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How to Keep Birds Out of Your Dryer Vent (And Why You Need to)

How to Keep Birds Out of Your Dryer Vent (And Why You Need to)

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It is critical to keep your dryer vent free of lint buildup or other blockages. If hot air cannot flow out of the exhaust vent, it will cause overheating and may even result in a fire! In the spring, birds build their nests in dryer vents because they need a safe, dry place to raise their young.

To keep birds from nesting in your dryer vent, you need to seal the exterior opening with galvanized wire mesh or hardware cloth. There are also commercially available vent covers, some made specifically for dryer vents. Window screening or plastic netting is not strong enough to keep birds out.

Having birds nesting in your dryer vent causes other problems – your clothes take longer to dry, the vent blockage causes mold, and there will be a spray of bird poo against your wall.

The only humane way to remove birds from a vent is to call in a professional. Prevention is far simpler than tackling a duct full of baby birds!

How Did a Bird Get into My Dryer Vent?

Bird Nesting on an Old Dryer Vent

In the spring, birds are on the lookout for a warm, sheltered spot to nest and lay their eggs. Sparrows and starlings are both cavity-nesting species, meaning that the vents on our homes for the stove, bathroom and clothes dryer are the perfect place for them to build their home.

Dryer vents are a safe distance from the ground. Birds choose these nest spots because they feel protected from raccoons, cats, and other predators. The vents are warm and dry – the ideal conditions for nesting.

Dryer vents usually have three flaps that cover the hole. When you turn your dryer on, the flaps open to let warm air escape. They close again when the dryer is turned off.

These flaps are generally made of plastic. After 5 to 7 years of exposure to rain, wind, UV rays, heat and cold, they usually break. Birds are quick to spot an opportunity for a good nesting location and will quickly move in.

You may begin to notice some chirping or screeching noises coming from your dryer vent. You may also see some twigs or grass sticking out from the hole. These are the tell-tale signs that birds have started nesting in your dryer vent.

The Importance of Keeping the Dryer Vent Clear

Blocked and Clogged Dryer Vent That Needs to be Cleaned

Having a blocked dryer vent is no minor issue. A blockage can pose a severe fire risk because if hot air cannot escape, accumulated lint in the vent may catch alight. The National Fire Protection Association report that around 16 000 fires each year are caused by clothes dryers.

Clean and Clear Dryer Vent Line

There are several other reasons it is crucial to keep your dryer vent clear:

  • Keep your electricity bill down. A vent blocked with nesting material, lint, and other debris will reduce the efficiency of your clothes dryer. The machine will take longer to dry your clothes and use up to 30% more power!
  • Prevent mold from developing in the dryer vent. When the vent is clogged, it causes condensation to form inside the cavity. The warmth from the dryer and the moisture causes an outbreak of mold. This is unhygienic and dangerous to your health as the air in the dryer vent will circulate, spreading the mold to your clothing, linen, and towels.
  • Keeping your vent free of lint keeps birds, mice, and other animals out. Having a dryer vent full of lint and debris will lure critters in, making the blockage even worse.

The Dangers of Birds Nesting in the Dryer Vent

Once you notice birds building a nest in your dryer vent, it is important to address the problem immediately. A pair of starlings only takes 1 to 3 days to build a nest!

You may feel sorry for the birds and think of waiting for the babies to fledge before removing the nest. Do not wait! Birds in your dryer vent can cause:

  • An infestation of parasites, like mites or lice. Birds carry all sorts of parasites, which can crawl into your dryer and get onto your clothing.
  • Birds often carry pathogens that cause diseases in humans. These pathogens can be transmitted via the dryer vent.
  • Birds get pushed or sucked into the vent and die. The smell of the dead bird will permeate your laundry.

Methods to Keep Birds out of Dryer Vent

There are two different ways to insure yourself from the horrors described above. You can make your own vent cover or buy a vent guard. Both these options are low-cost and essential to maintaining a clean dryer vent.

  • Seal the exterior duct with hardware cloth or galvanized wire mesh.
  • Buy and install a vent guard. These are designed specifically for keeping birds and other animals out of the dryer vent but allowing air to flow out.

Whatever you use to block birds from entering the dryer vent, it has to be able to come off easily so that you can clean the vent. It is generally recommended to inspect and clean your dryer vent annually.

Avoid using window screening or plastic mesh to cover the vent, as these are not strong enough to keep birds out. Determined starlings will easily peck through these materials.

Removing a Birds Nest from a Dryer Vent

If you see twigs or grass sticking out from the dryer vent and the tell-tale fan of bird poo below the duct, the likelihood is that there is a birds nest you have to remove.

As soon as you notice signs of birds in the vent, act! It is best to remove the nest before the birds have laid their eggs when it is unoccupied. The best time is the middle of the day, as most birds are away from their nests to find food.

Birds’ nests can be ridden with bacteria and parasites, so you should never just reach in and grab the nest with your bare hands. Wear rubber gloves or use a vent cleaning tool to remove the nest, lint, and any other debris.

This method, unfortunately, does not guarantee that you will remove all the nesting material. Birds crawl quite deep into the dryer vent, and it may be necessary to go into the attic to access the inlet of the duct.

If this is already sounding like too much for you, it is much better to simply call a professional removal service. If birds have already laid their eggs, you definitely should get expert help.

Certain Bird Species Are Illegal to Disturb

Undisturbed Bald Eagles in Nest

It is important to note that because many birds, especially migratory species, are endangered, they are protected by legislation. In some countries, capturing, disturbing, or killing certain species of birds is illegal.

The United States, Canada, Mexico, and Russia have signed the Migratory Bird Treaty. Birds that are native to the United States are protected under this act. You can go to jail for 6 months or face a fine of $15 000 if you remove a protected species’ nest.

Thankfully, the most notorious offenders when it comes to nesting in dryer vents, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), are exempt from these laws as they are not native to the U.S.

If you do not trust in your bird identification skills enough to tell a starling apart from a blue jay and wish to avoid the process of applying for a permit, it is probably better to get professional help.

They have the knowledge, tools and skills required to remove birds quickly and humanely from a dryer vent.

Buy a Vent Guard to Keep Birds Out

Prefabricated vent guards available online or from the hardware store are very simple to install if you have easy access to the inside and outside of the wall onto which the dryer vent is mounted.

Do not be intimated when buying a dryer vent guard. All dryer ducts are a standard size – 4 inches wide, and vent guards generally come with a piece of galvanized steel pipe that is 4 inches wide.

Look for outdoor dryer vent covers made of metal. Models with a mesh grate work very well, but you should be aware that they trap a lot of lint. Therefore, they need to be cleaned more frequently.

How to Install a Dryer Vent Guard for Birds

Once you have gotten rid of the birds’ nest, it is time to install your new outdoor dryer vent guard. This will ensure that no birds, mice, or insects make their home in your dryer vent.

Follow these simple steps to install or replace your dryer vent guard:

  1. On the inside of the wall that the vent is mounted to separate the dryer duct from the pipe of the vent guard. Undo the screws or pull off the duct tape, and just pull them apart.
  2. Now head to the exterior of the wall. If you are replacing an existing vent guard, it may be sealed with caulk. Using a utility knife, clear away all the caulk around the vent guard.
  3. Unscrew the old vent guard from the wall and pull it out.
  4. Before installing the new vent guard, test if there is enough air coming through the dryer vent. Turn your dryer on and feel if there is a breeze coming from the vent. If you do not feel any airflow, your dryer vent is likely clogged and needs to be professionally cleaned.
  5. If the vent is working, put the new vent guard’s pipe through the wall and screw the vent guard onto the exterior of the wall.
  6. Using paintable silicone caulk, seal any gaps around the vent guard.
  7. Back on the interior side of the wall, attach the dryer duct to the vent guard pipe. They fit into each other, and you can secure them with screws or duct tape.

Put Up Nest Boxes for Migratory Birds

Migratory Bird Next Boxes Installed on Tree

Many migratory birds, like sparrows and starlings, as well as native species, like bluebirds, live in urban areas. Cavity-nesting species need places in cities to build their nests.

Provide these birds with alternative accommodation by putting some nest boxes up for them. You can buy nest boxes designed for specific species you wish to attract or build your own.

Install the nest boxes high up off the ground in sheltered spots that are far away from your house. Native species feel more secure at least 300 feet away from human settlements, but sparrows and starlings are comfortable around our homes.

Final Thoughts

Cavity-nesting birds, like sparrows and starlings, look for safe, dry places to nest in spring. In cities, they often take up residence in our dryer vents because they are warm and high up out of predators’ reach.

There are several problems with birds nesting in your dryer vent:

  • The nesting material, lint, and debris will clog the dryer duct. If hot air cannot escape through the vent, it can cause a fire!
  • Birds carry parasites and pathogens that can be transferred to humans via the dryer vent.
  • If birds get stuck in the duct and die, it causes a horrific odor that will taint all the clothes you put in the dryer.
  • Birds’ nests block the dryer duct, and this causes condensation on the interior. The combination of warm air, moisture, bird feces, twigs, and straw is a recipe for mold and bacteria.
  • Having a blockage in your dryer vent will decrease the efficiency of your dryer. Your clothes will take longer to dry, and the machine will use 30% more electricity.

To keep birds from nesting in your dryer vent, install an outdoor dryer vent guard or cover. These are widely available from hardware and gardening supply stores. They are cheap and easy to install.

Alternatively, you can seal the exterior of your dryer vent using hardware cloth or galvanized wire mesh. Make sure you are able to clean the vent cover easily. You should inspect and clean your dryer vent once a year.

If birds have already made a nest in your dryer vent, the best course of action is to call in a professional to remove the nest and the birds. Some birds are protected by legislation and are illegal to disturb.

An expert will be able to identify the bird, remove them in a humane way and seal your dryer vent so that it does not happen again.

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