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 I hope that they’ve finally got the message that their B&B has been replaced by a working fire and home smoking zone.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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  1. Andreas

    We have just the same problem in Germany.

  2. kate (uk)

    We don’t get them nesting on the chimney- we’re up a hill so it’s a bit too windy up there- but one of the biggest woodpigeons sits on the edge of the pot and I swear he sticks his head down the chimney to make that annoying “hoo-hoo hooooooo” call, sometimes for hours at a time if I don’t go outside and scare him away: the reverberation is very impressive and it can cause quite a shock when he gets going unexpectedly!

  3. I’ve got the same problem. I wake up every morning to the sound of more stuff falling down the chimney. I was a bit alarmed when I saw the size of the twigs coming down, as I’d originally thought it must be a small bird. But after a bit of research today I discovered it must be jackdaws as there’s a lot of them in the area. I don’t like the idea of pushing them out while they’re nesting, so have resolved to put up with them until they’re gone and then see about getting the chimney swept and a cowl fitted. The problem for me is I have a gas fire at the bottom, and it’s quite dangerous to light it while there’s a blockage, as you can get carbon monoxide poisoning. I hope they don’t take to long about raising this family of theirs!

  4. whoops ! I spelt my own name wrong…how sad is that ?

  5. I think I’ve just had a deja vu moment. I’m pretty sure I’ve posted a comment on jackdaws before but perhaps it was on a dfferent blog. Anyway – we have jackdaws annually in our chimney and I quite look forward to them arriving despite the mess and noise. We often have the young falling down the chimney when they try to fledge and have to open windows and remove the boards above the woodburner to let them out.One year one fledgling had to be removed from the chimney by hand but when my son took him outside he decided to stay sitting on his hand and then his shoulder despite the frantic calling of his parents. After about ten minutes he decided to go – I did take pictures but unfortunatly these were lost when my son’s laptop was stolen. We have been here 20 years now so have seen generations of ‘our’ jackdaws come and go.

  6. hi… A few years ago my wife and I returned home after staying for a few days with our daughter for the birth of our first grandchild to discover a jackdaw ( deceased ! )on the floor of our dining room. It had come down the chimney and caused nearly £2,000 worth of damage to various bits of antique porcelain in it’s attempts to escape.
    At the moment we have the rather strange problem that if we now stay away for a few days, upon our return we are greeted by all of our windows and sills being messed up by crows . And I really do mean Messed Up !! This has been going on for about nine months now.

  7. I am waking up every morning to the sound of debris falling down my bedroom chimney – the pretty Victorian fireplace can’t have been used for years and had no grate when I moved in. Last year a pair of jackdaws built a nest in the chimney of the room I use as an office – and I came home to find a large, bewildered fledgling sitting on my desk. Maybe he’s this year’s bedroom chimney nest builder. I just hope his offspring don’t follow their father’s example.

  8. Lindsay

    My dad neglected having the chimney sweep one year – the next year he had an almighty chimney fire that spread into the sitting room with the fire brigade dousing down the house! We are battling with wood pigeons trying to nest on our satellite dish – I have attached a flag to three bamboos tied together and then tied to the gutter downpipe – so far so good!

  9. We had the same problem in England but with starlings. We came home one day to find a couple of birds flying round the bedroom. Ahhhrrhhh. Not nice and quite scary for the boys.

  10. Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy

    Fiona, I wholly sympathise!

    We have just the same problem. It was a mightmare last year; it took Idris-the-Sweep & his trusty sidekick, two hours to clear the big woodburner in the living room; in the end it had to be completely dismantled & proved a very tricky job.

    And I can already hear those mocking chuckles echoing down the chimney as a new family attempts to take up residence…..

    • idris the sweep

      Took 4 years to find this comment on the web but I wish to thank you for your kind comment

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