Animals and Birds Inside Your Chimney

racoon in chimneyA number of factors go into maintaining both the safety and overall condition of your chimney.  We know that hazards like residue buildup can cause problems, but many of us don’t remember the smaller nuisances—chimney pests.  A number of unwanted critters can find their way into your chimney, so let’s talk about what those are and how to rid yourself of them.

Birds in the Chimney

chimney swiftIf there is an opening in your chimney, birds often find it tempting to make their way inside.  One notable pest affecting residents in the Washington DC area is the chimney swift.  Chimney swifts are little brownish black birds with a penchant for building nests the chimney.  Unfortunately, once a swift makes its way into your chimney, you’ll likely be stuck with it for a few weeks, as chimney swift chicks hang about the nest for 14-18 days.  Having these birds in the chimney can be quite annoying—they’re vocal little buggers!

When you find yourself plagued by chimney swifts, which are classified as a Threatened species, there isn’t much that you may legally do about it.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal regulation, prevents removal of chimney swift eggs and chicks.  To remove the birds by means chemical or otherwise would require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The best you can do with swifts is to clean up after they’ve gone.  Technicians can be called in later to clean up and remove nest remnants from the chimney. Chimney swifts and most other birds are less likely to return to a nesting location if the nest has been removed.

Animals in the Chimney

Several animals can get into your chimney, including squirrels and bats.  A particularly pesky intruder in the DC area is the raccoon.  Raccoons, usually females, make their way into chimneys to birth and care for pups.  Crafty as they are, mother raccoons sometimes succeed in not only getting inside the chimney, but passing through the smoke shelf or chimney damper right above the fireplace.  If they’ve gotten this far, there’s a good chance of eventually making their way into your home.  If not, you’ll likely have to at least contend with various animal odors.

raccoons in chimneyA raccoon is an animal you never want to have hanging around, as they are notorious for carrying a variety of diseases.  Raccoons are home to bugs like fleas and ticks, which you or your pets can get, and also diseases like rabies and roundworm.

raccoon in trapLuckily, there are ways to remove mama and her babies from the chimney.  If you don’t mind the smell, items like predator urine may get rid of raccoons.  A humane method of removal is the live trap. Raccoon trapping is legal in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and several services are available. You’ll likely want to trap the mother while she passes through the chimney liner or even attempt to scare her out in some manner.  The babies don’t put up much of a fight quite yet, so it’s pretty simple to reach up the fireplaces and grab them.

The Ultimate Protection

The absolute best way to protect your chimney, fireplace, and ultimately your home from pest intrusion is to make sure you have a chimney cap.  If the top of the chimney is not closed off, you’re just asking for something to get inside it.  The best bet is to install a chimney cap that has an attached wire netting that will act as an additional barrier between pests and the chimney.

Obviously several chimney animals wish to invade your home, and they can be quite a nuisance. From loud chirping to unpleasant odors, these pests can create huge problems.  Take proper measures to protect your home.  Doing this will ensure that you won’t have to deal with birds or raccoons in the first place!

Image sources: mainstreetj.com, birdspix.com, and humanesociety.org

2 thoughts on "Animals and Birds Inside Your Chimney"

Bill Monif says:

There is chirping from my chimney and hoping simply chimney swifts. I have seen what may be the parents but want to make sure the chirping is not baby coons that also chirp and sounded similar on website audio. Have cats inside so need someone to check cap and upper flue. If protected chimney swifts the chimney can be cleaned of nest when they leave. If coons…may have to relocate due to cats inside. Would like someone to see if birds up there.

A Williams says:

Chimney swifts hang out literally for MONTHS in our chimney!!! They fly in, have their babies and the babies don’t fly away until full maturity. I know because they get trapped in our fireplace sometimes and I have to help them back up the chimney. We had broken eggs in our fireplace because I didn’t close the flu, and once they are in there I don’t want to close it because it could potentially squash a baby. I don’t wan to hurt them, I want to ward them off from flying into the chimney in the first place.
This has been going on for over 12 years. A couple of years ago, I sprayed Febreeze up the chimney BEFORE they flew in for the spring, and they didn’t come in the chimney that year at all. I keep forgetting to do that though, and by the time I hear them nesting in there, it’s too late. I would never spray anything up there with them in it.
Soooo, my question is: Do you know of any other smell (besides racoon urine) that these birds don’t like? Like any particular oils? I have warded off mice with peppermint on cotton balls, but I don’t know if that would work for Chimney Swifts. I’d rather not have to guess and then have them return and I want something that will last longer than a spray. Please advise. Thank you!

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