Birdhouses are a great way to support birds, but did you know you can make a birdhouse from an autumn gourd? It’s simple and easy.
- A large gourd with a long neck, like a gooseneck or bottle gourd
- A wire brush or sandpaper
- A large container to soak the gourd
- A drill
- A 1½- to 2-inch drill bit
- A ¼-inch drill bit
- A marker
- Chopsticks or long tweezers
- Waterproof spray paint or other finish appropriate for wood
- Bendy wire, such as picture-frame wire
Steps for creating your birdhouse
- It’s easy to come across gourds for sale at plant nurseries and grocery stores during autumn. Choose your gourd, and then dry it out over winter. To dry the gourd, place it in a cool, dry place, such as a shed, garage, or cellar. If you’re drying multiple gourds, make sure they don’t touch each other. It’s OK to expose a gourd to freezing temperatures as long as it doesn’t get wet.
- Check on your gourd periodically, rotating it occasionally. It’s normal for it to develop mold on its skin, but a gourd that starts to shrivel or collapse on itself is rotting and should be discarded. It should take a gourd several weeks to dry out. A gourd that is completely dried should have a hard exterior and be very lightweight. When you shake it, you should hear the seeds rattling around inside.
- When your gourd has dried, begin to remove the mold with wire brush and sandpaper. Wear a mask to protect yourself from mold particles.
- Soak the gourd in a 10% solution of bleach and water, and scrub it with a wire brush again. This should remove much of the skin as well as any lingering mold. After this step is completed, allow the gourd to dry.
- To turn the dried gourd into a birdhouse, you will first need to drill a hole using a drill and a hole-saw drill bit. Different-sized holes will attract different birds, but a hole that is 1½ to 2 inches in diameter will work for most small species of bird. Birds will be able to enter the birdhouse through this hole without a perch.
- Drill holes in the bottom and sides of the gourd for drainage and ventilation. Use a small drill bit for this, such as a ¼-inch bit. Drill through the top of the gourd so that you can hang it up.
- To clean out the interior of the gourd, use chopsticks or long tweezers to scrape the dried pulp and seeds from the inside of the gourd and pull them through or shake them out of the opening. You don’t have to remove all of the pulp and seeds, but you should try to remove most of them. If you have access to an air compressor, you can use it to blow out the insides of the gourd.
- To protect the gourd from the elements, you will need to cover it in some sort of finish. Spray paint is an easy and cheap method of providing waterproof sealing, but you could also use any other finish appropriate for wood. Pick an attractive color, or use a clear spray paint for a more natural look.
- To hang the birdhouse, use a bendy wire you can twist—such as picture-frame wire—to thread through the holes at the top of the gourd.
- Find a spot in your yard to hang up the gourd where you can observe birds coming and going. And enjoy your birdhouse for many seasons to come.
More seasonal crafts
Diana Koehm is the assistant editor for Fine Gardening.