Since humans began building houses with roofs, birds have been taking advantage of them to nest. Most of the time, this doesn’t cause a nuisance or a health hazard (though there are exceptions) but there is still a problem. In general, the birds will have gained access through roof damage — so this is precisely when you’re likely to want to repair or replace your roof.
What Does the Law Say?
Most wild birds are protected by law, and in general, it’s illegal to destroy or disturb an active nest — that is, a nest containing either eggs or chicks. Disturbing includes preventing the adult birds from returning to the nest, which would result in the chicks dying.
There are some exceptions to this. In certain circumstances, removing a nest can be justified on the grounds of hygiene — this most often involves feral pigeons are nesting in a roof. In addition, there are situations where the nest may be moved to a specially constructed nesting box close to the original site.
However, you can’t normally do this on your own initiative. If you feel you may be justified in moving or destroying a nest, the best thing is to contact your local authority or the RSPB to clarify the situation and establish how this should be done.
The Implications for Repairing Your Roof
Unfortunately, this almost certainly makes it impossible to repair or replace your roof while there’s an active bird’s nest in the way. Small repairs to a different part of the roof may be permitted, but roof replacement isn’t going to be feasible.
An exception to this may be where the nest is discovered after work has already begun. If leaving the roof replacement half done will leave your home vulnerable, you may move the nest to a box fixed to the wall as close as possible to the originate location. If you’re unsure how to do this safely, the RSPB will be able to advise you.
What Are the Alternatives?
If you’re aware of roof-nesting birds (e.g. swifts, swallows, house martins or house sparrows) active near your home, it’s best to plan any roof repairs or replacement for autumn or winter, when the nests won’t be active. If at that time you want to discourage further nesting, you can block off any openings — but make sure no birds are trapped inside.
If you’re unsure whether you have birds nesting in your roof, you’re very welcome to give us a call, and we’ll advise you about your options.