The weather may still be cold with the frosty nights regularly lowering our temperature to below freezing, but believe it or not Spring is approaching. And with it comes a timely warning from local chimney sweep Nick Menage of Wilkins Chimney Sweep in Bloxham near Banbury.
All homeowners with a chimney in their property should beware of the annual invasion of nesting birds looking for a cosy place to set up home for the breeding season. This usually starts around March although it can be earlier – in fact only this weekend we noticed starlings picking up nesting materials and disappearing off into the neighbour’s roof. As all chimney sweeps will know, birds love a good chimney to roost and starlings and jackdaws are apparently the main culprits. The first sign that you have a potential lodger in the flue is the presence of a few twigs or other non-chimney materials dropping down into your fire place. Birds will find twigs that are just the right width to lodge in the chimney flue and will gradually build it upwards like a scaffold until it is around 6 feet from the top of the chimney at which point they build the actual nest. If you try and light a fire when there’s a nest in the flue, smoke will start entering your room and the twigs in the scaffold might ignite – potentially causing a chimney fire. If you have a gas fire, this can be deadly as carbon monoxide could leak into your room and you’ll be none the wiser unless you have a CO alarm.
However you can prevent birds from entering your chimney by fitting a cap, cage or cowl and any reputable chimney sweep like Wilkins can fit these for you. They will also remove any nests or chimney blockages but bear in mind that you may have to wait until the end of the breeding season (i.e. July onwards) as it is illegal to disturb any nest containing eggs or live young.