If you have barn stabling and live out in a rural area, you probably encounter snakes in your barn. Although not every snake is venomous, many Australian species are, and they don't make welcome house guests in your horse's accommodations.
Here's some practical advice on how to deter snakes from setting up home in your horse barn.
Why would snakes nest in your barn?
The first point to note is that snakes do not seek to chase, or otherwise harass, humans or horses! You are only likely to be bitten by a snake if you inadvertently tread on one or try to pick it up. Snakes are generally timid creatures that will look for somewhere dark, quiet and sheltered in which to nest. While your horses are turned out, the barn is still and peaceful, and the shady structure provides a perfect chill-out zone in the heat of the day which draws the reptiles to rest.
Snakes are also attracted by a ready food source. Many snakes predate mainly on small rodents such as mice or rats. If your barn has a population of rodents, it could become a magnet for snakes. Snakes also need water, and your horse's water buckets could offer a thirsty snake a drink, as could small puddles beneath dripping taps.
How to deter snakes from your barn
If you find a snake in your barn, don't kill it; they are protected by law in Australia. It's also a bad idea to try to catch the snake, especially if you don't know what species it is; you could be bitten. The best course of action is to contact a local pest controller and ask them to come and remove the snake safely. They will also search for and remove a nest if there is one.
Once the snake is gone, you can set about preventing others from arriving. Here are a few useful tips:
- Cats are natural predators of many species of snakes. Farm cats are also extremely efficient mousers and ratters. Contact your local cat rehoming centre to see if they have any suitable moggies that could work for you in your barn.
- Snakes won't be keen to set up home in your barn if there's nothing for them to eat, so focus your attention on getting rid of rodents. Make sure all your feed is stored in vermin-proof bins; sweep up leftovers and spills, and set mouse traps or bait.
- Instead of watering your horses using buckets, invest in an automatic, wall-mounted watering system. This will make it extremely difficult for small snakes to access the precious water because they won't be able to reach it. In addition, fix any leaking plumbing or dripping taps so that there are no puddles for snakes to drink from.
- If possible, don't store bales of hay or straw in your barn; snakes will readily make a home inside the bales.
- Keep the area outside the barn clear of thick foliage, tree branches and other debris and mow grass short. Removing this shelter deters both rodents and snakes.
- Snakes are repelled by the smell of mothballs. Place small piles of mothballs in any dark corners or cubbyholes in your barn to help keep them away.
- Sulphur is a well-recognised snake repellent that you can obtain from garden centres and DIY shops. Sprinkle a line of sulphur powder around the exterior of your barn and snakes will be reluctant to cross it. Remember to replace the sulphur after heavy rain.
- Fine mesh snake-proof fencing (available from DIY stores) could also be erected around the perimeter of your barn as an effective physical barrier.
Snakes are unwanted guests in your horse barn. Use the guidelines given above to deter them and keep them out.