If you are looking to get started in purple martins, you may be wondering which type of housing is necessary. There are many people that have a purple martin house only, while others want to go with the purple martin gourds. Which one is best?

Purple martin houses are a great entry-level, affordable option. Experienced landlords with large purple martin colonies eventually transition to including gourds in their setup.

Let’s look a bit closer and discover which one may be the best option for you.

Majestic Purple Martin Surveys His Territory

Discovering why gourds may be the best option for your purple martin colony

Gourds are the preferred purple martin housing

Many of the purple martin landlord enthusiasts swear by the gourds. It is hard to argue with the concept that the purple martin loves their gourds. They are spacious, close to the natural nesting that the natives provided the purple martin for centuries. Most with both the house and gourds note that the purple martins will often choose the gourds before selecting a unit in the purple martin house when able. This may mean that your oldest purple martins, more mature, may fight off the younger ones to select the gourd first.

If the purple martin is a little bit older and chooses a unit in the purple martin house over the gourd, they generally will choose one a bit higher up based on studies.

Gourds are known to help better regulate temperature

This is particularly true if you choose a natural gourd due to its insulation. However, even the plastic gourds experience better temperature regulation than the purple martin house. It has to do with their shape, and modern technology allows the heat to escape more efficiently in the hot summer days, but also provide a more compact nesting area for the young to keep them warm in the cooler winter evenings.

Gourds are more expensive

A downside to the gourd is that they are considerably more expensive. Most landlords will buy a rack that can support up to eight gourds. For this setup, you are looking at about $12.00 per unit. In contrast, a purple martin house from our site costs as little as $4.50 per unit. This means that gourds are a little over twice the price for each purple martin family.

Gourds are a bit tougher to clean up

My experience is that the gourds are a little more time consuming to clean up. The good news is that with the modern gourds that we have there is a lid on each one, making cleanup not a huge challenge. However, you do have to take the lid off of each one individually and it feels a bit more challenging that the purple martin house in my experience.

In contrast, the house units have small doors, you open them all up, use a water house and can wash them all out quickly. The bad news is that the purple martin house generally can be a little tougher mid-season to clean. The gourds can be moved individually, but you generally wouldn’t want to do that midseason anyhow unless there were major issues.

Gourds May Individually Protect Your Families

The way that a gourd rack is setup is really beneficial to keeping the families separate. The separation may help your colony thrive. As an example, if you have mites in your purple martin house, it is much more likely to have them spread throughout all of the units. However, the gourds with a rack will be less likely to experience any form of disease or mite spread.

Discovering why a purple martin house may be a better option than gourds for you

Purple martin houses are more affordable than gourds

I won’t go into great detail here as I mentioned it above. However, the purple martin house is nearly a third the cost per unit in comparison to the gourd. Simply put, if you aren’t sure how serious you are about growing your purple martin colony, then the purple martin house is your best option. Even though we make more money off of the gourds, I would highly recommend the first time purple martin landlord still purchasing a house over a gourd.

Why would I do that? Well, the bird needs more housing in the United States. The most affordable option is the purple martin house and is a very suitable option for the bird. The affordability of the purple martin house makes it a great option for new landlords and I also find them easier to clean, which is necessary for the survivability of the colony. For this reason, I find them the best option for new landlords.

Houses are less susceptible to predators due to depth of units

Our purple martin houses have deeper units on the purple martin house in contrast to the gourds. While I do believe that the gourd may be beneficial from the spread of disease or mites, other animals that may use their reach to get to the young will have a tougher time in our purple martin houses over the gourd. That being said, if you place your gourds on a rack, it may be difficult for larger animals such as racoons or owls to position themselves well to get a good reach in.

Houses are easier to setup

With gourds there are a lot of little pieces involved. You have the pole, attached to a rack that can be lowered and lifted. Attached to the rack, you have typically eight gourds hanging. In contrast, the purple martin houses that we have simply snap together, no tools required. You can place it on one of your telescoping poles and you’re ready for some martins to arrive!

The gourd setup is probably a good afternoon projects to get setup properly. The purple martin house basic setup is probably a one-hour project for most people. Again, I believe the purple martin house is a great option for new landlords looking to get into this hobby due to the fast setup and affordability.

Houses may support a larger colony for the entry level landlord

I find gourds to be the best option for those purple martin colonies that have grown past the limit that their purple martin house allows. However, that will likely take you a couple of years before you reach the full limit. A purple martin house gives you quite a bit of room. Our purple martin houses are smaller than many others on the market, but our smallest still supports 14 families. This gives you quite a bit of growth potential as you may have a rather small colony your first year or two. This is normal.

In contrast with the gourds, a basic gourd setup may only support up to eight families typically. You may realize rather quickly that you will need to expand. The fun of landlording is seeing your colony grow! You don’t want to turn any purple martins away! There has to be room in the inn (sorry for my religious reference)!


I believe that both gourds and houses are great options for anyone wanting to get into purple martin landlording. However, I find the purple martin house to be the best option for new landlords primarily due to the affordability and the size of the house. We need more purple martin landlords to see the species to continue to do well. However, if you know that you want something that will attract purple martins and looking for a “different” look, the gourds are awesome! The experienced landlords swear by them.