8 Ways to Keep Unwanted Animals Out of Your Yard

Mizuki Hisaka
Written by Mizuki Hisaka
Updated November 28, 2022
Nice wood fence around modern two-story house
Photo: irina88w / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Bid unwelcome critters adieu with these handy tricks

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Even if you’re an animal lover, you may have to face the plight of unwanted critters. Tiny animals seeking shelter can squeeze their way into your house through the smallest of holes and make themselves right at home. It can be difficult to catch pests since scavenging hours are late at night for many.

Read on to find out how to keep unwanted animals out of your yard and make them stay away.

Note: Although these tricks are beneficial for repelling wildlife, consider hiring a local animal removal service if you’re continually facing serious issues with animals. 

How to Identify Unwanted Critters in Your Yard

Critters may make themselves known to you by leaving behind damage to your yard or rummaging through your trash, but especially if you don’t get a good look at them, it can be tough to identify these unwanted visitors. 

Below, we shared some traits of the most common critters so you can connect the dots and figure out how to prevent them from setting up shop near you.


Deer tend to sleep on the grass under trees, alone or in groups. If you have deer sleeping in your yard, it’s most likely because they found a food source along with a nice place to get their shut-eye. Their snack of choice might be a vegetable garden, plants that they like including orchardgrass and red clover, or even nuts like acorns.

If you’re facing a lot of deer visitors, you might notice stems missing on plants up to 6 feet from the ground, deer droppings, and tracks. The best time to catch a glimpse of the deer is during early morning and twilight.

The good news is that you can try planting deer-resistant plants in your garden to keep them at bay.


Raccoons are likely in your yard because they found a good food source. It could be garbage, or they could be feasting on your fruit or nut trees. You may also have a mama raccoon that’s looking for a place to live. Raccoons can sneak into your attic space or chimney or live under your house and porch.

Signs of raccoons on your property include trash that’s been rummaged through and 4-inch-long footprints, and mulch piles with holes. If you have chickens, the raccoons might sneak inside, steal eggs, and kill chickens too. They’ll also eat out of bird feeders.

If the raccoons end up inside or under your house, you’ll probably hear them scurrying around. They’re nocturnal, meaning they’re active at night, so you’ll notice the sounds later in the day. If you figure out that they’re living on your property, the good news is you can get raccoons removed humanely.


Often, rabbits end up hanging out in yards with vegetable gardens, although they will also eat a variety of plants and flowers. Rabbits also feel safe in fenced yards, and if you have tall grass or a messy yard, they can choose to nest there. That can be a bad situation because rabbits multiply quickly.

You may notice that your vegetable garden is damaged with chewed-up plants and signs of digging. If a rabbit eats your plants, you’ll see clean cuts as if someone cut the plants with scissors. Also, if you look closer, you might find small nests in grass or along the fence line. Look for their pea-sized droppings or fur caught on branches or on fences.


Groundhogs tend to live near farms and gardens and can do a lot of digging to access their food sources. Because they're so great at digging, fences don't necessarily work to keep them away. They also sharpen their teeth on wood, like a tree stump or an abandoned wooden building, so isolated places with a garden and rotting wood are a paradise for groundhogs.

If you have groundhogs on your property, you'll notice 10- to 12-inch burrow entrances throughout the area and damage to your vegetable gardens. Your fruit trees may have teeth marks, and you might hear their squealing, clicks, and barks.


It's fairly ordinary to see a squirrel or two in your yard, but if you notice a large number of them, it can become an issue. They make big nests that look like a random bunch of leaves and twigs and will also live in abandoned dens made by other animals.

Your yard might be a good food source for the critters because they eat nuts, berries, and even vegetables. And, of course, your bird feeder can become a squirrel feeder if you don't take the right precautions. They also like certain flowers like petunias and sunflowers.

There are many signs that squirrels are damaging your property. You might notice odd sounds in your attic, chewed roofing materials, and damaged utility wiring in trees.

How to Keep Animals Out of Your Yard

At first, you might have liked seeing a critter or two in your yard, but if you're noticing more of them than you'd like, it's time to take action. Here are some steps you can take to try to reclaim your space.

1. Utilize Fences

Fences are useful for keeping almost any critter away from your home. You can choose to fence off specific areas of your home, or you can install a fence around the entirety of your property. To determine which fence is ideal for your home and properly execute the installation, you’ll want to hire a professional fence installer.

Typically, the cost to install fencing falls somewhere between $1,500 and $8,000, with the total cost depending on factors such as the materials you use, your location, and the amount of space you’re fencing off.

Note: If you’re dealing with deer munching on your garden, fences should be at least 8 feet tall.

2. Remove Food

Whether you enjoy dinners on the patio or don’t always close the garbage can lid, you could be attracting critter visitors. Unsurprisingly, food messes will attract many types of animals. Mice, in particular, tend to be attracted to fruits and vegetables.

Clean up any food from your yard or patio as quickly as possible to ward off peeping critters. Additionally, if you’re growing crops, aim to pick your produce as soon as possible to prevent luring wildlife.

Pro tip: Move trash cans into an enclosed area (such as a garage) at night to prevent attracting curious critters.

3. Buy Animal Repellents

There are many animal repellents for your yard that are safe to use around your property and won’t harm the animals. All you need to do is sprinkle, spray, or place your repellent around the affected areas, and you should see fewer critters roaming around your house. Just be sure to do your research and use these only as directed.

4. Try Wind Chimes

Some animals may be frightened by noise, so adding a windchime or similar noisy lawn ornament to your space may scare them off. However, just note that you’ll hear whatever the animal hears—and so will your neighbors. If you don’t find the noise of chimes very soothing or live near others, this may not be the solution for you.

5. Clean Up Your Yard Regularly

Sloping back yard with fence cutting off woods
Photo: irina88w / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Animals are smarter than we think and, more often than not, are seeking shelter where they can safely reside. Creatures often burrow or hide in piles of wood, overgrown weeds, or accumulated debris where they can nest, hole, and ultimately make into living spaces.

Cleaning up your yard regularly is not only a way to maintain your home’s exterior, but it can also discourage critters from hanging out around your home.

6. Eliminate Bird Feeders

Although bird feeders can be fun home decor, they may be attracting other small animals to your house. Also, if you live somewhere with strong winds, the seeds will regularly disperse, instantly attracting squirrels and mice. If you’ve had a few unwelcome visitors in your garden, it may be time to toss the bird feeder.

7. Find and Seal Up Access Holes

While neighborhood critters may be cute at first glance, you’ll surely think differently when you find them inside your home. It’s essential to find and seal any points of access, like holes in your siding or attic, to prevent unwanted visitors.

Even if these spots seem absurdly small to you, animals such as mice, squirrels, and rats can usually squeeze in. You can be proactive by periodically looking for these holes and sealing them as soon as possible.

8. Use Natural Repellents

There are many homemade animal repellents to keep critters out of your yard. You should try a few methods and see what works best for you. For one, you can try spreading dehydrated garlic around your yard, or you can make garlic water to spray around your property.

To make the garlic spray, blend five cloves of unpeeled garlic. Add 2 cups of water and three drops of dish soap and blend for a few minutes. Then, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or strainer, and put it into a sprayer. This spray works to deter unwanted animals and also pesky bugs like mosquitos, aphids, ants, and more.

You can also make a homemade repellent with a few items: hot pepper, water, and dish soap.

All you need to do is combine hot pepper sauce (or ground hot pepper), a few drops of soap, and a couple of cups of water. Use a food processor or blender to mix the ingredients thoroughly in a well-ventilated area, and then transfer your mixture into a spray bottle. We recommend spraying your repellant at least once a week on critter-friendly areas of your home.

If you don’t have any pets that hang out in your yard, you can try sprinkling mint, powdered cinnamon, and black pepper to discourage critters from digging. Mint is toxic to pets, so avoid that if you have furry family members.

And while hot chili peppers, cinnamon, and black pepper are not necessarily toxic, your pet might experience irritation if they ingest or inhale large quantities of them. And when it comes to hot peppers, take care that your pets don’t eat any seeds because that part of the pepper is toxic to them.

Keep a keen eye out to be sure pets don’t ingest these repellants or consider alternative solutions.

Tips on Keeping Critters Out of Your Yard Throughout the Year

Depending on the time of year, you’ll want to focus on different strategies to keep critters out of your yard. Here are some tips to help you out no matter what season it is.

  • Fall/winter: Seal all entry points, trim shrubs and trees, store firewood away from the house, and get your fireplace and chimney cleaned.

  • Spring: Install row covers on your vegetable garden, put gravel in empty burrows, plant anti-critter plants like daffodils, lavender, and bleeding heart, and check your fences for holes.

  • Summer: Do yard work regularly, drain any standing water, and clean up any clutter.

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

If you want to keep critters out of your yard and don’t mind putting in the time and effort, a DIY job can be very affordable. For example, spreading a natural anti-critter repellent like crushed red peppers will only cost you $2 to $6, while a chemical-based repellent costs $17 to $34.

However, if your DIY efforts aren’t working, then you should hire a professional animal removal company near you to help you get the job done. You should never try to remove an animal on your own. If you hire a pro, you won’t have to worry about accidentally harming the wildlife (or yourself) in your attempt to move them. The pros will also help you prevent future problems.

The cost of professional wildlife removal ranges depending on the animal in question—it’s usually $175 to $500, with raccoons being the most expensive to remove.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best animal repellents for gardens include a variety of different scents. You can use predator urine to keep away deer, raccoons, squirrels and more. The odor will tell the critters that your yard is a dangerous place. Other scents that repel critters are herbs like lavender, geranium, and mint. You can also use hot pepper, garlic, and strong-smelling soap.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.