How to keep snakes out of your house, away from your yard

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The persistently hot, dry weather we’ve experienced this summer has been pushing snakes into residential lawns. Although they are typically shy, avoiding people when they can, snakes depend on areas that are irrigated, provide good cover and have a food source. In extremely hot, dry weather, it’s easier to find everything they need in your yard.

I don’t mind snakes too much. They eat mice, slugs, grubs, insects and other pests. My daughter delights in finding little garter snakes, insisting on releasing the ones she discovers in the lawn into the flower bed.

However, I also understand many people don’t like them and want them nowhere near their yard. It’s lucky for those people that deterring them isn’t very difficult at all. Simply make your home less habitable for snakes and they will slither out the same way they came in.

Landscaping tips

  1. Mow frequently. Snakes are less likely to live in and move through shorter grass because it increases their exposure to predators.
  2. Don’t overwater your lawn. Overwatering your lawn can attract food for snakes — worms, slugs and frogs. The presence of food and excess water can make your yard more attractive to snakes.
  3. Trim trees and shrubs. Keeping trees and shrubs trimmed away from your house with a space of at least 6 inches between the ground and the first branches will help keep snakes out of your yard.
  4. Avoid using mulch and large rocks in your landscape. Using them can attract snakes and their prey to create breeding and overwintering habitats. Try using smaller, tight-fitting gravel or river rock instead.
  5. Avoid landscaping with water gardens and Koi ponds.
  6. Store firewood away from your home. It creates a perfect place for snakes to hide. Likewise, scrap metal, trash and other debris should be stored away from the house for the same reason.

Home improvements

  1. Search for and seal any cracks or crevices 1/4 inch in diameter and bigger. Seal entry points into your crawl space or basement by paying special attention to your foundation and sidewalks.
  2. Consider installing a fence. Use 1/4-inch or smaller rigid mesh or solid sheeting to construct your fence. Next, bury it 2 to 4 inches into the ground and include a bend at the top to prevent snakes from climbing up and over. The fence should be at least 24 inches high and encircle the entire yard to be effective.
  3. Modify an existing chain-link, picket or split-rail fence. Attach 24-inch-high hardware cloth (1/4-inch weave) or aluminum flashing to the outside bottom of the fence. Bury the bottom of the hardware cloth or flashing 2 to 4 inches into the soil. Gates should have the same snake-proofing and be kept closed to be effective.
  4. If you have a rodent problem get it taken care of quickly. Check out How to keep mice out my house.
  5. Check to make sure doors and window screens fit tightly.
  6. Cover vents and drains with galvanized screening.

Pets, birds and backyard chicken tips

  1. Keep your bird feeder away from your house. Birds frequently leave seed behind after they’ve gotten their fill at the feeder. The discarded seed on the ground then attracts rodents. The rodents can then attract snakes. If you’re really having a problem, try to clean up around the feeder on a daily basis or consider not feeding them at all.
  2. Feed pets indoors. Feeding pets outside attracts insects and rodents, which are food sources for snakes. If you have to feed your pet outdoors, be sure to clean up any uneaten food promptly.
  3. Spiff up the coop. Just as you improved your house and yard, use the tactics above to spiff up your chicken coop. If you decide to use ceramic or other artificial eggs to encourage a brooding hen to lay, glue them down to prevent snakes from eating them.
  4. Seal away animal food. Store dog food, birdseed, chicken feed or any other type of animal food in metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.

Do not use

  1. Do not use snake repellents or sulfur. They are ineffective.
  2. Do not use mothballs. The active ingredient is naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene — chemicals that are toxic to insects and mammals, but are not effective against snakes. Additionally, using mothballs outside your home also violates product labels and may be dangerous for your family and pets.
  3. Do not use sticky traps outside. Traps placed outside can capture non-target animals and result in a slow death.
  4. Do not use guns, shovels or other weapons. If you need a snake to move on quickly, simply spray it with the hose.

Resources

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Instead of teaching people how to get rid of snakes perhaps you should be teaching how important and good snakes are for the environment. As it is, way too many snakes are killed simply from people’s lack of knowledge. As you said snakes want to be left alone. Just pass by and leave them. They are doing so much more good than bad. If the only reason to banish them is they make you uncomfortable then the problem is with you not the snake . Educate yourself about them and let them stay. They will be happy and you will have less rodents,and bad insects in your yard. Not every yard needs to be pristine,your yard can be beautiful and a haven for wildlife.

    • Sorry I Hate snakes! I would probably have a heart attack! I want them out of my yard and definitely not in my house! I will do anything to accomplish that.

      • I’m with you Barbara. I hate snakes. We killed a copperhead just last night. He was hovering near a tire on the car. My daughter didnt see him stretched out in the gravel driveway and she rolled over him when she was moving the trashcan to the end of the road. Now what good can he do around my tires? Good thing she had shoes on! I called my next door neighbor and killed it after the snake raised up his head as if to strike.

      • I’m with you! I totally have a phobia and I do try to read and educate myself, but that doesn’t help with my phobia. I am more afraid of ‘it’ than it is of me. I would be too afraid to actually try to kill it with my hands except to shoot it. Not something I really want to do, but fear is fear.
        Victoria Weinrich, instead of telling someone how they should educate others on their website, why don’t you create your own website and teach others as you see fit. I’m on this site because I specifically googled how to keep snakes out of my yard. I did not google how to live with snakes in harmony. I understand your point and I’m appreciative that you can enjoy the reptiles, but I cannot. My mom told me stories of how she grew up living in the country in Louisiana and they would kill snakes using their shovel. I can’t even imagine being that close to one. No thank you! and I hate to tell you, I’m just as bad with spiders! at 63 I’m just beginning to be ok with Daddy Long Legs but I can’t tolerate anything else. Other than these two issues, I”m pretty brave :-)

  2. Why validate people’s unwarranted fear of snakes? Instead of teaching people how to banish them why not educate them on living with snakes as their neighbors. Snakes are much more beneficial than harmful. As you said they just want to be left alone. So leave them be. You may end up with even more unwanted neighbors such as rodents and insects. I would much rather have reptiles libing in my yard tgat rsts and mice and my gardens can live without the destructive insects.

  3. Thank you for this article. I love snakes, but living in Texas where there are rattlesnakes, it does make me nervous when the kids want to go outside and play. It’s good to know that there are things that we can do to keep them away from the house. Do you know if snakes like to get into thick ground cover such as ivy or Asiatic Jasmine? I thought that it might be too rough on their bodies.

  4. I HAVE A LOT OF HEALTH PROBLEMS AND I’M ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE PETRIFIED OF ANY KIND OF SNAKE AND THE FEAR OF THEM BEING IN MY HOUSE IS KILLING ME, SINCE MY HEART ATTACK I’M EVEN WORSE THAN BEFORE I NEED TO FIND SOMETHING THAT WILL KEEP THEM FROM GETTING IN MY HOME, PLEASE HELP BEFORE I END UP HURTING MY SELF.

    • Being scared of snakes is common, so you’re not alone. One step you might take, though, is to read more about snakes. The more you know, the better you become at recognizing your misunderstandings of snakes. And by reading, we mean fact sheets about the types of snakes in your state. We can help you find some if you don’t know where to look.

      You might also want to slowly takes some time to look at pictures of snakes. (And we know that’s not easy, but seeing a photo every day might help ease some of your anxiety about the real thing.) Some counselors also recommend finding a stuffed toy snake, then a rubber toy snake, and hold them, to help reduce your panic.

      Given the chance, a snake will normally flee from humans, and all of them prefer the outdoors.

      But your feelings are real, and we understand that. We also care about your health, too, so perhaps you could talk to your doctor about your fears. Check back with us and let us know if we can help you more! We’d love to hear from you again. You can feel free to call us here at Farm and Dairy at 800-837-3419.

    • Have you had them in your home. Anxiety is terrible. Cognitive behavioral therapy is useful dealing with fears. Prayers for your peace.

  5. Good?? I understand Gartner snakes and king snakes. But I fail to see what good Copperheads and water moccasins have. Especially when they killed two of my imported $2500 a piece dogs! I have declared war on all other snakes except the king and Gartner snakes!

  6. I live out in the country, at least 30 minutes from my vet. I do not have time to decide if a snake is “friendly” or non-venomous before it could possibly bite one of my dogs. My vet told me due to the size of my dogs, 30 minutes would be too far to try and get there to save their lives, therefore ANY snake that I see in my yard is a dead snake. I understand people saying leave the good ones alone, I however, do not have the luxury of deciding that.

  7. if when i do see any snakes in my yard and around my home, I WILL USE ANY KIND OF A WEAPON that I can get my on it will be DEAD!

  8. I am terrified of snakes, to the point of it not being rational!! I am elderly, have heart issues and last season a small one got in my house and tangled with my cat. She laid in bed beside me that night, shaking all night, and was nervous for days afterward. What is a good way to keep them OUT of my house?? It’s been almost a year since that happened, and I’m still checking the floor, and cautious going in my laundry room. Please help!!! Don’t just tell me to learn to live/love them!!! That is no help at all!!

  9. I was bit on my butt by a copper head while cutting grass. It fell from a big Bush down into my seat. Very painfull for a good 5 days. The bushes have been cut down now. Also have found a couple of black snakes in my house the past 15 years. I am still terrified of them. I would like to live without see any more here.

  10. I do not understand how the collective “we” have figured out how to replace hearts; fly to the Moon/Mars; identify hundreds of “Suns” in the universe; methods/medicines to cure cancer, yet no one has come up with a chemical treatment that literally repels snakes. While there are some “snake repellants” on the market (Ortho, Dr. T’s etc.) NOT ONE actually acknowledge as effective at repelling snakes. Your thoughts???

  11. I love snakes because they are cool and I have once stepped on a garter snake. They feel slimy and slithery. I love them so much that my mother got me a snake stuffy for my bedroom!

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