Jackdaws in the Chimney- Introducing Captain Jack

First I just wanted to start by mentioning what a fantastic response I had to last month’s diary piece on ‘The trials and tribulations of the Throat plate’. It was excellent to get such positive feedback from the HETAS team, who brought me up to date on all their latest developments and the steps been taken to improve the issues with throat and baffle plates. Also a big thank you to The National Association of Chimney Sweeps for their interest and assistance.

Spring time….

As the yellow daffodils start to appear across the Yorkshire landscape it is a sure sign spring is well on its way and along with it come all the other joys of spring. A touch of warmth in the sunlight, the nights becoming gradually lighter and nesting birds!

Other than the odd pigeon accidently dropping down the chimney, primarily the greatest concern to us chimney sweeps are nesting Rooks and Jackdaws, who’s favourite spring time activity is nest building, more often than not in our customers chimneys.

Most chimney sweeps will be very familiar with this, from the tell-tale signs that there’s sure to be a nest in the chimney by the sight and sound of the squawky characters sat watching from the chimney pot, to the odd twig in the open fire grate that has dropped down the chimney.

"Removal of a jackdaw nests is unfortunately not always straight forward, it can take a lot of hard work and effort and be very dusty and time consuming".They are very accomplished nest builders dropping stick after stick until they hold in position normally on an angle of traditional brick built chimneys. They then continue to build up from that point dropping more and more sticks and when the build-up reaches near the top of the chimney pots they bed it down with wadding to make a cosy nest ready for to lay their eggs and raise their young.

There are strict protection laws in place against knowingly disturbing nesting birds so once they have made themselves at home it is a case of having to sit back and wait until the end of summer/beginning of autumn and then go along and remove the nest making sure a suitable bird guard or cowl is fitted soon after to prevent a repeat performance the following year.

One of my regular customers who insisted they didn’t need a bird guard fitting called me out 3 years in a row to remove the Jackdaw’s nest from their chimney. Thankfully this last winter they had one fitted but I still see the jackdaw family sitting aloft the cowl as I drive past, good job it is jubilee clipped to the chimney pot or I am sure they would have found their way back in by now.Captain Jack the Jackdoor

On other occasions nest building is not always a success, with very shocked people (and no doubt a shocked jackdaw) suddenly finding themselves with a hearth full of sticks and a sooty Jackdaw flying around the room, normally managing to make a good deal of mess and commotion before he is captured and released back to the roof tops. A high quality, securely fitted bird guard or cowl is always recommended. (I won’t go in to detail about all the non-fixed, homemade or just completely wrong and/or dangerous types of cowling people attach to their chimney pots, I shall save that for another day)

Removal of a jackdaw nests is unfortunately not always straight forward, it can take a lot of hard work and effort and be very dusty and time consuming. Even more distinctive is the smell of nest as it is being removed. Not pleasant at all and made far  worse if it has been in place in the chimney for several years.

The relief when you finally break through the mass of sticks, mud, moss and a whole host of other interesting objects that have been causing the blockage, and when you can finally feel the air once again. Drawing up the chimney  is always very satisfying. Followed by a really good sweep guaranteeing all debris is removed from the flue and the appliance is once again safe and in good working order.

Jackdaws like their relations the magpie are renowned for their love and occasional theft of bright shiny objects, unfortunately the only thing I have ever discovered is lambs tails, horse hair and litter!

The amount of sticks and twigs these clever eco home builders manage to gather is always impressive. On average I would say we normally remove between 3 – 6 large sacks full but in the past I have come across skip fulls when visiting renovation projects and the builder's have been clearing out the nests, they were not as impressed as myself!

Damp often becomes a problem in disused chimney if nests are left in place, so it is always important to have them removed and even more important to have the chimney swept and the correct preventative measures applied to the chimney pot or flue.

A few dry sticks wedged within the chimney flue could easily result in a damaging Chimney fire, with a continuation of nest building the more sticks being dropped down can soon result in a blockage causing Carbon monoxide poisoning.

Many years ago I was called out to sweep a chimney for an open living flame effect gas fire that had been condemned due to a blocked chimney. The family had been frequently using their gas fire before they were aware of the blockage and had been suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. They were very fortunate they realised when they did or it could have easily resulted in tragedy.

I was unreliably informed this was an uninhabited old nest so set to removing it. To everyone’s surprise along with the nest down came 3 baby Jackdaws. With nobody knowing quite what to do with them I took them home and raised them in our porch, feeding them several times a day, calling home between sweeps until they were ready to fledge.

As they became ready to fly the nest, or the porch, one of the birds who had always been the runt of the flock seemed to have damaged his wing so as the others left and visited less and less frequently this little one stayed to be nursed back to health. We named him Captain Jack.

Captain Jack the JackdoorJack recovered well and became almost like a family pet, although he was always free to come and go as he pleased, he never roosted far away and would always be there to greet me first thing on a morning for his breakfast. He would happily sit on my shoulder, or anyone else’s which sometimes came as a bit of a surprise for people such as the post man or any visitors. A little peculiar to be landed upon by a normally wild bird and then have it sit on your shoulder or head and nibble at your ear!

Jack stayed for around about 3 years and overtime he became friendlier with the other local jackdaws, and we saw much less of him, just as it should be. Then finally he stopped visiting altogether. Although saddened not to see him anymore we all hope he found a mate and took himself off to nest in someone’s chimney and raise a little jackdaw family.

Read more from Katie Sweeps Diary https://www.fireplace.co.uk/chimney-sweep-diarist/59


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#4385 paul hoye on 2017-02-10

its never rooks in a chimney.