Soldiers rearing turkeys for Christmas

SOLDIERS doing a bit of “bird” at a military prison have been gobbling up their time by rearing Christmas turkeys. It is the first time the servicemen at Colchester's Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) have looked after the birds which will be sold to raise funds for the on-site farm.

SOLDIERS doing a bit of “bird” at a military prison have been gobbling up their time by rearing Christmas turkeys.

It is the first time the servicemen at Colchester's Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) have looked after the birds which will be sold to raise funds for the on-site farm.

About 70 turkeys were bought as chicks in October and have been running free around their own field, complete with wooden activity frames, built by the soldiers.

As well as the turkey business, the farm has also become home to abandoned ducks, chickens, pigs and rabbits which are being looked after until the RSPCA can re-home them.

Petty Officer Steve Pearce, who comes from farming stock in Suffolk, helps run the operation.

He said: “The birds have got their own field and the boys have built frames for them to climb over - you wouldn't get this on a normal farm.”

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Staff at the MCTC now have first refusal on the turkeys for their Christmas dinner table, with all the money going back into the farm for food and equipment.

Proceeds have been coming in since October as the farm has also been selling other produce to staff, including chicken and duck eggs.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Holroyd, commandant of the MCTC, said it was important for the facility did more than just punish the soldiers.

He said: “The farm had been redundant for some time but last year we re-established it as a means of offering a wider range of opportunities for the soldiers under sentence.

“Our role at the MCTC is not only to provide correctional training but also to help educate and rehabilitate troops serving here as well as to provide vocational and trade training for those being discharged from the services.”

And RSPCA representative Elaine Smith said: “We are very grateful to the MCTC as there is nowhere else for these animals to go.

“If the MCTC didn't have these animals we wouldn't be able to take any more in - these rabbits would be neutralised.”