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Chimney Swifts Haunt Homeowners in Lincoln

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A story ran in the Lincoln Star Journal up in Lincoln, Nebraska a few days ago. It seems that a famous house at 1901 Prospect St. that was built in 1887 and was once home to Gov. John Thayer for a time had a recent haunting that scared some of the town’s residents. The owners James Young and his wife Marcie Young had remodeled the house over the years and spent a lot of time getting the house ready for Halloween each year. However 2017 seems to be the exception as an 8-year-old boy noticed that bats were coming out of the chimney last month.

But the bats weren’t bats at all but chimney swifts. Hundreds of chimney swifts would fly circles above the 40 ft. chimney and fly back in before dark. Up until recently swifts used to nest in hollowed out trees. But as housing developments have taken up more of their natural habitat; they’re settling into chimneys instead.

And getting rid of chimney swifts isn’t as easy as it sounds. In 2010, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature changed the chimney swift's status from least concern to near threatened, granting it protected species status. In the U.S., the chimney swift is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The causes of population declines might be related to the alteration of the insect community due to pesticide use in the early half of the 20th century. Neither birds nor nests can be removed from chimneys without a federally-issued permit.

Some homeowners try to smoke them out of their chimney flue by starting a fire. Not only isn’t inhumane from an animal protection viewpoint but the animal could make its way into your home.  The easiest method of preventing animals from nesting in your chimney is by installing a chimney cap or chase top.

Chimney chase tops come in wide range of materials and price points including galvanized steel, aluminum, stainless steel and copper. The lowest cost option galvanized steel rusts easily and has to be replaced frequently and is probably not the best choice. Aluminum which doesn’t rust as easily isn’t as durable as the other materials.

Stainless steel is the more expensive and one of the strongest of all your choices; literally lasting forever. If you want top quality copper is your best choice, but its Mercedes-Benz price tag isn’t for everyone.

Another important consideration is ensuring that your chase cover is made to the exact specifications of your chimney.  You should allow about ¼ to ½ inch all the way around, and the cover should be spaced off the chase by about 1/8 to ¼ of an inch; ensures proper fit and adequate ventilation.  A chase cover with cross-breaks will prevent water from collecting on it.

I am sure those homeowners in Lincoln, Nebraska will think about getting a chase cover installed for next Halloween or face having more chimney guests. Maybe even some bats!

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