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How to Build a Purple Martin House To Attract Bug-Eating 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 two-family house and attract these bug-eating birds to your yard to help make your summer pest-free.


  • 3/4-inch-thick western red cedar
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood screws
  • 4 small hinges
  • 2 gate-hook sets
  • Some screen
  • Stapler
  • All-purpose caulk
  • Water-based primer
  • White outdoor water-based paint
  • Paintbrush


Cut the following from 3/4″-thick western red cedar:

  • One piece, 29 1⁄2″ long and 15 1⁄2″ wide, for the base
  • Two pieces, 18 1⁄2″ by 7″, for the sides
  • Two pieces, 15 1⁄2″ by 7″, for the front and back
  • One piece, 14″ by 7″, for the interior divider
  • One piece, 20″ by 15 1⁄2″, for the ceiling
  • One piece, 11″ by 11″, for the roof peaks
  • One piece, 29 1⁄2″ by 11 1⁄2″, for the roof
  • One piece, 29 1⁄2″ by 12″, for the roof

STEP 1: Attach the sides to the base, leaving 5 1⁄2″ on each end.

STEP 2: Drill four 5⁄16″ holes, 2 1⁄4″ and 4 1⁄2″ from each end and 1″ from the top of the interior divider.

STEP 3: Attach the interior dividers to the base with screws.

STEP 4: Drill six 5⁄16″ holes through the floor of each of the compartments, one in each corner and one midway along each side.

STEP 5: Drill four 5⁄16″ holes in each of the front and back panels, 1″ from the top and 2 3⁄4″ and 5″ from both ends. Cut a 1 3⁄16″-tall half-circle hole in the middle of each panel 1″ from the bottom.

STEP 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.

STEP 7: Cut the 11″ square of wood along the diagonal to create roof peaks. Drill a 2 1⁄8″ hole 3″ 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.

STEP 8: Attach the ceiling to the sides. Drill a 2 1⁄8″ hole centered over each compartment and cover with screen.

STEP 9: 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 water-based outdoor 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


Check out these photos of the completed project sent to us by Boys’ Life readers. If you have a photos of a BL Workshop project, please use the form below to send them to us.

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11 Comments on How to Build a Purple Martin House To Attract Bug-Eating Birds

  1. about how much will this cost

  2. I like birds

  3. Im 11 and I built 2 one for my grandpa and one for my mom. Thanks!!

  4. i am so going to build this for a 4-h project!!!!!!!

  5. Birdhousebuilder38621 // May 2, 2009 at 6:19 pm // Reply

    This is a difficult project to attempt to build. The purple martin songbirds will refuse to use this type of birdhouse if the entrance to each individual room does not have the correct diameter of the entrance to each room in the birdhouse as accepted to the correct species of songbird. If a person can properly build this project, it is a great accomplishment to build this type of birdhouse. This is difficult to build.

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

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

  8. That Is awsome

  9. I am definitely going to build it.

  10. cool

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