7 Scents That Ducks Hate (And How To Use Them)

white ducks swimming in pond

Ducks can be cute, but in your backyard and pool, they can be quite the nuisance. They could trample your garden, bother your pets, and leave quite a mess behind on your lawn. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can keep ducks at bay.

Ducks do have a sense of smell which they use to identify nearby food sources and predators. While a duck’s sense of smell is its weakest trait, you can repel them with smells they hate such as peppermint, lemon, vinegar, smoke, garlic, cayenne pepper, and chili applied near areas they frequent.

Continue reading to learn how to use these scents, as well as some other tricks to help you prevent ducks from entering your garden. Let’s get to it!

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Can Ducks Smell?

The first thing you might wonder is whether any of these scents will even be effective. Since ducks do not have noses resembling ours, it is a perfectly reasonable concern. However, ducks have a sense of smell.

Researchers from the Max-Planck Institute found that ducks definitely do have a sense of smell and furthermore, that this sense of smell may play a more important role for ducks than previously thought.

However, ducks smell differently than humans. This makes perfect sense, considering ducks have to worry about different predators than us and have a very different diet.

Ducks are semi-aquatic, meaning they spend a lot of time in or around the water. This means they need to find food and detect predators living in a similar environment. While we just need to smell yummy food, ducks need to find algae and similar food.

7 Scents That Ducks Hate

While ducks can smell and these scents will be effective in repelling them, we should point out ducks do not have as strong of a sense of smell as other animals. Dogs, deer, and other mammals have a much more sophisticated sense of smell. This means you might need to spread these scents out more and use them in larger quantities than you would for other types of repellents.

The way that scents actually repel ducks and other insects/animals is by blocking the attractant that may be inviting the duck onto your propertly.

For instance, ducks don’t necessarily hate lemon, but the strong scent of lemon oil (or enough lemon peels) can mask the potential indicators of food or shelter that a duck may be looking for, causing them to go elsewhere.

So, now that you’ve got that – let’s get onto the list of scents that ducks hate.

1. Peppermint Oil Deters Ducks

Ducks dislike the smell of peppermint. The reason is a bit of a mystery, but it is probably because they do not encounter it in their natural habitat.

Peppermint oil is probably the easiest way to use peppermint to repel ducks. To do this, soak peppermint oil in cotton balls and place them in areas where you’re worried about ducks.

Put the cotton balls in a bowl so they do not roll away. You will also want to make sure they are well-covered so they do not get soaked up by the rain or blown away. Replace the cotton bolls every few days.

Peppermint oil like Now Peppermint Essential Oil is a great option since it smells great and is effective at repelling other animals like mice, spiders, and rats. Other essential oils also make good duck repellents, since the potency of the smell drives them away and masks any potential food sources they may be searching for.

Ducks Will Stay Away From Lemons and Lemon Oil

Lemon is another great natural duck repellent. Much like peppermint oil, it is effective at keeping away other animals and pests as well. Lemon also has a very pleasant scent and will keep your house smelling fresh!

To use lemons as a duck repellent, mix a bit of leftover lemon juice with water and spray it around your house. Or, if you are looking for a way to use leftover lemon peels, soak the lemons in some water and leave them out in bowls near areas where ducks frequent.

This is a great way to use leftover lemon bits since you should not put citrus in your compost pile. Citrus will eventually decay like other natural substances, but lemons have an unpleasant smell when they go bad. Unless you want a stinky backyard, clean up any leftover lemon bits.

Again, you want to really make sure the lemon scent is pungent here. You can use an essential oil to get a more pungent lemon smell like Handcraft Lemon Essential Oil and dilute it with water to make a spray or leave out in bowls

Vinegar Repels Ducks From Your Yard

Vinegar, specifically white or distilled vinegar, has a good chance of effectively deterring ducks due to it having one of the most pungent scents on this list.

You need to use white vinegar as opposed to apple cider vinegar because apple cider vinegar can actually be somewhat sweet, and indicate to a duck that a nearby food source is available.

Remember, we want a sharp, pungent and off putting smell to tell the duck to GO AWAY.

A product like Calyptus 30% Pure Super Concentrated Vinegar properly diluted in water can be sprayed near areas where ducks frequent to repel them. Just make sure to follow all product instructions for use and dilute properly! Please not that vinegar sprayed on your plants or grass is not a good idea and that you should only spray vinegar on hard surfaces.

Use Smoke From Fire To Repel Ducks

Fireplace in forest at dusk the evening

Most animals dislike being around smoke, and ducks are no exception. So, if you need an excuse to roast some s’mores or set up a fire pit, say you need to get rid of ducks!

If you do not want to set up a big fire, set up some tiki torches or some candles. Of course, you should not leave any fire unattended, so this method is only going to be effective if you can monitor things.

For best results, use an insect repelling candle like the TIKI 1418014 Brand 17 oz. BiteFighter Galvanized Citronella Wax Candle. Alongside keeping ducks away, these candles will repel annoying insects such as mosquitoes and flies. There is nothing worse than having a great outdoor party, only to wake up with a bunch of bug bites the next morning.

Keep Ducks Off Your Property With Garlic

Garlic is known for its ability to repel vampires, but it is also well-known for keeping insects at bay. Ducks are also not huge fans of the smell because of its strength. Garlic can be pretty strong scented, especially when crushed up!

Simply lay some crushed garlic cloves in areas where ducks like to hang out and they will stay away. Hanging garlic in a net or from a potted plant is probably the best way to do this while keeping your garden organized.

Make sure you remove the garlic before it goes bad. Otherwise, you will attract insects and other pests.

If you don’t want to crush garlic yourself, you can use a ready made spray like Flock Free Bird Repellent that contains both garlic oil and peppermint oil.

Cayenne Pepper Repels Ducks

As is the case with garlic and vinegar, cayenne pepper has a powerful scent. If you have not guessed already, ducks have very sensitive olfactory glands.

Olfactory glands are the ones responsible for smell. Almost all animals have them, but their sensitivity differs from animal to animal, which an article from the Handbook of Sensory Physiology explains. While ducks do not have the best olfactory glands for distinguishing between smells, they are extremely sensitive to things with a potent scent like pepper.

The easiest way to use cayenne pepper to repel ducks is to spread some ground cayenne pepper near your garden. As we said with the cotton balls earlier for peppermint, you will need to make sure you cover the pepper so it will not get watered down when it rains.

Ducks Hate Chili Pepper

Chili is another strong-smelling ingredient that duck you can use to repel ducks. If you like cooking with chili peppers and want to dry some out on your own, hang them outside so they naturally dry out from the sun. This will give you some great ingredients for homemade salsa while keeping ducks away!

If you do not want to hang chili outside, you could also create a homemade chili repellent by soaking some chili peppers in water and spraying this mixture around the house. If you do this, throw in some vinegar and maybe even lemon for the best results.

Overall however when using chili pepper, the best result is going to be using ground chili pepper or flakes that have been crushed so the smell is more released. You can use whole peppers if you want but it will most likely be a bit less effective.

What Do Ducks Hate The Most?

Until now, we have just been talking about scents ducks hate, but there are plenty of other ways to keep ducks away from your house. Maybe you dislike some of these scents yourself or you worry about the effects on your pets.

Whatever the reason, don’t worry! We have a few other tips for you. Some of the other ways to keep ducks away are sounds, and reflective surfaces.

Like the scents, most of these methods will be effective in keeping other animals away from your home. Since we are not eliminating any birds here, I’m not going to say we would kill two birds with one stone. Instead, we will keep them far away so we do not have to worry about throwing any stones!

Sounds Ducks Dislike

Gold wind bell under the tree repel ducks

Since ducks can be pretty loud, it might surprise you to find out they dislike loud sounds. But there is a reason ducks like to hang out at quiet ponds as opposed to close to a construction site. They are very sensitive to sudden and loud noises.

Motion-activated sound technology will keep ducks and other large animals from coming close to your house. Playing music is another way to keep them away, but if it is too loud, your neighbors will probably complain.

For more information on how to use sound to repel ducks, check out this article, Do Wind Chimes Deter Birds? [Hint: It Depends], on wind chimes and how they can repel birds. Wind chimes are a great option because they make such pretty sounds and probably won’t bother your neighbors as much as sound makers.

Shiny Things Deter Ducks

Those gazing balls or shiny little windmills you see in gardens are more than decorative. Birds have very sensitive eyesight. The reflection from the surface bothers them.

Shiny things will keep more annoying birds like woodpeckers and seagulls. They will also deter other animals such as deer and moose, which are known for eating up gardens. They will brighten up your garden as well, so there is no reason not to have them!

You can go with classic options like little windmills, or you can be creative and make your own designs with Brite Way Bird Deterrent Tape. It may not be sticky like duct tape, but it is a great duck tape! Except this tape will keep the ducks away instead of sticking to them.

To use this tape, simply hang it from your windows, around your garden, or cut it up to make different shapes and designs. The material is extremely durable, so you do not have to worry about it being out in the rain unless there is a heavy storm.

Ducks Are Terrible At Getting Through Wire

white geeses and ducks

There is a reason chicken coops and farms have wire around the edges of their cages. It takes a lot of effort for an animal to break up wire, and ducks are not as good at it as other animals. Unlike chickens and smaller birds, they cannot fit their beaks through wire or tiny fencing.

Lining your garden or having a wired fence will do a pretty good job. Depending on the size of your garden, this might be possible. Or maybe you have a pet duck you do not want getting into your garden.

If this is the case, you can use wiring on a smaller scale. Simply get some garden fencing to put up around your plants or wherever it is that you don’t want a duck going. Just remember that birds can fly, so you might need to cover the top of your plants with wire as well.

If you do have pet ducks, a fence is a great way to keep predators away from your ducks. You can take a look at our guide: 13 Simple Tips To Keep Raccoons Away From Your Ducks to learn more about protecting your pet ducks!

Professional Duck Control

If you have a serious duck problem, talk to the local wildlife control or a pest manager. They can give you the best advice for your home or treat it professionally. This can be a great option if you do not have a lot of free time or are going to be away from the house for a while.

To increase your chances of effectively deterring ducks, try as many of these methods as possible. Nothing is going to be 100% effective all the time, so mixing things up is always a good idea. It also keeps things more interesting!

Get The Quack Out Of Here Ducks!

There are many ways to keep ducks out of your house. In this article, we have gone over scents you can use to repel ducks, as well as some other tips and tricks. Most of these will also help you keep other animals or pests out of your home and garden.

Though they are harmless and cute, you want to keep ducks away from your house because they could carry disease. For the best advice, consult a professional wildlife control company.

In the meantime, good luck keeping ducks out! Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at our guide: 8 Ways to Keep Ducks Away for Good where we go more in-depth on natural methods of duck control!


Edinger, Ludwig. The relations of comparative anatomy to comparative psychology. Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology.

Graziadei, P. P. C. “The olfactory mucosa of vertebrates.” Olfaction. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1971. 27-58.

Steiger, Silke S., et al. “Avian olfactory receptor gene repertoires: evidence for a well-developed sense of smell in birds?.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275.1649 (2008): 2309-2317. 

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