You'll have to put up with that chirping chimney

In the past couple of weeks, we've had some small birds, I think they're swallows, inhabit our chimney. They're setting up a racket and obviously starting a family in there. What can we do to get rid of them without killing them? I'm afraid if we light a fire in the fireplace to smoke them out it will kill the babies and possibly set the nests on fire. Any suggestions?

— Robert L., Medford

The good news is you've done the right thing so far, Robert. The bad news is that you're going to have to put up with the chirping for a while longer.

All birds are protected by federal law, so — with the exception of game birds — you're not allowed to harm them, says Rosemary Stussy, a wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"You just have to wait until they fly out of there," Stussy says.

According to several websites, it takes anywhere from 10 to 21 days for swallow eggs to hatch after they've been laid. Since the birds have been in there for a couple of weeks, the eggs may already have hatched.

That means you're stuck for the time-being — the babies can't leave even if they want them to, because they can't yet fly.

"The adults may leave," Stussy says, but the babies will die without the parents."

The parents will coax the babies out of the nest after about three weeks, various websites said. Once they are out, you can place a screen or cover over the chimney top to keep them out. But the babies frequently return to their cozy home, so you'll need to try to ensure they are gone before you block the opening. Otherwise they will die and you will have committed a federal crime.

Once the birds have departed, take action or they will be return to their chimney condo next year.

"Tear down the nest before they lay eggs or cover the chimney before the birds return," Stussy said.

In the meantime, Robert, sit back and enjoy the avian serenade.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.


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