Build a Butterfly House with $3 in Lumber
Grab a cedar picket to make a lovely and simple DIY butterfly house. This budget-friendly project works out to only $3 in lumber apiece!
I just love butterflies. They’re pretty and magical and look so lovely in my garden. Basically, I think they are the best insect. They are an insect, right? (a quick Google search says, yes)
Speaking of insects yesterday I was in Michael’s when these 3 ladies started waving their arms like crazy and speaking in Spanish at me and pointing down the aisle totally panicked. And I’m looking around like, are these people talking to me? And one of those quick, overly exaggerated looks around, you know, where you swivel your head around like a freaking owl? told me that, yes, they were talking to me. Now I don’t speak Spanish but I’ve lived in an area where some of the population ONLY speaks Spanish and so I am picking things up here and there. Like the word… araña. That word means SPIDER. Crap. (a quick Google search has informed me that spiders are not insects, which have 6 legs, but arachnids because they have 8, ah, well)
My first thought is, why in the heck would I want to go down an aisle where people are freaking out about a spider? Do I look like Otto the Orkin man? But I have this thing where I always do what people are older than me tell me to do. It’s this mannerly thing that was totally buried deep down in my psyche from being raised by parents who were super concerned that I be a polite person. And so I’m peering around the corner, half worrying that this dang spider is going to be in a freaking web across the aisle and that I’m going to walk right into it. But as I peep around I see this MASSIVE BLACK TARANTULA just walking down the dang aisle like it friggin’ belongs there. Oh. My. Everlovin’ G.
As soon as I saw this 8 legged monster I wigged a little more than was warranted because this darn tarantula was at least a good 15 feet away from me. But in my panic I literally belted out “what do you want me to do about it? I don’t speak Spanish!” You know, because it’s possible this is a Spanish speaking tarantula and so I’m just going to be at a loss :) But then this dude with a red Michael’s vest on and a cardboard box just breezes by me to take care of business. Oh, thank goodness, dude. You have no clue how happy I am to see you.
I go about my business literally looking around like crazy to make sure that this tarantula’s fuzzy girlfriend isn’t going to traipse across my sandaled feet before I decide it’s just time to leave. (do they mate for life or is that penguins?) My arachnophobic nerves have had enough of this place. I am done. We are leaving now. I tell Rob and he straight up does. not. believe. me.
But butterflies are not spiders. They are pretty and very rarely as big as my hand. And so I love them. And so I want to encourage them to live in the same space as me, have their babies in my garden and pollinate my pretty little flowers. And so my dad and I made some butterfly houses basically because he told me we were going to. I woke up one day, he told me to get ready to go to town, we bought some pickets, he sent me into the house to grab my camera and here we are :)
Since you can make one butterfly house with a little less than one picket, these suckers cost you about $3 apiece. You can’t beat that with a stick, now can you?
Want to build make a butterfly house with only $3 in cedar wood apiece?
For this project you will need:
- cedar fence picket (5/8 in. x 6 in. x 6 ft. or similar)
- trim nails
- chop saw (or you can call it a miter saw if you wanna get fancy :)
- power drill
- Dremel tool (optional, for finishing) with sanding drum
- paint (optional)
First you’ll need to cut your wood pieces to size out of your cedar picket. You need 55″ of wood for each butterfly house and one picket is 6′ or 72″ meaning we will have about 17″ of scrap left over.
For your pieces, you’ll be cutting straight lines and 30° angles both across the width of the board and the edge. I’ve had fits trying to figure out how to put this in words so I drew up, like, an insane amount of illustrations to try and help :)
This is how the pieces of the butterfly house will come together. You need a front, back, roof and 2 side pieces. This butterfly roof does not have a bottom so you can jam fresh branches in through the bottom each year for your butterflies to nest in.
And this is your cut list:
- 12″ roof (back cut at 30° angle, front will be the dog ear of picket)
- 11.75″ back (top/edge cut at 30° angle)
- 8.25″ front (top/edge cut at 30° angle)
- 11.5″ sides, quantity 2 (width cut at 30° angle)
Hopefully, all of this talk of angles makes sense. Here’s my dad holding the angled side boards and he seems pretty proud of his work :)
But just because I have gotten obsessed with this (just a weensy bit, can you tell? :) I even drew out a map for how/where to cut your pieces from a picket.
Now if these drawings have, in fact, been helpful for you, you can download a PDF of them printable on letter sized paper here.
Whew. Cutting those pieces was this whole thing, right? Actually, it’s no sweat I’m just having a time and a freaking half trying to figure out how to use my words here :)
On your front piece, right in the middle and up a few inches from the bottom, we’re going to make a vertical slit for a butterfly to enter through. The best way my dad found was to drill 2 holes with a bit the width you want the slit to be a few inches apart.
Draw lines on both sides of the holes you drilled to create straight lines. Follow these lines with a jigsaw to cut the “door” out.
A convenient way to hang these butterfly houses is on a 4×4 post. Drill a hole a several sizes larger than the screw/nail you’ll be using to mount them to your posts. Next drill another hole that is just a bit larger than your screw/nail a few inches away like in the pic above.
Over the larger hole, using your smaller bit, rout out the wood at to create a catch for your screw/nail when hanging.
Keeping all of your pieces even along the bottom edge, tack together your sides through the back piece.
Add the front piece, keeping the bottoms flush, attaching with trim nails.
Finish the build by adding the roof to the top, again, with your trusty trim nails with about an inch and a half hanging off of the back edge.
And just because I went to the trouble to make it, this is how you piece this business together :)
Boom. Check that business out. Using 1 cedar picket we picked up for right at $3 my dad made a fantastic little butterfly house. Cool, right?
And since my mom likes things in 3’s, he made me 1 and her 3 :)
After I brought mine home I decided it was a bit blah and needed some paint. I also realized that since I wanted to mount this to the side of the house that the roof was going to get in the way. So here’s a quick tip… if you want to mount your houses flush, you’ll need to shorten your roof board by about an inch and a half.
I set my butterfly house outside and waited and waited and realized that no pretty butterflies were gonna come check this business out. Color me impatient!
So I faked it… :)
Inside the cat kept attacking and outside the neighbors watched me like I’m such a weirdo, but we it sort of worked :)
So far no real butterflies have used my house, but I also haven’t seen any butterflies in my yard, yet, either. I plan on planting a butterfly bush beneath it and then I’m sure it’ll get some action with REAL butterflies :)
Remember when hanging your house to jam fresh branches up into it so that butterflies have someplace to hang onto and to plant/lay/whatever it is they do to suspend their cocoons for new butterflies!