How to prevent ticks in your yard with natural means such as landscaping, pet care, and more.
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Disclosure: I am not a doctor. I am not a pest control specialist. Please consult with the necessary professionals for more information on any of these topics. My goal is to give you an overall look at tick bite prevention and treatment using research from May 2017… new research and information is always coming out so please keep this in mind.
I’ve focused a lot on prevention, and preferably natural prevention, to prevent ticks. I don’t love chemicals and we used a lot of insect repellent only semi successfully as kids so I don’t like to rely on it as a sole method of prevention.
Our home backs to some woods with lots of deer and not so many predators. We have seen mice as well. When we moved in, we were finding massive amounts of ticks on our dogs and son. Not cool.
I didn’t want ticks in my yard or house. Let me explain some of the steps that we took to prevent them. It’s not 100%, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.
How to Prevent Ticks with Landscaping
We started with more mindfully landscaping our yard. Ticks perch on leaves and grasses to get onto you. They don’t jump on you, they don’t fly, and they don’t drop.
We knew the ticks were worse in the woods behind the yard. We decided to put up a natural barrier by adding a wide border of mulch between our yard and the woods. I’ve heard wood chips or gravel work as well.
I keep that area weeded and other than a couple trees for shade, there is nothing for ticks to latch onto. Ticks apparently don’t like crossing hot mulch so they’ll avoid it. We have seen a huge decrease in how many ticks we find since taking this step.
IF we find a tick on the kids or dogs, I can usually identify a time within the past 2-3 days where the dogs or kids went into the woods behind our lot or where we were in the woods somewhere else (nature walks, going to a local farm with long grass, etc) so I anticipate they’re not coming from our yard. This makes me happy because it gives us a fairly safe zone to play in without spraying chemicals.
We try to also keep the lawn mowed so there isn’t long grass brushing up against bare legs during the summer. This is a pretty big deal. Here are some photos of our landscaping process to create our mulch boundary to prevent ticks. We began by digging up all of the grass and weeds. This was really intense because we had a lot of bad growth from the woods. This might have been a lot easier if we’d owned our tiller back then and made use of it.
After my husband dug up the back, he sprayed with Roundup for the extra weeds. We laid out landscaping fabric to block further weeds. Then we laid down edging, and added the mulch.
This was the final result from our efforts. As you can see, there are a couple of trees that we didn’t want to cut down because they provide shade and privacy, but there is a wide mulch barrier.
The other thing we did was fence off an area in front of our deck for the dogs to go to the bathroom. The no dig dog fence was perfect to keep the dogs contained when we aren’t out there to supervise or when we don’t want to do intense tick checks every time they go outside. We try to keep that area mowed and weed whacked so there isn’t long grass for ticks to perch on.
Domesticated Animals that Spread Ticks
If you have indoor pets that also go outdoors, then it’s very likely they bring ticks into your home. Preventing ticks means preventing the pets from bringing them into the house. This is really hard to do with 100% accuracy, but try your best.
Check your pets for ticks. This means ALL pets that you let into your house. Dogs. Cats. Pigs. Whatever your heart desired to keep in your home.
You cannot have an indoor pet and not check them for ticks for months at a time. They’re sitting on your couch, walking on your carpet, and they’re spreading those ticks to you.
Remove ticks immediately when you find them. I have found that petting my dogs usually will help me find ticks without any unnecessary prodding and bothering them. Usually you can feel the bumps and check to see if it’s a tick or just some type of skin thing.
I usually find ticks love to hide around the ear and groin areas, but they can be anywhere.
Obviously I recommend landscaping to prevent ticks first. If you do that, you’ll decrease the likelihood of having ticks on your pets to begin with. Then you can simply make sure to do extra careful checks when you take them for walks in a field or the woods.
You should also use a good flea and tick preventative. Talk to your vet about what they recommend, but there are products on the market that can protect against ticks with one dose every three months. I like this option because I don’t have to remember a monthly medication.
But that medication is slightly harder to find so a monthly medication may be easier to find locally.
Cats apparently are really sensitive to some chemicals so make sure to check any preventative with your vet.
You can use sprays in your yard as well, but you’ll want to make sure the sprays are pet safe or that you keep your pets out of that area for as long as the spray suggests after applying it.
Permethrin, I believe, is the main ingredient in a lot of flea and tick preventative, and it’s toxic to cats.
Wild Animals that Spread Ticks
Ticks like to live on squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and deer… among other animals. Keeping those animals out of your yard can help prevent ticks from transferring to your pets, your yard, or your kids.
That’s obviously easier said than done, but ideally you want to make sure that you don’t have a delicious food source and housing for mice. Mice really like our shed area, for example, and trying to close up any food (pet food, bird food, etc) that is stored in those areas can help prevent them from deciding it’s their perfect home.
The mice seem to have disappeared in the past year though. I’m not sure if it’s because my dog loves to eat them or if the ducks ate them.
I’ve heard great things about tick tubes. They have permethrin soaked materials inside them that mice love for nesting. The mice drag the materials to their nests and the permethrin kills whatever ticks the mice are carrying. You can make your own DIY Tick Tubes or you can buy tick tubes on Amazon.
Permethrin has some risks to it so you need to be careful when using it… it shouldn’t come in contact with any water sources, and it’s dangerous (wet) to cats, bees, fish, tadpoles, pollinating flowers, and other beneficial insects. You also don’t want to apply it to your skin.
Animals that Prevent Ticks
We decided to get ducks as part of our overall plan to naturally prevent ticks. We have Muscovy ducks which love to forage- they can eat ticks, mosquitoes, mosquito larvae, mice, snakes, and more. Obviously this isn’t 100% effective, but they also produce eggs (and meat if you can stomach processing your pets) and are kinda fun to have for outdoor pets so they work well for us.
Guinea fowl are, however, the best bird for the job if you have a larger property. They will wander everywhere to eat alllllll the ticks. Unfortunately, they also are noisy and will wander everywhere to eat allllll of the ticks. In a suburban area, this doesn’t work well, but if you’re on a huge property then they’re a great option for tick control.
Did I mention they’re noisy? I was watching a video of the noise they make recently and I’m so glad we didn’t get those. I would most likely have guinea fowl for dinner.
For comparison, here’s a video clip of our Muscovy ducks and the noises they make… I had to get really close to catch the noises. The females make more of a chirp and the males do some hissing.
Chickens will also eat ticks and many areas have more flexible rules about allowing chicken ownership than guinea fowl or ducks. And again… eggs! Meat! They’re all fairly affordable to own too if you are willing to feed, water, and clean up after them.
Chemically Preventing Ticks
I’m very hesitant to try chemicals so I tend to avoid them when I can. But I did some research for you and it appears that DEET is not as useful at preventing ticks as another chemical, permethrin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the chemical is safe to put directly on your skin so you need to treat your clothing instead. Once your clothing is treated, the clothing is good for a couple washes.
Visit the CDC Website on How to Avoid Tick Contact for People to see how you can treat your clothing to prevent ticks.
I’ve also heard mention of treating yards with cinnamon oil to prevent ticks. I have no idea how effective it is or how to find this in bulk though. I ran a few searches and didn’t really come up with much.
Other Posts about Dealing with Ticks
Here are the other posts in the tick series:
- What are Ticks, What Diseases Do They Spread, and Should You Be Worried? : General overview of ticks, diseases transmitted by them, and information on Lyme Disease.
- Preventing and Removing Ticks: How to prevent bringing ticks home on walks and how to remove ticks safely when you find them.
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