Caring for and housing a purple martin colony has captivated people for centuries. The styles, sizes, and materials used in creating today's martin houses vary significantly. With such a myriad of choices, a suitable system can be found for everyone that fits most budgets. Important factors to consider when looking into purchasing a martin house or system are the appearance, cost, construction, ease of assembly, ease of nest checks, and protection from nest competition and predation.
The two main styles of purple martin houses are conventional and gourd types. Conventional martin houses feature a multi-level house, with different compartments for several bird families at once. These types of homes are usually mounted on a telescoping pole, where the pole raises and lowers for nest checks. Other homes of this type are designed with a hole in the center, for a pole to thread through the unit. This allows the home to be raised and lowered using a winch and pulley system for cleaning and checking. Gourd systems mimic natural gourds, which were first used by Native Americans for housing martins centuries ago. Gourds usually house one martin family each, and are mounted on a rack system. The racking system attaches to a pole, and is raised and lowered by a winch and pulley. Gourds may be used as a stand alone system, or a few of them added beneath a conventional house for more occupancy and versatility.
Light colored houses tend to have higher occupancy rates, and help keep nestlings cool during the summer months. Homes made from aluminum and plastic are the most common on the market, while wooden houses are also readily available. Most homes are disassembled when purchased, and construction times vary for each unit.