a number of gourd houses to crossed arms nailed to a pole. Keep martin houses away from leafy areas and buildings and where there are no overhead wires. The idea is to keep the flight path open. Hang your gourd houses with the opening away from prevailing winds.

Making birdhouses from gourds is as easy as it is interesting. If the gourd is mature and properly preserved and stored in the off season, it may last for years. Our family has a gourd birdhouse well over 100 years old. It has brought pleasure for several generations. You will find that birds make grateful tenants!