Wait until the vines of the gourd plant shrivels up in late fall to harvest gourds for your birdhouses. Use a tape measure to measure the diameter across the bottoms of the gourds. The size of the gourd you choose will depend on the size of the intended feathered residents; however, purple martins most commonly reside in the gourd houses and require gourds with diameters measuring approximately eight inches.
Cut the vine off the top of the gourd, leaving approximately two inches of vine on top the gourd to serve as a perch for the bird to rest.
Clean the outside of the gourd using a solution of three parts water to one part bleach. Dampen a sponge in the solution and wipe down all exterior parts of the gourd to remove dirt and debris.
Set the gourds in a dry outside area, such as the eaves of a barn or garage away from humidity inside your home. Allow the gourd to remain in this location through the winter months for at least six months and up to one year before removing it to create the bird houses.
Examine the dried gourds to determine which you can use for bird houses. Throw away any gourds that have soft or rotten areas. Shake all the gourds. The loose seeds inside a gourd produce a rattling noise, and gourds that do not rattle have not dried out fully and need a month or more of additional drying time.
Sand away the green, black and brown discolorations on the gourd's exterior using a fine-grit sandpaper. Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and nose as you sand these moldy discolorations that occur naturally as the gourd dries. After sanding, wipe the gourd with a tack cloth to remove additional dust before removing your face mask.
Drill a large hole in the side of the gourd to serve as an entrance for the birds. Position the hole on the round of the gourd so that the hole faces outward and not upward or downward. The size of the hole you drill depends on the type of bird you hope to attract. To attract purple martins, you will need holes that measure approximately one and one-half inches in diameter.
Empty the rattling seeds out of the gourd using the entrance hole you drilled in the previous step. Retain these seeds for a future crop.
Drill three or four smaller holes at the very bottom of the gourd to serve as ventilation and drainage holes. Drill these holes using a drill bit that produces a hole between one-fourth and one-eighth inch long.
Paint the exterior of the gourd in your choice of colors or designs. Use a waterproof acrylic paint that can withstand changing weather. Apply the paint with a paintbrush.
Things You Will Need
- Tailor's tape measure
- Pruning shears
- Fine grit sandpaper
- Face mask
- Tack cloth
- Drill bits
- Acrylic paint
- Wooden dowel (optional)
- To provide your birdhouse dwellers with a perch, drill a smaller hole below the entrance hole and insert an appropriately sized wooden dowel. Leave the dowel sticking out an inch or two to provide plenty of room for the bird to perch.