How to Turn a Gourd into a Bird House for the Purple Martin (or other birds):
- Choose a gourd that is 8" - 14" in diameter with a skin that is at least 0.25 inches thick. If the thin is too skin, it will cause the interior of the gourd to get too during the summer, which can kill the chicks and/or the conditions inside an at the very least be too uncomfortable for Purple Martins to use them. Smaller Gourds can be used for other garden birds, but then the gourd needs to be attached to a pole, tree or building since most other birds prefer stable nest sites, not nests that swing in the breeze.
- Once you have identified suitable gourds, they need to be cleaned quite carefully. The easiest method is to soak the gourds in hot soapy water for about 20 - 30 minutes. Then scrub the gourd until perfectly clean. Don't worry about any discolorations that don't wash off. Since the gourd will be painted at the end, any discoloration will disappear. Scrape out any seeds and membrane from inside the gourd.
- Wait until the gourd has dried completely.
- The entrance hole on the side of the gourd should be about 2 1/8" inches in diameter. A drill will do the job of creating the entrance hole quite nicely.
- Small holes need to be drilled in the bottom of the gourd for drainage.
- Soak the gourd in about 5 gallons of warm water mixed with cooper sulfate (available in hardware stores in the plumbing or gardening sections, where this chemical is sold as root killer. This will preserve the g gourd. Make sure to protect your hands with rubber gloves while working with this chemical. After 15 minutes, remove gourd and allow to dry for several days.
- Use white house paint (use non-toxic paint only!) to paint the outside of the guard. Purple Martins are most attracted to white paint. Make sure that the paint is not clogging the drainage holes. Check the drainage holes to make sure the paint did not clog them.
- Drill another hole through the top of the neck of the gourd and attach a piece of thick wire through the holes. Twist the wire together at the top to make a suitable hanger.
- Purple Martins prefer to nest in colonies. So hang up several of these in clusters.
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