The Cottage Smallholder

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Update on Einstein: the pigeon trapped in our chimney

willow tree and gateDanny woke me early.
“I’ve an idea. If we block off the sitting room end of the chimney, I could run a tube from the exhaust of the car down from the chimney pot. Carbon monoxide. The end would be quick and he wouldn’t suffer any more.”

Perhaps it was the effect of the heat wave. The hot, fretful, sleepless nights had finally taken their toll. The idea was crazy. Our chimney is high – a good twenty five feet above the ground. It would be impossible to get a tube in the chimney without a cherry picker. And who has a tube that long knocking around? Even I don’t, in a barn bursting with ‘useful paraphernalia’.

We had already tried putting a switched on torch in the hearth. This is supposed to attract a wild bird down into the room. It didn’t work. Eventually Danny placed a tall saucepan rack in the hearth with food and water on the top shelf. Despite the baking heat in the day, the chalice was ignored.

I reckon that our Einstein pigeon clearly assessed the danger of swooping down into a cottage bursting with Min Pins. This pigeon lives in the cottage garden and probably observes the Min Pins in action every day. Only a deranged bird would fly in a hearth belonging to The Contessa, Dr Quito and Inca.


Then I remembered The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). They are great resource, give good advice and will help in extremis. Initially I studied their website and discovered that we’d tried all their suggestions for tempting a bird down from a chimney. So I dialled the advice line number. The voice at the other end was reassuring and calm. He checked that we’d tried everything and the local guys rang me within the hour. Einstein was rescued in minutes and released into the front garden by Inspector Jason Finch mid afternoon.

I was impressed. The RSPCA is professional and quick to respond. Even though we love our wood pigeons they are ten a penny in the country and many people consider them on a par with rats. They can be a real pest in the kitchen garden. They also seem to have very active love lives and a frolicking pair can drop from a tree and squash precious plants in an herbaceous border within seconds.

The RSPCA take an average of a hundred calls a day in our area (Fenland – Cambridgeshire and parts of Suffolk and Norfolk). They receive no government grants or lottery aid. Each rescued animal costs approximately  £47.00.

We are so grateful that we no longer have a pigeon slowly dying in our chimney. We are planning to fit chicken wire covers on both chimneys and have made a donation to the charity for the recovery of pigeon Einstein. It’s an enormous relief to know that he’s free.

Our wood pigeon pair have canoodled on our roof ridge and nested high up in the old willow tree for the last three years. The sad fact is that the cock will return to an empty nest. His wife is dead – killed by a cat. I found her heart and a pile of feathers beneath the willow tree this morning.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Pamela

    Pigeons can be a real menace in the town although I like the birds and always enjoyed watching them when I lived in London. Many were very war torn but they kept on going. They are tough birds, I think.

    I wouldn™t like them flying into my space though. So all empathy with your plight.

    Hi KJ

    I felt a bit of a twit ringing the RSPCA but we had tried everything. They are a great organisation.

    Hi Casalba

    He held the pigeon close and then opened his hand. The pigeon flew and settled in some dense bushes.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Wonderful story! How can you think that pigeons are not bright after that?

    Hi Z

    I have my own rods and brush and suggested that to the RSPCA. They said that they™d prefer to catch the bird as it might get hurt by the brushes!

    Our p just didn™t respond to light and food.

    Hi Moonroot

    When I discovered what had happened to Mrs E part of me hoped that Mr E would not survive his drama and never discover what had happened to his wife.

    Hi David

    Wire across the chimney is the best answer. Thanks for the tip.

    Hi Carol

    I know how you feel. But this year we are going to clear the old jackdaw nests out of our chimney as we want to use our wood burning stove this winter. Hopefully if they see the smoke they won™t want to nest in the spring.

  2. We often have the Jackdaws that nest in our chimney each year falling too far down so that they aren’t able to fly out the top. We have an inglenook so we just take the boards that are over the woodburner out open the windows and close the door. Most times this cures the problem but one year my son had to catch a bird in the chimney and take it outside where it spent some time sitting on his hand and then his shoulder before it finally decided to rejoin it’s distraught and very noisy parents. We still let the birds nest each year because I would feel mean making them homeless and would probably miss them if they weren’t there.

  3. We are a crazy people but I agree with you the idea of a slow death for the poor bird is repugnant to most of us. Shame its a story with a sad ending, maybe you can invent a different ending next time!! We used to get starlings down our chimney and it took ages to free the darn things but wire across the top was a simple remedy.

  4. moonroot

    So glad Einstein is now free, but very sorry to hear about Mrs Einstein.

  5. I get out the chimney sweeping rods and brush and encourage it down with that – I suppose if it sat tight it would be pushed up the chimney pot, but it would be a bit heavy. But it doesn’t usually come to that – if I shut the door, open one window and close the curtains over all the other windows, it normally comes down and flies out.

  6. Kate(uk)

    Now your chimney is pigeon free I can tell you of a friend’s experience- pigeon stuck in chimney with blocked off fireplace; friend unblocks fireplace to release pigeon, who is, naturally, just out of reach in chimney above. Friend leaves food and water. Next morning pigeon walking round spare room having had hearty breakfast. Runs straight back to chimney to avoid capture. More food and water put out, next morning, the same happens. Eventually, after several days of this my friend realises that the pigeon sees the chimney and spare room as his new luxury home.Friend puchases a large humane trap, puts food into trap, captures pigeon and releases it back into the garden. Perhaps some of them are quite clever in a daft sort of way.

  7. casalba

    They are a great organisation. How did the Inspector release the pigeon?

  8. Oh fantastic. I can’t bear to see an animal suffer, regardless of how disinterested I may be in them normally. The RSPCA is a fantastic organisation.

  9. Well you took us through the whole gamut of emotions with this post and I never saw the end coming! I have a love/hate relationship with pigeons. I don’t mind them at all when they stay in their space but hate them coming into mine. The local pigeon population lives in derelict buildings, we have the city delinquents – who’s comings and goings through the broken window I could watch from my living room window – and the country bumpkins who live further out. However the city squat was recently redeveloped and the pigeons were evicted but as they were used to flying in and out through windows they saw any open window as a possible relocation opportunity hence I am careful about how wide I open my windows now as I have had several visitors – including the one I found in the bathroom early one morning after my guests had left the light on and the bathroom door closed. I was so glad that when I opened the door again it was to see the pigeon departing!

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