What Animal Is in My Chimney (And How Do I Get Rid of It)?

Updated: Jan. 18, 2024

If noises from your chimney have you wondering what's going on in there, you could have unwelcome animals that need to be evicted.

Exhaust Chimney With Weather CoverDouglas Sacha/Getty Images

If you have an animal in your chimney, it has likely built (or will build) a nest filled with food, feces and maybe even babies.

Chuck Roydhouse, retired owner of Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County and former president of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, says if your chimney is uncapped, “You’re opening your home up to risks like rabies, fleas, ticks, round worm and bites. Also, histoplasmosis, which is a fungal infection of the lungs caused by bird fecal matter.” He warns that any clawing or pecking animal can damage the chimney itself.

If there’s an animal in your chimney, you’ll hear lots of rustling, clawing, scratching and flapping. Chirping and even crying points to a nest of babies. You may also notice a foul odor coming from the fireplace, which is likely from feces or a decaying animal. If the damper has been left open, you’ll likely see debris like droppings, feathers and nesting material on the fireplace floor. That’s why it’s so important to keep your damper closed during the off-season.

Bottom line: An animal can’t take up residency in your chimney. It needs to be removed for the health and safety of your home and family.

Bats in the Chimney

Bats live in caves and will seek out similar areas of your home, like your chimney, to hang upside down and protect themselves and their young from predators. Bats are most active around dusk and dawn. That’s when you might see bats entering or exiting your chimney and also hear noises inside.

How To Get Rid of Them

Before doing anything else, make sure the fireplace damper is completely shut so the bats don’t fly into your house. Try to identify the entry and exit points on the chimney and install an exclusion or one-way door, which lets bats fly out but not back in. If that doesn’t work, seek professional assistance because there are strict rules about removing bats from your home.

Mice in the Chimney

Natural predators force mice to seek secure shelter, like in your chimney. Mice are mostly nocturnal, so you’ll know you have mice in your chimney if you hear them at night. Look close enough and your might see tiny footprints in the ash at the bottom of the fireplace if you left the damper open.

How To Get Rid of Them

Getting rid of mice is a two-step process, says Wesley Wheeler, owner of Bug Lord. First, figure out how the mice are getting in and repair those gaps and holes. “Common entryways for mice include gaps around exhaust pipes or ventilation grills, uncapped chimneys and the eaves of your roof,” he says. Seal any problem areas with steel mesh. Mice can chew through most other materials.

The second step, Wheeler says, involves opening the damper and setting no kill traps or the traditional snap-trap in or around the fireplace.

Zachary Smith, president of Smith’s Pest Management, says, “Never use poison to kill animals in and around your chimney. It is extremely hard to extract dead animals from the tight confines of the chimney, and the odor will be terrible!”

Birds in the Chimney

Birds will nest in a chimney as they would in a hollow tree, says Smith. If the damper is left open you may even see the bird flying around inside the fireplace.

How To Get Rid of Them

You can scare a bird out of your chimney by making a loud noise or shining a bright light. “Try opening the damper and closing the fireplace doors,” says Kristiana Kripena, an extermination expert with InsectCop.net. “When the bird reaches the fireplace you can gently take it out and bring outside.”

Make sure you’re wearing gloves and a mask and wash your hands afterward, as birds may carry parasites and pathogens. Smoking out a bird is not recommended because you could kill the bird, and its nesting material could pose a fire hazard. If there is a nest with eggs or babies, you should seek assistance from a wildlife control professional, as there are laws protecting specific birds.

Squirrels in the Chimney

Squirrels are amazing climbers, but occasionally they fall down a slick metal chimney flue and get stuck. Also, a female squirrel could choose your chimney to nest her babies. If the damper is open, you may see acorns or other nuts on your fireplace floor.

How To Get Rid of Them

Getting the squirrel to climb back out of the chimney is your best bet, says Kripena. “Hang a thick (about 3/4-inch) long rope from the top of the chimney all the way down to the damper or bottom of your fireplace which the animal could use to climb out,” she says. Be sure to tie one end of the rope to the top of the chimney.

Once you’re certain that the squirrel has escaped, remove the rope and cap the chimney. If there are baby squirrels that can’t climb out, you’ll have to remove them by hand with a thick glove and bring them outside to the mother.

Raccoon in the Chimney

Raccoons are particularly fond of chimneys. Females will make a nest right before giving birth, and urban structures are popular nesting sites. Smith says if a chimney is not screened or capped properly, a raccoon will build a nest on top of the closed damper. You may see the mother leave during the day in search of food for her babies.

How To Get Rid of Them

You can get rid of a raccoon harmlessly by scaring or annoying it.

“Since raccoons are among the few animals that are able to climb up your chimney even despite the slippery walls, you can play music really, really loudly, which might scare the raccoon so much that they leave on their own,” says Kripena.

You can also try raccoon eviction fluid, a natural by-product of the male raccoon — a predator to a female raccoon. When placed in a den area, the female senses that a danger to her young is nearby. If these tactics don’t work, it’s best to contact a licensed nuisance wildlife control professional.