Aluminum Purple Martin Bird Houses: Product Review

Sunset Inn vs The Safe Haven vs WatersEdge Suites

Sunset Inn

When you decide that an Aluminum Purple Martin Bird House is what you want and your wallet is the deciding factor, the Sunset Inn is hard to beat. Clean lines, large compartments and insulated roof make this house a great place for purple martins to raise a family.

Though the quality craftsmanship is apparent, you would not think this house is made by the Amish. I suppose, due to my own ignorance, I always thought of the Amish as wood workers not so much Aluminum manufacturers. Made by the Amish it is and the attention to detail is outstanding.

Am I partial to the Sunset Inn? Of course! I own one. But aside from my partiality, the Sunset Inn is a great little house for the money.

Similar in design to the WatersEdge Suites houses ( by Coates) and the Safe Haven by Creative Universe Enterprises the Sunset Inn also features the larger sized compartments that most other aluminum houses lack. Most aluminum houses have tiny 6×6 inch compartments that are way to small for a 7 1/2 to 8 inch bird. Even the Purple Martin Conservation Association recommends the larger sizes even though most manufacturers have yet to adopt it as a standard. Most aluminum houses out there require making changes to and cutting aluminum to modify those tiny compartments. If you want a house designed for safety and increased survival rates “out of the box”, I suggest looking seriously at the Sunset Inn, Safe Haven or Watersedge Suites houses.

The Sunset Inn can be purchased as a stand alone house to be mounted on a mounting plate on a pole or bought as a complete system which includes a pulley system to raise and lower the house. Though the 2 options look similar they are actually 2 different houses. Let me explain.

The Sunset Inn System is wider from front to back to allow a central pole to come through the center portion of the house to the pulley assembly at the top of the pole. The stand alone Sunset Inn house is built without this space and the center wall is shared by the compartments on the front and back of the house. Depending on your budget and how you want to raise and lower the house you choose one option over the other.

The Good:

Their are several features that I really like about this little house.

  1. The 2 ventilation holes in the compartments are easily opened and a great size. In the hot Florida climate I keep both of these open and the cross ventilation helps with the heat.
  2. The fronts of each compartment have a gap at the top to allow great ventilation. This has its drawbacks also though. (see The Bad)
  3. The porch has a strong aluminum bar on either side to give stability to the house but is also great to attach hardware cloth for added protection.
  4. Light weight the stand alone house weighs less than some plastic houses out there. This makes it super easy to raise and lower the house on your telescopic pole.
  5. A great price for an aluminum house it makes a good alternative for the budget conscience who would rather not go with a plastic house.

The Bad:

Nothing is perfect in life and there are a few minor issues that we have come across. Though not deal breakers, you should be aware of these.

  1. The same great ventilation on the fronts of the compartments can allow driving rains to enter. This makes using the elevated subfloors an absolute must.
  2. The same great support rods that add stability to the house may also get in the way when removing nest trays, if you use them. FYI: The door panels must be slid to the side to remove.
  3. Though not nearly as bad as the Watersedge Suites Aluminum houses, the Starling Resistant Entrance Holes (SREH) are a tad higher than they should be. This can allow the occasional small starling to breech the entrance and enter the compartment.

Though this house is great out of the box, there are some easy DIY modifications that I would suggest, to make it even better.

  • Adding 2″x4″hardware cloth is something I recommend for almost all houses. It adds a measure of safety for the martins exiting the house during an Owl raid. Owls are known to flush out the martins and catch them as they flee their housing.
  • Use the subfloors or create your own with very fine 1/8 inch hardware cloth is paramount to allow the nests to dry out quicker.
  • Add perches. That also goes for every house.

(above) WatersEdge

Product Comparison:

The Sunset Inn was compared to the only other similar houses on the market. The WatersEdge Suite and the Safe Haven. The WatersEdge Suites are manufactured by the company formerly known as Coates. Their aluminum houses are readily available on many internet sites and are mass produced. The Safe Haven is produced by hand in limited quantity by a Creative Universe Enterprises who also manufacturers a well respected line of gourd racks.

Price/Affordability: Though the price of the WatersEdge is slightly lower, there are several differences that make the Sunset Inn a superior house for the extra $25 or so dollars. The Safe Haven is far more expensive but has features that are superior to both the WatersEdge Suites and the Sunset Inn.

Ventilation: The WatersEdge Suite does not have the adjustable ventilation holes that the Sunset Inn has nor does it have any insulation that both the Safe Haven and the Sunset Inn have. The Safe Haven has rain canopies on the exterior ventilation holes that make it virtually impossible for driving rains to enter and thicker foam insulation in the attic.  The Sunset Inn has those great adjustable interior vent holes that are a great feature and some attic insulation.

Water Intrusion: The Safe Haven, with its nest trays and rain guards make it extremely dry inside. The Sunset Inn and WatersEdge do have some water intrusion issues that make subfloors mandatory. Standard with the WatersEdge they are offered as an option with the Sunset Inn, which makes it an additional expense.

Ease of Nest Checks: The Safe Haven again surpasses in the ease of nest checks with its optional nest trays that slide out completely and easily and doors that hinge downward. The Sunset Inn, due to the aluminum stability rods on the corners of the unit, make for some awkward moments in removing nest trays but the open inner area lets all the nestlings have plenty of room and the doors remove completely for great visibility. The WatersEdge with its inner entrance hole is in essence 2 compartments so no nest trays are commercially available. The WatersEdge further falls behind with its hinged doors that flip up which makes it further difficult to see in the nest when the door is lifted open.

SREH: The WatersEdge fails miserably with its only option of crescent SREH that are located much higher than is recommended to prevent starlings from breaching the entrance holes. SREH should be as flush as possible to the bottom for maximum effectiveness. The Safe Haven easily out performs its competitors with its interchangeable entrance plates so that entrances can be changed in seconds and its traction grip that has a near flush access to the crescent openings. The Sunset Inn can be ordered with either crescent SREH or round openings.

Design: The Safe Haven has tons of thought in its near flawless design and implementation. The Sunset Inn is far superior in details to the WatersEdge that comes in last, even though the WatersEdge can be purchased as a 4  or 8 compartment house.

Quality/Durability: The Safe Haven is new to the purple martin market but seems like it is top notch in quality and durability. The Sunset Inn has a proven record and feels sturdy and strong for its small size. The WatersEdge feels slightly flimsy and easily comes in third.

(above) Safe Haven


Raising/Lowering:
Though all 3 come as stand alone houses, only the Sunset Inn is available as a Pulley System with its own pole and pulley system. For the beginner who wants a modern house that is easy to lift, it is hard to find fault with this great little house. The WatersEdge is only meant for a telescopic pole though all 3 can be mounted onto a multipurpose pole if easy lifting is desired.

Over all, the Safe Haven is the winner if you have the financial resources and a multipurpose pole. A serious purple martin landlord such as myself views this house as the “creme de la creme” of martin houses. If money is a concern the Sunset Inn is a perfect choice for either mounting on a telescopic or multipurpose pole or if you are going to purchase this house as a system. The Sunset Inn System can accommodate 4 gourds underneath with the optional gourd brackets but still go up easy with its pulley. The WatersEdge comes across as a mass produced purple martin house. As with many things, mass production profit margins often win out over small details that make all the difference.

Coming Soon in Product Review- Economy Purple Martin Gourd Rack

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2 Responses to “Aluminum Purple Martin Bird Houses: Product Review”

  1. Lucy Myer Says:

    I don’t see any mention of the type of aluminum house I have. Its a aluminum Heath house with 12 rooms. Can you tell me about that compared to these other ones you are talking about?

  2. admin Says:

    Those houses don’t compare to these. The small 6 inch rooms in the Heath and other 12 room houses are frequently visited by Owls and even Crows that will reach in and grab the birds inside and eat them. I compared these 3 houses as they are standard 6×11 inch rooms (approx) and the heath you have needs custom modification that many folks are not aware of when they buy off the shelf. Though these small room houses can make a good house, I believe the modifications are important and thus puts those houses in a different league.
    Perhaps the Heath convertible 12/6 can be placed in this review but in my opinion it just doesn’t match these other 3 in standard features and design.
    Great question! Thanks

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