The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps
Powering Chimney Sweeping into the 21st Century

New licences for killing of wild birds issued by Defra

17 July, 2019
New licences for killing of wild birds issued by Defra

Defra updated the information on 1st Jan 2022. The GL41 (General License 41 – Wild Birds: Licence to take or kill for public health or safety)  is valid for 2 years. The links in this article take you to the latest updates. These updates are from Defra and apply to England. Differences may apply in devolved administrations. Jackdaws remain on the list.

There has been long running confusion amongst chimney sweeps as to whether it is legal for them to remove “live” Jackdaw nests from chimneys. 

Defra issued new licences on June 14 2019 after a ‘call for evidence’. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps responded to this call for evidence and also sent their submission to other sweep trade associations in the hope it would be forwarded by them too.  The previous licences were revoked in April 2019 after a legal challenge by Wild Justice.

For chimney sweeps the important new licence is GL41 (updated 1st Jan 2022) – to preserve public health or public safety. Jackdaws, commonly found in chimneys, are listed within the scope of this licence. 

In a statement to the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, Defra stated: “The licences can be used by those who come within the definition of an “authorised person”. 

With regard to removing a live Jackdaw or pigeon nest an ‘authorised person’ means—  “The owner or occupier, or any person authorised by the owner or occupier, of the land on which the action authorised is taken”. Authorisation may be verbal.

To fact check this, please see the GL41 – Wild birds: Licence to take or kill for public health or safety.  

So if there is a risk to public health or safety, an “authorised person” may remove a nest as long as the bird species is included the list and they observe the other requirements such as humane dispatch* etc. A basic written record is recommended and there is a list of what you might record – see GL41. Defra added: “You do not need to apply for a general licence but you must meet its conditions and follow its requirements, as you may be committing a criminal offence if you fail to do so.”  

Defra also said: “You can use this licence only where the presence of birds causes a demonstrable risk to human health or increases the risk of accidents, for example by increased risk of transmission of disease to humans.” 

The Guild would clarify that for the purposes of removing a live nest, demonstrable risk to humans obviously extends to situations where a combustion appliance – fire / stove / cooker etc. might be used, giving rise to the possibility of risk to humans from fire hazard or the possibility of preventing the safe transit of poisonous combustion gasses through the chimney, again giving rise to potential risk to humans.”

Defra said: “You cannot use this licence to kill birds because they are damaging your property, such as your car or house, or if they are a nuisance.”

Get informed – view the GL41 license and conditions here.

Nests can contain large amounts of material which completely block chimneys / flues.

Please note the tea and biscuits on the table in this picture. Although not essential, tea and biscuits are very useful during the removal of any nest.




Humane dispatch:

  1. ‘Humane’ means taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that any killing of birds under this licence is carried out in a single, swift action. 


    What our members say…

    Jason Ross

    “And what do you do?” “I’m a chimney sweep.” “The reactions can be interesting, from amusement to sympathy. But what people don’t often realise is that chimney sweeping is probably one of the best jobs in the world! “I have been sweeping for 7 years and have found it to be a very good way […]

    Jason Ross (Fire Work)
    Read More

    Trade Partners