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Planting Gourds

Gourds can make excellent bird houses, but one must know how to prepare them in the proper manner. Gourds must be harvested when they are mature. One must leave three inches of stem on the gourd. Rinse the gourds in warm vinegar water and dry them in a warm spot turning them every other day. Once the gourds are dry, cut holes in them for the bird entrance. The size of the gourd will determine the species of birds that will utilize the gourd. The large end of the gourd should be big enough for a bird to turn around in easily. Some birds prefer long, deep cavities in some kinds of gourds.

The entrance hole should be round and all sharp edges removed. It's size must conform to the size of the bird. The holes may be cut with a key hole saw, circular saw or expansion bit. A few holes, using a 1/4 inch bit, in the bottom of the gourd will provide adequate drainage that will enable the nest to stay dry. One hole through the top of the gourd will allow for a wire to be inserted for proper hanging.

The chart below shows the minimum size gourd needed and the size of the entrance hole required for many bird species found throughout Mississippi.

Minimum Diameter of Gourd Needed (Inches)
Exact Size Entrance Hole (Inches)
House Wren
Caroline Wren
1 1/8
Tufted Titmouse
1 1/2
Crested Flycatcher
Purple Martin
2 1/2
2 1/2

The hole itself should be in the upper portion of the gourd since birds like to hop down into the gourd. This will also keep fledglings from falling out of the hole before it is time for them to leave the nest. A perch can be attached below the hole. A piece of gourd stem, twig, or dowel rod can be used for a front perch.

After the inside of the gourd is cleaned out, several coats of varnish or shellac should be placed on the outside of the gourd. Paint may be used, but avoid using bright colors; white is preferred since it does not absorb heat as much as dark colors. Make sure there is adequate space between bird houses because many birds do not want other birds too close. However, purple martins prefer to live close together.

Remember to keep the opening exact in size. From the tiny wren to flickers -- keep the openings to fit the bird's size. Hang your houses with the openings away from the prevailing winds. Making birdhouses from gourds is easy and interesting. It is not only enjoyable, but you will find that birds are great tenants.


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