The Cottage Smallholder


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Jackdaws love nesting in our chimney

Photo: Jackdaws

Photo: Jackdaws

I was walking back to the car at dusk this evening and passed a very smart building with two smallish standard trees either side of the large front door. I spotted a neat nest of twigs in the branches, and a glimpse of a tail feather. A pigeon was sitting on the nest, she looked incongruous like a miniature partridge in a pear tree on a noisy, dirty road in Newmarket.

We have two similar nests of twigs in our garden built by the wood pigeons. More Laura Ingalls Wilder than chic Frank Lloyd Wright, they are still beautifully made and seem to withstand storms and torrential rain. Einstein’s nest was in the willow tree at the front of the house. The other pair of cottage woodpigeon nest in an apple tree in our tiny orchard.

I love seeing nesting birds. With one exception. The jackdaws that return each year to nest in the chimney over our wood burning stove. The chimney is so high that It would need a brave man with a crane to put a cowl on the top. When the jackdaws do successfully nest they drop 8 dustbin liners of twigs down the chimney. Thousands of hours must be spent on the wing, collecting the materials for their nest. It takes the guts of a day to clear it when they finally leave in September.

This year we have got so into our wood burning stove that we were primed for their return. A slow fire is almost constantly alight in the stove. When it dies down between the hours of midnight and five am they return to drop twigs down the chimney. It’s a battle that I’m determined to win this year. We now use this chimney for smoking our bacon and ham. And beside this, I love a warm fire in the evening when I return from work.

So at the moment we are at war. I hear them chatting and the occasional clunk of a twig dropping down onto the plate above the stove. Mrs J sits on the television aerial while Mr J collects the footings for the nest. Meanwhile I light a fire below. The twigs that they toss down make great kindling. We’ve been battling for three weeks now and I haven’t seen them for a couple of days. I hope that they’ve finally got the message that their B&B has been replaced by a working fire and home smoking zone.

They are welcome to set up home in the second chimney – we won’t use the inglenook until the autumn – but they are sniffy and won’t even consider it. Despite it being rent free with no smoke or even council tax.


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24 Comments

  1. Soosie

    The Jackdaws arrived in my chimney this year, first new about it when I heard noises in it, thought a bird had fallen down but nothing in wood burner. However, after opening the chimney over the stove and removed panel, loads of twigs and chimney liner had to be removed, I did try to light the fire but no effect and the carbon monoxide alarm went off, it is in the next room and I could feel the fumes on my chest, so very dangerous to keep fire lit, thought it would smoke them out! I opened all the doors and windows in the house to get rid of the fumes and it took quite a while. I didn’t have the heart to remove it and anyway, it is against the law. I live in a stone cottage so can be a bit chilly in the summer so will have it swept in Autumn and fit a cowl. Have lived here 20 years and this is the first time it has happened. Last week my boiler broke down!!! Unprintable Rude Words……??

  2. Fine, but bearing in mind it is an offence to intentionally disturb a nest in use or being built. So once it’s begun you would have to wait until autumn to clear it.

  3. the sootbuster

    I’m a chimney sweep and frequently have to remove Jackdaw nests. They’re a real health and safety issue, and I can’t understand the people above who tolerate them year after year. It’s especially dangerous to keep the stove on a low heat to try to smoke them out; if they’ve begun building a nest it will be constricting the exit of gases and thus be a serious risk to the human occupants, as monoxide poisoning may result.
    Get real about this issue, they’re a health and safety problem when allowed to nest in chimneys. Put a sturdy bird cowl on and confine them to the trees – as nature intended.

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