When Can You Knock Down Barn Swallow Nests?

Barn swallows are beautiful birds, but they can be a pain if they decide to build their homes on yours. Not only do they create a lot of noise and litter their immediate vicinity with droppings, but they can also spread parasites and bedbug-like insects known as swallow bugs. So, if you have swallows nesting on your house, you probably want to get rid of them. But when can you knock down barn swallow nests? Is it illegal to do so? And how do you do it? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.

Is it Illegal to Knock Down Swallow Nests?

Is it Illegal to Knock Down Swallow Nests

Because barn swallows are migratory birds, there are some laws in place to protect them.

Specifically, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, signed in 1918, provides international protection to these birds. It is illegal to harm them in any way; that includes tampering with their eggs and removing young from the nest.

With this in mind, there are times when it is illegal to knock down barn swallow nests. If the nests are actively being used, then you must leave them alone until after the breeding season when all birds have permanently left the nest.

Typically, this means that during the spring and summer, you should not try to remove the nest. That said, the breeding season begins and ends at different times depending on location.

Breeding season will last longer in the south, with some pairs raising two or even three broods before beginning their migration. Further north, most pairs will only raise a single clutch and may begin migrating after just a month or two.

In addition to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, some states and localities may have their own local laws in place.

For example, in California, it is illegal to mess with barn swallow nests between February 15th and September 1st. Other locations may have similar laws or may require you to get a permit before removing barn swallow nests.

Check with your local officials if you’re not sure about the laws in your area. If you have any doubts about removing the nests yourself or when it is legal to do so, call a professional wildlife removal service.

What is the Best Time to Knock Down Swallow Nests?

Of course, it is not illegal to remove barn swallow nests altogether; you just have to do it at the right time and during the right season.

The best time to knock down barn swallow nests is in the fall or winter. At this time of year, you can be sure the nests are empty, as all of the birds will have migrated to warmer areas near the equator and in the southern hemisphere.

You can, of course, remove the nests sooner as long as there are no eggs or young remaining in the nest. If you’re planning to remove problem nests during the summer, always give it a few days to make sure all of the birds that were using the nest have left the area.

How To Remove Barn Swallow Nests

If the birds have moved on and you’ve checked your local laws regarding barn swallows, you’re ready to actually remove the nests. How do you do it?

Follow the steps below:

Wear protective gear

Barn swallow nests may contain parasites and swallow bugs, or insects that can cause infestations if they get into your house. With this in mind, it’s extremely important to handle even abandoned nests with care.

Furthermore, the process of removing old nests can be messy. Be sure to wear a mask and protective glasses to keep from getting dust and dirt inside your eyes, nose or mouth; and wear gloves to protect your hands and lower the risk of spreading germs.

Chisel the nest away

Barn swallows “cement” their nests to eaves and rafters using mud mixed with leaves and grass. The entire nest cup is made of this sticky substance which becomes hard as a rock once it dries.

To remove the nest, you will have to remove the bulk of this mud cup. Chisel away at the mud, tapping it with a hammer if necessary to get enough force.

The nest will most likely break apart as you do this, filling the air with dust and falling chunks of hardened mud. Again, be careful as you work, and make sure no one enters the area while you are removing the nest.

Power wash the area

Once you have chiseled away as much of the nest as possible, you can use a power washer to clean the walls, eaves, or rafters. Power washing will remove all the evidence that a nest was ever there.

If you don’t have access to a power washer, you can try scrubbing the area with warm soapy water, but this will take extra time.

Use a deterrent

Once you’ve gone to all the work of removing the nest, the last thing you want is for the birds to come back and build a new nest next year. To keep this from happening, it would be a good idea to use a deterrent.

You can spray a barn swallow-specific scent deterrent around the area, install bird spikes, or hang reflective objects to discourage the birds from coming close. But one of the best and most permanent solution, as shown in the video below, is using bird netting:


It is illegal to remove barn swallow nests while there are eggs or young present. Once you are sure all of the birds have left the nest, you can remove it by scraping it away with a chisel and washing away any of the mud remnants clinging to your walls or rafters.

1 thought on “When Can You Knock Down Barn Swallow Nests?”

  1. The nest is falling apart and 3 babies have been found on floor of horse barn. Two were very early and had no feathers. Last one found on floor didn’t survive except for 2 days. Abandoned..sad


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