Repelling Snakes: How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard

Snakes can be a curse or a blessing, depending upon how you look at them. If you’re set on repelling snakes from your yard or garden, check out these tips and tricks for protecting your property.

Snake slithering through the grass in the backyard

If the sight of a snake is something you don’t want in your yard, the easiest way to deter them is to move Ireland. The legend is that St. Patrick somehow chased them all away. Since the majority of us don’t live in Ireland, we need some better solutions for those serpents that call our yard home.

Although many snakes are quite good to have around, most people still want all things with no legs gone from their yard. The best way to make snakes go in the opposite direction of your yard is to make it unwelcoming to them.

Here are some suggestions and steps to keep these slithering reptiles out of your yard, along with some reasons why you might not want to. I’ll go over everything that has been touted to be the best snake repellent, and discuss which tactics are effective ways for deterring them as well as some common examples of things that don’t seem to actually work.

Tips for Repelling Snakes from Your Property

There are a ton of tactics for repelling snakes. The truth is… the only way to know which common snake repellents will work is to give them a try. If you can employ a variety of these tactics, you’ll be more likely to be successful in your endeavors.

1. Clean Up Your Yard.

Snakes love to have places to hide. One of the easiest ways to keep unwanted snakes out of your yard and garden areas is to keep them clean.

The first step should be to take a walk through your yard and take an inventory of what needs to be dealt with. Look for things that can be a hiding places for snakes like:

  • Wood piles, especially if you have one in your yard year round.
  • Leaf piles are important to rake and bag up right away.
  • Tall grass should be kept trimmed down.
  • Piles of cans, scrap metal and other trash should be picked up.
  • Old flower pots are a great place for snakes to curl up in.
  • Folded tarps and plastic bags make easy, shady hiding spots.

The fewer things you have around the yard, the fewer places that the snakes have to hide. A messy yard can virtually guarantee snake activity because that brings the mice. When the mice arrive, it is like ringing the snake’s dinner bell, so it’s important to focus on getting rid of junk.

2. Eliminate Standing Ground Water.

While some yards have built in ponds or other water sources, others simply have standing water. If you have something that is there on purpose such as a fountain, pond or swimming pool, you will simply have to understand that snakes will be attracted to it (and so will mosquitoes!).

Like us, snakes are attracted to water sources. If you have damp areas in your yard, however, that are simply trouble areas…clean it up. Not only will you eliminate it as a snake issue, you will also eliminate a mosquito problem as well.

It’s especially important to walk through your yard after any heavy rain to make sure you don’t have any new water sources in your yard.

3. Seal All Openings to House, Shed and Coop.

It’s one thing to see a snake in the garden. It’s a whole other thing to see one in your living spaces, garage or shed. You need to seal all the openings to make sure snakes can’t get in in the first place.

Wood and caulk sometimes work, but they don’t prevent other animals from getting in. If you want to make a good seal that will prevent snakes and other critters from getting in, try using thin metal sheets.

Keep in mind that if small rodents can get into your shed or garage, a snake will be attracted to it as well. So make sure all of those small cracks are well sealed and that you’re practicing rodent control inside your house too. And don’t miss sealing up all crawl spaces!

When we had chickens, we were always worried about a snake getting in the coop and either eating the eggs or killing the chickens. Keeping the chicken coop well sealed is also really important if this is a concern for you.

Snake curled up in the grass ready to strike

4. Pick Pets that Keep Snakes Away.

Unless you have a mongoose that you are willing to set free in the yard, your pet isn’t going to completely keep the snakes away. However, it will deter them a bit.

Be sure to clean up after your pet though. Their feces and pet food dishes make them prime candidates for attracting rodents. When your pets attract rodents, rodents attract snakes, so clean up the cat and dog poop.

Although pets can deter some species of snakes, you can also put your pet at risk. Depending on where you live in North America, there are up to four different types of venomous snakes. In different areas of the country, you may come across species that include the cottonmouth, copperhead, coral snake and various subspecies of rattlesnakes.

If you happen to live in Florida, you also would need to worry about various pythons that have been breeding in recent years. These constrictors are big enough to make a meal of your pet. Consider these things and use caution before turning your pet loose to keep snakes away.

a. Do Cats Keep Snakes Away?

Yes, and this is especially true for outdoor cats. It’s not so much that snakes are afraid of cats; it’s more that they reduce the snake’s access to their primary food sources.

Cats are known predators of wild animals, so they will eat any rodents that are trying to make your yard a home. They may also be able to actually kill snakes themselves. Of course this is also a risk if the snake is poisonous.

b. Do Dogs Keep Snakes Away?

Yes, big dogs especially can be a deterrent to snakes. They bark loudly and are much larger than snakes, so they will typically choose to stay away. Smaller dogs can look more like a snack than an enemy, so proceed with caution.

c. Do Chickens Keep Snakes Away?

This one is a bit more complicated. A large flock of free range chickens can be noisy, which can be a deterrent. However, chicken coops themselves can be an attractant if they’re not kept clean and free of rodents.

If you’re looking for the best species of bird to keep snakes away, guinea hens are the best choice. They are super noisy and they’ll even kill smaller snakes like garter snakes. While not chickens, they are related and can still be eaten. The meat is darker and leaner, but still delicious.

d. Do Lizards Keep Snakes Away?

No, unfortunately this isn’t something that will help you. While there are some lizards that are big enough to eat snakes, most snakes will actually eat lizards. So if you try to release lizards into your yard, you’re just giving them another food source to attract them instead.

5. Cultivate Snake Repellent Plants and Flowers.

If you want to keep them off your property, consider adding some plants that that act as a natural snake repellent to your yard. Or create a “snake barrier” by planting them around the perimeter of the area you want to keep snakes out of.

Some of these smelly plants and flowers include:

  • Lemongrass. This easy to care for plant has one of the stronger scents that repels snakes.
  • Marigold. Plant these flowers right in your garden or flower beds instead of lavender to deter snakes. Plus you’ll get the added benefit of attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs, parasitic wasps and lacewings.
  • Garlic. Along with onions, snakes strongly dislike the smell of garlic due to their sulfonic acid content. And it can leave the oily scent on their skin if they slither through it. So make sure to grow some in your garden or a container.
  • Snake Plant. This low maintenance plant does not put off a strong smell like the others included here. However, it has sharp leaves that deter snakes, making it a great barrier plant.
  • Clove Basil. The smell of this herb might be pleasant to humans, but snakes will choose to stay away from it.
  • Kaffir Lime. These limes have an even stronger scent than most citrus, so snakes do their best to avoid it.
  • Cactus. Besides smell, sharp, thorny plants will repel snakes because they want to avoid injury. Larger cactus plants will work better than smaller ones.

6. Use Common Household Items to Deter Snakes.

There are some common household items you probably already have that can be used as home remedies for keeping snakes away. Here are some of the most common questions about household snake repellents I’m asked.

a. Do Mothballs Keep Snakes Away?

You’ve probably heard about using moth balls in your closet to keep moths from eating your clothes, but have you tried using them in your yard? The strong smell of mothballs can be a natural repellent for some different types of snakes.

b. Does Salt Keep Snakes Away?

While it works great for slugs and snails, sadly, you cannot use rock salt or any other type of salt to deter snakes. It’s an old wives’ tale that simply doesn’t work.

c. Does Sulfur Keep Snakes Away?

Yes, you can use powdered sulfur to help deter snakes. To use it as a deterrent, sprinkle it around your property. If a snake slithers through the powder, it will irritate their skin. The irritation they experience will keep them from returning.

However, sulfur is one smell that isn’t nice to humans, so you may want to try this only if other methods aren’t working. And if you do, be sure to wear a proper mask when using it in your yard.

d. Does Diesel Keep Snakes Away?

No, please do not try this method at home. While diesel can become toxic to snakes if they drink enough, that’s truly not likely to happen. The smell of diesel also won’t repel them. The same goes for kerosene.

All you’ll do is make your yard a fire hazard by putting diesel fuel out into it. And you can contaminate your soil in the process, so this method is not a good choice.

e. Does Vinegar Keep Snakes Away?

If you have bodies of water in your yard that you can’t clean up (like a pool or pond), you can pour vinegar around the perimeter of the water source. It should help deter them.

White vinegar has a ton of household uses, so I always have a bottle on hand. It’s cheap compared to some of the other methods, so it’s worth a try.

f. Does Ammonia Repel Snakes?

Yes, ammonia is one of the most effective snake repellents. A good way to try this tactic is to dilute the ammonia with water, soak rags in it, then place them in bags. Place the bags of ammonia-soaked rags around your yard and snakes will stay away.

However, the smell will likely also deter humans. I recommend only using this method in areas of the yard that humans don’t frequent.

g. Does Bleach Repel Snakes?

The smell of bleach will repel snakes and if they drink it, it can kill them. However, you’re more likely to cause harm to yourself, your pets, your children and your soil by using bleach than you are to deter snakes with it. Stick to safer methods.

h. Does Rope Keep Snakes Away?

No, this is yet another old wives’ tale, or old cowboys’ tale rather. The story goes that cowboys would place a rope around their sleeping bag to keep snakes from crossing it. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work – a snake will slither right over a rope, no matter how carefully placed.

7. Essential Oils to Repel Snakes.

The most effective snake repellents have a strong odor because snakes don’t smell the same way we do. Strong scents that humans consider pleasant might be the opposite for them, and it’s no different with essential oils.

Some of the more commonly used oils for this purpose that have been shown to be effective are cinnamon oil, clove oil and other oils that contain high levels of eugenol. Other plants that contain eugenol include ginger, oregano, pepper, thyme, tulsi and turmeric.

Add these oils to a spray bottle with water and rubbing alcohol, then spray directly onto any areas where you’re afraid snakes might be attracted to.

Keep in mind that oils that are effective for repelling other pests may not work as well for snakes. Peppermint oil, for example, works great to repel spiders, but not snakes. Cedar oil can be a deterrent for snakes, but it’s not as effective as cinnamon, clove or other oils that contain eugenol.

And if you like using natural ingredients in your yard, be sure to read my post about Essential Oils for Gardening. It talks a lot about which oils to use to deter garden pests, but you can also deter household pests with essential oils.

8. Commercial Snake Repellents.

If you’d prefer to go straight for a commercial product to deal with your snake problem, here are a few options you can look into:

  • Ortho Snake-B-Gon Granules
  • Safer Brand Snake Shield
  • Exterminator’s Choice Snake Defense Spray
  • Victor Snake-A-Way Repellent Granules
  • Nature’s Mace Snake Repellent
  • SerpentGuard Snake Repellent
  • Liquid Fence Snake Repellent
  • Snake Stopper Snake Repellent
  • Seekbit Snake Repellent

However, keep in mind that there is a lot of feedback saying these chemical repellents aren’t effective. There’s actually a picture of a rattlesnake curled up around bags of these commercial repellents in this post on the effectiveness of these products.

They suggest following the deterrent tips already covered above vs spending all of your money on snake repellent products from the store. And it’s also important to keep in mind that the active ingredient in some of these products may be harmful to pets, young children and other wild animals you prefer to welcome into your yard, so be sure to read all labels if you choose to go this route.

Another one of the repellent products I’ve seen mentioned is glue traps. There are larger ones made specifically for snakes, but they can be considered a cruel way to capture them. They can cause slow painful deaths and injuries to animals.

Another thing to consider about them is that while they might seem like a great way to deal with unwanted wild snakes, what are you going to do if one catches a poisonous snake? You’ll need to call in a professional anyway. So clean up your yard before you turn to an option like this.

In addition there are many sonic deterrents on the market for repelling snakes, like the Brison Ultrasonic Pest Repeller. These do not work for snakes because they feel vibrations rather than hear sounds.

9. Do You Really Want to Deter All Types of Snakes?

Deterring all snake species is really a bit of a mistake for most homeowners because an increase in rodent populations is virtually guaranteed. Without some harmless species like rat snakes and other black snakes, we would be absolutely overrun with rodents. That is far worse than the occasional harmless serpent.

If, however, you are dealing with poisonous snakes, then you need to take measures to rid yourself of them. Contact a professional pest control company that specializes in snake removal services if you come across one. It’s not worth the risk of getting a snake bite by attempting to do it yourself.

If you have a fear of snakes, deterring them is really about making your yard inhospitable. Take away their food, eliminate their hiding spots and all sources of water and you will deter the vast majority of snakes from your home.

More Tips for Your Yard and Garden

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