Chimneys are a popular nesting spot for some species such as jackdaws. It’s not uncommon for babies or adults to fall from the nest into the base of the chimney. You may then hear them moving around or cheeping. Action is normally needed to extract the bird otherwise they will die and the body will decompose causing a health hazard.
If you have an unwelcome nest in your chimney, there’s advice on this here.
Do I need to call a rescue? #
When individual birds fall down a chimney, this is often a situation which can be resolved without assistance from a wildlife rescue. This scenario usually involves little hands on rescuing of the bird itself but may require some DIY or even professional building work. Please bear in mind that wildlife rescues operate entirely on donations so have very limited resources. They may not be able to send a volunteer rescuer out unless specialist wildlife handling skills are required. There is little point them coming out if what is actually needed is someone to move a fitted fire for example.
What action is needed and who is best to call depends on what is at the bottom of your chimney.
Open fireplace #
In this situation, the best solution is to allow the bird to free themselves where possible – they must just need a little encouragement.
Open the windows in the room so that the bird can sense the fresh air. Pull back the curtains, turn on the light, and shine a torch into the fireplace so that the bird can see and hopefully head towards the light. It’s vital that you leave the room and keep the area totally quiet so that the bird feels safe to leave the chimney. Be patient – this may take a few hours. If it’s night or getting dark soon, try this in the morning. Birds are naturally more active at dawn so that’s a good time.
If you have no luck with this, try to look up the chimney using your torch and get an idea of where in the chimney the bird is. Many chimneys have a ledge a short way up and birds often settle there. They can then usually be reached and removed quite easily by hand.
If the bird is further up and cannot be reached or tempted down then the next step is to call a chimney sweep who will have telescopic tools with which they can either push the bird back up or encourage them down the chimney.
Fitted fire #
The first step here will be to get the fire removed. You will need to arrange for this to be done by a qualified person. If it is a gas fire then it will need to be moved by a Gas Safe registered engineer. You can then follow the steps above as for an open fireplace.
Sealed chimney #
If the chimney is sealed at the bottom then the only way to help the bird will be to make a hole in your chimney breast. You will need to employ a qualified person to do this. A wildlife rescue will not be able to do this for you as they’re unlikely to have the necessary tools, skills, and insurance. This will, of course, be messy and incur a cost but the alternative is a dead bird decomposing in your walls, as well as a potential breach of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Under the AWA, an offence is committed if a person fails to act to prevent the unnecessary suffering of a protected animal for which they are responsible. This applies to any wild animal if it is “held captive or restrained” which they, effectively, are in this scenario.
Once the bird is out of the chimney #
If the bird has only been trapped a few hours, they will probably be able to be released back outside immediately. But if they have been trapped for a prolonged period, especially in hot weather, if they are very dirty or dishevelled, or if there are any injuries, they should go to a wildlife rescue for care.