Rustling, rattling or hissing sounds coming from the chimney can bring many images to mind, most of them unpleasant. Many people suspect snakes, rats, bats, opossum, raccoons or squirrels. But the culprit quite often is either a nest of newly hatched chimney swifts or a trapped bird. Depending upon the situation it turns out to be, the removal techniques differ. In either situation, you want to handle the removal as humanely (and with as little damage to your home) as possible.
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If the sound you hear is a hissing or rattling periodically throughout the day, you probably have nesting swifts in your chimney. They are often mistaken for snakes or rats due to the sound they emit. If so, you should be warned that these birds are migratory and protected by federal law, so removal of them, their eggs or their nest is illegal. By the time you hear chirping or rattling, the chicks have already hatched. All you can do, by law, is wait two weeks or so for them to gain strength and fly away on their own. Afterward, you may want to call a chimney sweep to remove any debris left behind, then cap your chimney to prevent them from returning. These birds tend to nest in the same spot over and over, so the time to take action in securing the chimney is between nesting seasons. Luckily, they nest during summer months, leaving the chimney before the weather turns cold. Their nests, however remain and should be removed from the chimney to prevent flue blockage.
Birds trapped in your chimney are another matter entirely. This situation can be very distressing to the bird as well as to you and your family. Often, the best removal method is to allow them to leave on their own. Open the damper, leave a window open and clear out of the way until the bird finds its way to freedom. To help it along, experts at the online site Helpwildlife suggests leaving a flash light shining in the damper for the bird to follow out.
If the bird is injured, however, it may not be able to find its way out and further measures may be needed. If after several hours the bird doesn’t come out on its own, look up into the chimney to try to determine where it is trapped. If it has settled on the chimney ledge, which is generally halfway up the chimney you may be able to reach it and remove it. Remember, the bird will be scared, so use protective gloves and long sleeves to attempt this. You may want to contact a wildlife removal agency to help you.
If your chimney is sealed at the bottom, or you have a fireplace insert, you may have to decide whether removing the insert or creating a hole in your wall to remove the bird is something you’re willing to do. Remember, if the bird dies inside your chimney, it will create a strong, foul smell until it has completely decomposed.