A RETIRED pub owner takes his flock of turkeys for a daily walk – in the middle of one of Scotland’s biggest towns.
Brian Moodie takes up to 14 of his feathered pets on walks near his home in Falkirk, within a few metres of houses, passing cars, and dog walkers.
But the 68-year-old insists his prize birds are safe because they regard him as “the mother-turkey”.
The turkeys, say Brian, “know what the routine is and form an orderly pack”.
The better-trained birds are even allowed into his house where he hatches them from eggs and rears them as chicks.
Despite the dangers, not one of his birds has ever come to harm on the daily trips through the city centre.
The biggest threat to their safety is neighbours eyeing up the prized fowl around Christmas.
Mr Moodie explained, “People try to buy them off me at Christmas time” and admitted that he has to keep the animals under close guard during the festive season.
He started collecting and hand-rearing chicks in his garden after retiring three years ago, having “always been a fan of poultry.”
Now he is the proud owner of 23 rare turkeys – worth up to £60 each – and he rewards the better-trained poultry with regular trips to the town centre.
Instead of relying on a tangle of leashes, Mr Moody uses a traditional cane to herd the animals, although he says the walks are a surprisingly organised affair.
He also noted that the animals are mostly self-reliant, saying “If I disappeared out on a walk they would make their own way home.”
Mr Moodie insists that turkeys make “lovely”, “unafraid” and “charismatic” pets, and said that his project was a part of an ongoing concept “to bring the countryside into the city” and promote environmentalism in his community.
He said Falkirk is ideally suited to his turkeys as it “is full of public spaces where they can wander all over, free range as they are in the wild.”
Although the idea had initially raised some eyebrows, he said that neighbours and even the council had been supportive as this was the only project of its kind.
He also said that dog-owners had been very helpful, and that he had a “good rapport with local owners” who see him coming and put their pets on a leash to prevent any inter-species squabbles.
His trademark turkeys have also made him somewhat of a local hero, rendering him instantly recognisable and “brightening peoples’ days.”
Mr Moodie explained that his turkeys are not the regular Christmas-table variety, but a rare breed “unaltered since the 16th century” which are “in danger of dying out.”
Whilst modern turkey farmers have used selective breeding to create double-breasted birds with a lot of meat on their bones, Mr Moodie’s grow slower and to a smaller size.
But this creates an unexpected problem around Christmas time, as there is a general consensus amongst connoisseurs that the slower-growing meat is better tasting.
Although the tasty turkeys are only worth £50 each, he has never been tempted to eat even the worse-behaving of his unusual pets.
He said:“I’ve had them since they came out of the eggs, I feel a sense of attachment.”
“How could you eat your friends?”
His head-turning hobby has also yielded a number of unexpected benefits.
The domesticated birds have a stern side and can be “very territorial”, meaning that “nobody can approach the premises without an alarm.”
But he has also found that the birds have helped his 57 year old sister on her journey to recovery from Schizophrenia.
Mr Moodie reports that her involvement with the animals has “made her more aware” and “sharpened her senses” and that the birds were proving “therapeutic” for her.
He said her involvement with the animals had been a “glimmer of hope after all this time” and that his hobby “couldn’t have worked out better.”