Making Birdhouse Gourds takes a little patience, but can be well worth the time and effort.
Watching birds nest in your own homemade gourd nest box will give you, just a little more joy and satisfaction in providing for our birds.
When to Harvest
Harvest a hard-shell gourd when the vine has withered. Be careful to leave the stem attached.
Wash thoroughly in water, rinse in a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water, and dry with a towel.
If you aren't ready for them, that's okay. They will last on the vine for quite some time............ even in snow.
It's best to cut the stem with pruning
shears so you don't bruise it. Leave several inches of vine so you can hang it in a warm dry location.
Hang it in a sunny spot or in the basement near your furnace.
If you don't have a place to hang them, put it on newspaper in a warm dry place for 3 - 6 months.
If it is lying on a flat surface, be sure to turn frequently. A proper size for a birdhouse gourd has a diameter of about 5-6 inches, to 13 inches, depending on the bird species you want to attract. Wash thoroughly in water, rinse in a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water, and dry with a towel.
As it dries, it will begin to mold. This is a natural part of the drying process.
If dried indoors it will grow more mold and should be frequently wiped clean with the bleach solution.
When making a gourd birdhouse discard any that become soft or wrinkled.
To check if it is dry, give it a good shake - if the seeds rattle, you can begin making your birdhouse.
Your gourd will end up with a molted, almost tortoise shell look.
That's normal and looks great natural.
Materials & Tools:
Hard-shell dried gourd
Sanding block or sand paper
Compass, or circle template
Small hand saw or mini jigsaw
Drill with a small drill bit, and sanding bit
Acrylic paint, stain
A paintbrush or a lint-free cloth
Wire, leather rope or other hanging material.
Making the Birdhouse Gourds:
Soak the gourd for 15 minutes in hot soapy water, and then scrape with a dull knife to remove the outer skin and mold.
Scrub in the water with fine steel wool. Rinse it well and allow to dry thoroughly.
To locate the bird's entrance hole, hold it by its stem between your index finger and thumb and let it hang. Mark a center point along the outermost part of the curve so the hole faces straight out. Not toward the sky or the ground.
The size of the hole on your gourd will depend on the type of bird you want to attract.
Once you have the center marked, take a carpenters pencil (compass) to outline the entrance hole.
The entrance hole can be easily drilled with the proper-size hole saw or by using a keyhole saw.
Another option is using a 1/4 inch drill bit, and drill a series of holes through the penciled circle. Then finish cutting with a sharp, sturdy, serrated knife.
Wear a face mask, as the dust is a caustic substance. Drill 2 sets of holes about 2 inches from the neck for hanging and ventilation.
Also drill 2 or 3, 1/4 inch holes in the bottom for drainage.
Drill a hole through the neck of your Birdhouse Gourds for so you can run some wire or other material to hang your new creations.
Remove the seeds and membrane of the gourd through the entrance hole with a long-handled metal spoon, screwdriver or a wire coat hanger.
Sand off any rough edges around the entrance hole.
Dip the whole thing in a wood preservative for 15 minutes, weighting it down with a brick. Then remove it and hang it up to dry for several days.
Sand the gourd smooth and paint with and oil-based primer. Allow it to dry thoroughly. Paint the house with exterior enamel paint (do not use water based latex paint as it will peel) Apply 2 coats.
Decorate anyway you like and hang it in the proper place to attract the birds you want.
For Purple martins, paint your gourds white. Two or three coats of exterior latex will put a good finish on your birdhouse gourds for martins.
Martins, swallows, and wrens delight in the movement of a hanging gourd birdhouse. Chickadees welcome them as well.
To have your Birdhouse Gourds last longer, bring them in for the winter, or grow some more next year.