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Build a Purple Martin House for the birds

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

More than 100 years ago, Native Americans made homes for purple martins out of gourds, attracting the friendly swallows to their camps. Here’s how you can build a four-family house and attract these bug-eating birds to your yard to help make your summer pest-free.


What You’ll Need

  • 1⁄2-inch-thick plywood
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood screws
  • 4 small hinges
  • 2 gate-hook sets
  • Some screen
  • Stapler
  • All-purpose caulk
  • Primer
  • White outdoor oil-based paint
  • Paintbrush

What You’ll Do

Cut the following from 1/2-inch-thick plywood:

  • One piece, 29 1 ⁄2 inches long and 15 1 ⁄2 inches wide, for the base
  • Two pieces, 18 1 ⁄2 by 7 inches, for the sides
  • Two pieces, 15 1 ⁄2 by 7 inches, for the front and back
  • One piece, 14 1 ⁄2 by 7 inches, for the main interior divider
  • Two pieces, 9 by 7 inches, for interior dividers
  • Two pieces, 7 by 5 inches, for the porch dividers
  • One piece, 19 1 ⁄2 by 15 1 ⁄2 inches, for the ceiling
  • One piece, 11 by 11 inches, for the roof peaks
  • One piece, 29 1 ⁄2 by 11 1 ⁄2 inches, for the roof
  • One piece, 29 1 ⁄2 by 12 inches, for the roof

bird_step1.jpgSTEP 1: Attach the sides to the base, leaving 5 1⁄2 inches on each end.


bird_step2.jpgSTEP 2: Drill four 5⁄16-inch holes,

2 1⁄4 inches and 4 1⁄2 inches from each end and 1 inch from the top of the main interior divider.


bird_step3.jpgSTEP 3: Attach the interior dividers to the base with screws.


bird_step4.jpgSTEP 4: Drill six 5⁄16-inch holes through the floor of each of the four compartments, one in each corner and one midway along each side.


bird_step5.jpgSTEP 5: Drill four 5⁄16-inch holes in each of the front and back panels, 1 inch from the top and 2 3⁄4 inches and 5 inches from both ends. Cut two 2 1⁄16-inch-diameter holes in each panel, each hole 3 inches from the side and 1 inch from the bottom.


bird_step6.jpgSTEP 6: Hinge the front and back pieces to the sides. Secure an eye catch to the free end of the front and back panels, and screw the hook into the sides.


bird_step7.jpgSTEP 7: Attach the porch dividers to the front and back between the entrance holes.


bird_step8.jpgSTEP 8: Cut the 11-inch square of wood along the diagonal to create roof peaks. Drill a 2 1⁄8-inch hole 3 inches from the top of each peak. Cut a piece of screen and staple over each hole. Attach the peaks to the front and back of the ceiling.


bird_step9.jpgSTEP 9: Attach the ceiling to the sides. Drill a 2 1⁄8-inch hole centered over each compartment and cover with screen.


bird_step10.jpgSTEP 10: Attach the narrow roof panel to the peaks. Position the wide panel so it overlaps the top edge of the shorter panel and secure to the roof peak. Seal the roof edge with caulk and finish the exterior with primer and white outdoor oilbased paint. Mount your house on a wooden post using angle irons or on a telescoping pole with a floor flange of the appropriate diameter.<


The Purple Martin Conservation Association offers tips for choosing your martin house location and the best dates to open the house in your region at

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10 Comments on Build a Purple Martin House for the birds

  1. thanks so much for the pattern for martins, we are new at this so we are still learning. again thanks

  2. im agirl

    Im so going to use this idea for

    my Quarter project

  3. I am going to build this in my wood working class

  4. That Is awsome

  5. I am definitely going to build it.

  6. it’s funny OK!!!!

  7. i was a cubscout

  8. cool

  9. cool

  10. cool.

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