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Is there something ALIVE stuck in my chimney?

It could be an animal (such as a squirrel or a bird) that has fallen down the chimney and cannot get out.


If you hear a squirrel scuttling around in your chimney, it is likely that it is trapped unless you have seen it scurrying in and out.

  • Make sure the damper is closed.
  • Lower a thick rope (at least ¾” thick) down the chimney, making sure it is long enough to reach the smoke shelf (just above the damper).  Tie it off at the top of the chimney.
  • The squirrel should climb up on its own during daylight hours.

If the critter is in your fireplace,

OPTION 1 – get professional help
Call nearest Animal Sanctuary or Wildlife Rehab.  Have them remove any critters from out of the chimney.


  • Position a live trap baited with peanut butter in the fireplace behind the fireplace doors.  Most likely the squirrel will huddle back in the corner of the fireplace and will stay there (even when you open the doors) as you place the just inside the doors.
  • Move slowly and try not to make a lot of banging and clanging noise.
  • Go away and wait for the squirrel to enter the trap.

Note: Just in case (before you try to put the trap in the fireplace), you may want to create a “funnel” system leading to an open door.  It is possible that the frightened squirrel may decide to bolt into the room.  Tables and/or chairs turned on their side can create a path out to an open door.


  • Trim any tree branches hanging over your house.
  • After making sure there are no active squirrel nests, apply a 3-foot sheet metal band around the base of any nearby tree to prevent squirrels from accessing the tree. Caution:  make sure the sheet metal is at least 4 feet off the ground.  This prevents the squirrels from jumping over it.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  This information applies to trapped animals and not to birds that are nesting in your chimney.  Birds that might nest in your chimney are often protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  See other blog posts for more information about Chimney Swifts and other protected birds.  

If you hear a bird flapping frantically in your chimney, it is likely that the bird is stuck.

OPTION 1 – get professional help
Call nearest Animal Sanctuary or Wildlife Rehab.  Have them remove the trapped birds from out of the chimney.

OPTION 2 — DIY removal process

  • Get a few friends together.  Have them stand behind you with a bed sheet stretched between them.  If the bird flies out prematurely, it will fly into the sheet instead of all over your room/house.*
  • Open the damper.
  • Shut the doors to your fireplace. (If you do not have doors on your fireplace, you can create temporary doors by taping a sheet across the opening.)
  • Allow the bird to drop down into your fireplace.
  • Slowly open the doors to the fireplace and gently toss a piece of cloth over the bird.
  • Wait a few minutes to allow the bird to calm down
  • Carefully transport the bird (in the cloth) outside and release it.

*If the bird does fly out into the house, it can be gently “herded” out as long as the ceilings of the building are not too high.

  • Turn off all interior lights.
  • Open as many doors and windows as possible.
  • Use a “rolling” wall (a bed sheet tied between two broom handles.) holding it up so it is flush with the ceiling and gently herd the bird toward the open door or window.

Perform the process slowly and gently so as not to panic the bird.  Panicked birds may fly into windows or other barriers.  Avoid pressing a bird for long period of , it may become exhausted trying to flee.

Once the unwelcome tenants are gone, call a chimney sweep right away to install a chimney cap with an animal guard to make sure no new unwelcome guests move in.

Two for One!

OK folks, the most common question we were asked at the Greenville, SC, Home & Garden Show at the TD Convention Center just last month was:

“I’ve got birds in my chimney. When is a good time to have my chimney capped to keep those birds out next year?”

We’ve talked about this before, but it’s such a common question that it’s worth discussing again. I’m going to expand on it here today — with a little bit of a different spit.

The Good News

The birds are getting ready to leave and go South for the winter. October is a GREAT time to address this issue! Do it NOW and you won’t have to try and remember in March or April, only to realize that the birds have already taken up residence for another summer. Learn more about the life cycle of chimney swifts here.

The Better News

You can “kill two birds with one stone” (pardon the pun here). If you choose a full-coverage, stainless steel chimney cap with an animal guard AND a lid that extends out past the sides of your chimney, you will be keeping out the birds AND protecting your chimney from water intrusion. While a single flue cap will keep out the pesky chimney swifts and other critters and the messes they make, it will not provide much protection against water seeping through the crown wash (the sloped part at the top of your chimney). Birds are noisy, messy pests, but water intrusion is a silent threat to your chimney. Excessive water entry into a chimney encourages damaging mold, mildew, and moss growth on your chimney exterior, and can lead to premature deterioration of the structure. Plus, lots of chimneys stink, but wet chimneys always smell worse.


image of water stained chimney image of chimney with multi flue cap image of chimney with a custom cap

Want to know more about how water can negatively affect your masonry chimney? Click here. To learn more about how those of us at Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth can help you protect your chimney from birds and water entry, click here.