A prison in Edinburgh, Scotland, has some interesting charges among its inmates -- a brood of 13 egg-laying hens lives within the prison walls, cared for by the female prisoners they share it with.
The chickens are bringing big benefits to the prison community already. The prisoners built the sheds used to house the animals themselves in their carpentry shop. And not only that -- the women who care for the birds learn animal care skills, while workshops using the eggs teach others how to cook -- both skills which can be carried into their lives outside the prison.
"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," Alan Jarvis, the prison officer who came up with the chicken plan, told BBC. "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."
The residents benefit simply from having the animals around, too. "[The birds] have got such a therapeutical effect on you so it's brilliant," said one of the inmates working on the project. "It puts more light into every day."
Jarvis hopes to expand the project in future -- for example, by selling the eggs through the prison's visitors' center.
This isn't the only instance of animals helping out prison inmates (besides, of course, Alcatraz's famous "Birdman"). Sometimes, inmates take it upon themselves to care for animal passersby, says the Guardian:
When staff at Oakwood Forensic Centre, a maximum security prison for the criminally insane in Lima, Ohio, noticed that prisoners on one ward were suddenly being far more sociable and cooperative than usual, they investigated. They discovered that the inmates had found a sick sparrow in the prison yard and, working together, had secretly nursed it back to health.
Another prison in New Orleans runs an aquaculture program using a rooftop and the security guards' former football field for its site, producing tilapia that is served on the menu twice a month. Inmates learn technical fish farming skills, along with nutritional insights.
And training dogs are now not uncommon in prisons (a cute pup named Little Boo even appeared on the Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black"). Petfinder has an entire roundup of prison dog programs -- some being trained, others rehabilitated and even others orphaned and taken in by the facility.