Derbyshire prison adopts rescued pigeons to help rehabilitate inmates and teach them new skills

A number of pigeons rescued by the RSPCA are enjoying life in an unlikely new home in Derbyshire.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 2:02 pm

Eighteen ex-racing pigeons were taken in by the charity in March when their owner’s health meant they could no longer take care of them.

Now, they are starting a new life behind bars at HMP Foston Hall, in Derbyshire; a women’s closed category prison and young offenders institution.

RSPCA officers Kirsten Ormerod and Brian Milligan had previously been helping care for the birds when their owner signed them over for rehoming.

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The pigeons at Mallyadams Wood in East Sussex
The pigeons at Mallyadams Wood in East Sussex

Kirsten said: “The birds were very hungry and thirsty when we were called in to help them and the conditions they were being kept in weren’t ideal.

"Unfortunately, the birds’ owners had been unable to provide the care they needed due to failing health and, although they loved their pets, they agreed it would be best to sign them over to us so we could find them new homes.

“We understand that this can be a difficult decision for owners but we’re glad that we could be there to help them and ensure the best outcome for the birds.”

One of the pigeons before they were treated at RSPCA Mallydams Wood

They were taken in by the RSPCA’s specialist wildlife centre at Mallydams Wood.

Mallydams rehabilitation team manager, Richard Thompson, said: “The birds didn’t have any paperwork and seven were unringed but were clearly not feral birds. Some had feather loss on their chests and matted faeces around their feet but it didn’t take long until they were looking much healthier.

“Two birds were registered as being Belgium-bred while the others were all British ringed birds and one had a small lump on its head that was removed by our vet. They were all treated for lice, canker, coccidiosis and worm burdens before we set about looking for new homes for them.”

HMP Foston Hall has approximately 40 pigeons which they’ve taken in from various backgrounds over the last two years, including racing pigeons and more specialised breeds such as Fan-tailes and Tumblers.

Prisoners help to maintain the pigeon loft and care for the birds as part of an animal care course which is run by the prison’s education provider.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Educational programmes like this help prepare offenders for jobs on release, making them less likely to reoffend and keeping the public safe.”

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