Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Free range chickens kept in Edinburgh prison

Alan Jarvis Image copyright Mark K Jackson
Image caption Regimes officer Alan Jarvis supervises inmates working with the poultry

A prison has started keeping chickens as a way of teaching life-skills to inmates.

HMP Edinburgh is thought to be the first in the country to keep poultry. It has 19 laying hens and one rooster.

The free range birds are cared for by female prisoners and by Alan Jarvis, the regimes officer who came up with the chicken plan.

The chicken sheds were built by prisoners in the jail's carpentry workshop.

Mr Jarvis said: "I thought it was an ideal project to introduce in the prison, as it had so many potential benefits for both the prisoners and the establishment at large.

"We have already seen the positive impact on the wellbeing of the women taking part, and we've had great feedback from visitors to the prison who've noticed the sheds and enquired about our new feathered residents.

"I'm very keen to expand the project in future to include benefits for the community. For example, by selling the eggs through our visitors' centre."

The women assigned to the project were selected after interview. They will have the opportunity to gain City and Guild qualifications in animal care.

The eggs produced by the chickens are used in the prison's life skills workshops, which teach inmates how to cook.

Animal care

The prison said the introduction of the poultry, in October 2013, has reduced the quantity of food waste being sent to landfill. Some of it is now used to feed the chickens.

Droppings from the birds are being used as fertiliser in the prison gardens.

One of the inmates working on the project is a woman from the Czech Republic, who has been in prison for two years.

She said: "It's a great experience. I've been learning loads of new knowledge and a new skill.

"(The birds) have got such a therapeutical effect on you so it's brilliant. It puts more light into every day."

Prison governor Teresa Medhurst said: "We are committed to creating diverse learning opportunities for those in our custody at HMP Edinburgh, to encourage them to unlock their potential and transform their lives.

"The introduction of the poultry project is the perfect example of a purposeful activity which teaches skills, empathy and responsibility.

"The chickens are already a firm favourite in the prison, and I'm hopeful that under Alan's expert supervision, the project will continue to spread its wings and benefit the wider community as well."

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