Weekend Project DIY: A Natural Gourd Birdhouse
The construction of a conventional birdhouse requires saws, clamps, and glue; but a simple gourd birdhouse can be made with a minimum of tools. They look attractive, are highly functional, and are great for your own yard or to give away to friends and family.
More DIY home projects
Do a final sanding with your steel-wool. You can leave the birdhouse as is, or add a protective sealant. I use a tiny bit of Howard's Feed-N-Wax. Put some on an old sock or rag and rub it onto the surface of the gourd. Buff the surface again the next day with a dry rag. The beeswax adds a soft sheen that brings out the character of the gourd, and also gives it a bit of protection from the elements. Hang your house in a suitable location. Gourds will last a lot longer under protected eaves, but should also provide years of enjoyment right out in the open. More: DIY home projects
Attach a screw-eye into the top of the gourd. Make a loop to hang the birdhouse out of a piece of the leather shoelace.Using your screwdriver and screw, make three or four holes in the bottom of the gourd for drainage — and don't forget to put a few along the sides and top of the birdhouse for ventilation.
Using your coarse sandpaper, smooth out the rough edges of the entrance hole. Switch to fine-grit to finish it off. Remove the seeds and gourd innards by shaking them out of the hole. A chopstick makes a handy tool.This photo also shows my "patterns" drawn in with a pencil. For this gourd I made simple bands that wrap around at various intervals. Some are zigzags; some are simple lines.
Use a small nail to "score" your way around the circle, leaving indentations to get your screws started. Attach a small screw to your power screwdriver and "drill" holes all the way around (if you own an actual drill with drill-bits, by all means use it; if you don't own a power screwdriver, you can still do each one by hand). Make the holes outside of the pencil line, because you want the entrance to be slightly larger than one inch.
Here's the big decision. What kind of birds do you want to attract? For small birds, use a quarter as your guide for the front door. Trace around it with a pencil. This will give you a roughly one-inch diameter entrance — perfect for wrens and chickadees. If you want sparrows or larger birds, make the entrance hole an inch and a half or more.Be sure to place the entrance hole high enough on the slope of the large chamber to allow room for a deep nest below.Don't worry about a perch. They are unnecessary and make it easier for predatory birds to attack the nest.
Here's what the unwashed gourd looks like. Any gourds you buy should already be thoroughly dried; you should be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside. To clean your gourd, fill up a large sink or bathtub with hot water and a splash of vinegar. Now, hold the gourd under the water and scrub it with your sponge (an abrasive sponge makes the job easier). When it's as clean as you can make it, allow the gourd to air-dry overnight.
Optional items: You can get by without a power screwdriver, but an inexpensive one like this Craftsman will make your life a whole lot easier. Also shown is a Weller woodburner. I like to make burned-in patterns — to lend an earthy, ancient look that works well with the simplicity of the birdhouse. The woodburning is time consuming, but the results are worth it.
Here's what you'll need: Sandpaper, both coarse and finer gritOne small screw-eye, one small screw, one nailBox-cutter (or a pocket-knife with a short, sturdy blade)Sponge and some steel-woolMask—it isn't wise to inhale dust while you're sanding your gourd.Leather or canvas shoelaceGourd (or as many as you'd like!) Bottle gourds are the variety most typically used for birdhouses. They are fairly easy to track down. Some come washed and cleaned, but it is cheaper to buy a box of mismatched and unwashed ones from a gourd farm, such as the Welburn Gourd Farm.