Soldiers save chickens from slaughter

A BROOD of battery chickens have been offered a great escape from the slaughterhouse by a team of soldiers serving time at a military correctional unit in Essex.

Elliot Furniss

A BROOD of battery chickens have been offered a great escape from the slaughterhouse by a team of soldiers serving time at a military correctional unit in Essex.

Colchester's Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) uses a variety of techniques to help its detainees prepare for reintegration back in to the Army and out into regular society.

One of the most effective ways of teaching the young soldiers about responsibility is to have them work on the centre's farm and help look after its animals.

Thanks to the good work of the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, the MCTC farm - which also has a number of rare breed pigs and cattle - has just become home to 150 rescued battery hens.

The team at the farm were put in touch with the trust through its close links with television farmer Jimmy Doherty, who runs Jimmy's Farm in Wherstead, near Ipswich.

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Just one of the 150 birds that have arrived over the past two weeks has failed to survive and the woman who runs the charity said it was an “exceptional” survival rate that was a testament to the hard work of the detainees.

Jean Gill, from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust, said the facilities at the MCTC were the best she had ever come across during many years of rescuing chickens.

She said: “This is far and away the best place I have ever re-homed chickens. It's lovely to see, for the men and the chickens.”

The trust, which helped re-home nearly 30,000 chickens last year, rescues hens from slaughter and aims to give them a new lease of life as pets.

She added: “They're excellent pets and the bonus is that they lay eggs. The Army have been very good to us and really supportive.”

Major Tony Booth, who runs the MCTC's education centre, said the farm's aim was to specifically help re-settle soldiers who have been discharged and prepare them for life outside the Army again.

He said: “The aim is to prepare them for employment. The single biggest factor in re-offending is a lack of employment and we're trying to reduce that as much as possible.

“All the guys here (on the farm) are trustees and have worked their way up the system and we often find they take a real shine to the animals.

“It's a great way for them to look after something and have a bit of responsibility and it's quite therapeutic.”

Detainee Nathan Watts, 24, who has taken on the responsibility of caring for the chickens, said it was “very rewarding” to see them recover after arriving in such a poor condition.

He said: “As soon as I saw the MCTC had a farm, I was up for it - especially the birds. It's new to me but it's something that I enjoy and it's something I will keep up with when I leave.

“When working with animals, the more you put in the more you get out of it.”

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