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How to Set up a Purple Martin House

Inviting purple martins to your property doesn't just give you the joy of birdwatching, they are also heavy consumers of insect pests. They naturally make their nests in old woodpecker holes, but they also readily use man-made birdhouses, or purple martin apartments, to nest in and lay their eggs. Older birds return to the same nest year after year, while younger birds must find a new home. Preparing the birdhouse for purple martins helps ensure they will choose your yard for their seasonal home and also keeps the birds healthy.

Choose an area 30 feet away from trees and houses. Place the martin house near a field, a body of water or a large yard area.

Install a 15- to 30-foot pole to place the martin house on top of. Dig a 1 1/2- to 2-foot deep hole with a post hole digger and place the pole inside. Firm the dirt around the pole well so it is secure.

Put a pinch of sulfur into each nest compartment to inhibit mites, which will otherwise infect the birds, then attach the martin house to the top of the pole. Use the included hardware with the martin house to attach it to the pole.

Clean the house out in fall after the martins have flown south for the winter. Open the trap door on the back of the house and pull the old nest material out and discard.

Plug the entry hole with a wadded up rag to prevent winter birds from nesting in it. Remove the plug in spring and add a fresh pinch of sulfur before purple martins return to your area.


If your house doesn't come with installation hardware for the pole, nail a wooden platform the same size as the martin house to the top of the pole. Attach the house to the platform.

Purple martins prefer colonies. Choose the multi-nest apartment style birdhouse or nail several gourd style houses to a pole.


Squirrels and other pests may try to climb the pole. Place a baffle, available from garden centers and wild bird stores, on the pole to prevent this.

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