This time of year you can be fairly certain that it is an animal like a squirrel or a bird that has gotten stuck in your chimney and needs some help getting out. If it was between March and June, even August, it could be a raccoon that has decided to make your chimney its denning area where she plans to raise her young. This requires a different set of actions then what is outlined below.
To confirm, if the animal is frantically scratching trying to get out, then it needs your help and there are a few ways to do this. Although, depending on when you notice, it could be starting to tire and may not sound so frantic.
If it’s a squirrel
If you are comfortable getting on your roof, place a thick rope down the chimney that the squirrel will use to climb up.
The other option is to let the squirrel out the closest door or window but there are a few things you need to set up first:
- If the closest access point is a window, do use some boxes to create stairs leading up to the window
- Do close all other doors so the squirrel doesn’t get loose in your house.
- Do make a pathway using boxes, a coffee table on its side, anything that will guide the squirrel to the open window or door
- Don’t forget to turn off all radios and TVs to keep a calm environment for the squirrel.
- Do usher all pets and people out of the room. The squirrel won’t leave if it doesn’t feel safe.
- To make sure the squirrel is gone for good, do sprinkle some flour on the window sill or bottom of the door. Its paw prints will tell the tale on how the squirrel left your home.
- If you are concerned about soot on the bottom of the squirrel’s paws getting all over your furniture, do lay an old sheet on the floor.
- Don’t be impatient. It may take a half an hour or longer for the squirrel to feel comfortable enough to leave.
Once everything is set up, you are ready to carefully open the damper and the fireplace door. Good luck!
If it’s a bird
This has actually happened to me before. Here’s how I handled it. I very carefully place a light cardboard box over the bird (you can also use a cloth too), and then I gently slid some cardboard under the box and quickly let the bird outside.
If the bird takes advantage of the fireplace doors being open and gains access into your house, open as many windows and doors as you can and have a couple of people ready with a sheet tied between two broom handles to gently guide the bird outside.
To prevent animals from gaining access to your chimney in the future, and once all animals and any debris they may have brought with them are gone, you should get a spark arrestor screen and a cap installed on your chimney.