If you have ever heard chirping coming from your chimney then you know exactly what I am talking about. When the weather cools off and small animals such as raccoons, squirrels and bats and birds such as chimney swifts can seek shelter in your chimney. While it might be tempting to remove them yourself or smoke them out by setting a fire (please don’t do this), there are specific rules that apply to removing wildlife from a chimney.

Depending on where you live, female raccoons make their way into chimneys to seek shelter and give birth to their cubs or pups. It known that raccoons sometimes succeed in not only getting inside the chimney, but passing through the smoke shelf or chimney damper right above the fireplace and into your home. Not only will you have to deal with animal odors but raccoons carry many diseases and bugs like fleas and ticks, which can be transmitted to you or your pets causing diseases such as rabies and roundworm. You can try to trap the mother raccoon, although in many states such as Maryland and Virginia it is prohibited.

If your chimney doesn’t have a chimney cap or pot topper then you might as well be giving an open invitation to small animals near your home. Chimney swifts or Chaetura pelagica are a medium-sized species that are a combination of black, brown and gray shades bird that have long wings and very short legs. They almost always build their nests in a human-built structure, typically a chimney, leaving their eggs to hatch after 19 days and leave within one to three months.

The problem with chimney swifts is that they are classified as a threatened species and you cannot legally remove, kill, hunt, take, capture or kill them. Don’t even try to remove them from a chimney yourself. In fact the only way that you could remove them would be to apply for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, a federal regulation, prevents their removal by any means. The violation of any provision of the Act is considered to be a misdemeanor offense resulting in a fine up to $15,000 or imprisonment up to six months or both but the offense could be considered a felony to take a bird with the intent to sell or to sell a bird with penalty of a maximum fine up to $2,000 or imprisonment up to one year! It is important to follow the law and the best you can do with swifts is to clean up after they’ve gone since they are much less likely to return to their previous nesting once the nest has been removed. 

If you want to protect your chimney, fireplace, and home from pests entering them then you should install a chimney cap.  A chimney cap that has an attached wire netting that will create a barrier between these animals and the chimney and prevent them from entering your home. You could also spray the interior with raccoon urine which causes birds and animals to avoid the chimney. Mice can be deterred with peppermint on cotton bairds which are similar to blankets. But most home and condominium owners wait until it’s too late and are forced to endure loud chirping.