The People's Friend Special

The Chicken Hotel

Susie Kearley meets David Roberts, founder of this unique Cornish endeavour, and his feathered friends.


WHEN I first heard about the Chicken Hotel in Cornwall, I was intrigued. What had driven its founder, David Roberts, to open a luxury hotel for chickens?

Are people prepared to pay for a chicken hotel with spa treatments?

Apparently they are! His service includes a door-todoor chicken chauffeur, a nursery, and a brooding facility with skilled “‘midwives” on hand to tend to every chicken’s needs.

“Want chickens but don’t know what to do while you’re away on holiday?” David asks on his website. “Let your chickens have a short holiday break in the Chicken Hotel!”

And lots of people do.

David opened the

Chicken Hotel in 2007, when he realised there was no facility in Cornwall for people to board their chickens.

A couple he knew wanted to get chickens, but didn’t know what to do with them during their holidays, so David, who had a flock of his own, offered to take his friends’ hens while they were away.

After building a new coop to accommodat­e his feathered visitors, David felt inspired and wondered if there was a market for commercial chicken boarding.

“I thought I’d test the waters and advertise my services,” he says.

“I came up with a logo design, keeping it very simple, and then made some posters to put in a local feed store, followed by a website.

“The first phone call asking about the Chicken Hotel was such an exciting experience, I thought this really might work!”

David lived on a farm and his associates were sceptical about his business idea.

“It came as a surprise to everyone when I started to get bookings!” he says, but the bookings continued to come in and he built more coops to meet demand.

“I was soon up to nine coops, but they would only be full over the Christmas period, which turned out to be the busiest time of year.”

David sent an article to his local paper about the Chicken Hotel. It ended up on the front page.

Then the world’s press got hold of the story, and the Chicken Hotel became a global sensation.

David and the hotel appeared in “The Metro”, on Chris Evans’s morning radio show and in radio interviews in Canada, Australia and Spain.

They even featured in a Mexican newspaper and a German text book, and on television in France and Japan.

“These were definitely my fifteen (or more) minutes of fame. I thought I’d enjoy them as much as I could!” David says.

He was in his element running the Chicken Hotel.

“You could always tell chickens that had been handled a lot.

“They would be much more friendly, and when you went near them they would crouch down so you could pick them up.

“I learned a lot about the different breeds and types of chicken.

“My favourite was the little Serama chicken that I hatched out.

“It’s the world’s smallest breed and it was named Tiny by the little lad who lived on the farm.rm”

David was enjoying running his new business, and was managing to balance it successful­ly with his full-time career in teaching.

“The fortunate thing about my business was that the peak times were during school holidays,” he explains.

“So taking care of the hotel during the day just involved letting the chickens out in the mornings, tidying, and then cleaning in the afternoon.

“It worked very well with my other work commitment­s.”

David started to think about other services that the Chicken Hotel could possibly offer, and he came up with a range of ideas.

His travelling butler service, designed for large flocks, didn’t really take off – but the pedicures, nose jobs and spa treatments went down a treat!

“I describe the chickens as guests,” he says. “Their meals are ‘an open-air buffet’ and the ‘pedicures’ are a claw trim.

“‘Nose jobs’ are a beak trim, and the mite powder ‘spa treatment’ keeps them mite free!

“These treatments were all answers to some of the problems that I had personally encountere­d.”

David enjoys the human aspect, too.

“The owners are a delight to deal with. I always take their details at the start of a stay, along with their chickens’ names – most people have names for them!

“Then I send the owners a postcard from their chickens about their lovely stay at the Chicken Hotel.

“The owners love it!” t c

 ??  ?? David takes an order from a guest. A clutch of cute chicks.
David takes an order from a guest. A clutch of cute chicks.
 ??  ?? A crumpled egg.A specially designed chicken coop.
A crumpled egg.A specially designed chicken coop.
 ??  ?? The eggs can be a variety of colours – including blue! Chicks from the blue-egg-laying hen.
The eggs can be a variety of colours – including blue! Chicks from the blue-egg-laying hen.
 ??  ?? People are often surprised how well chickens can fly.
People are often surprised how well chickens can fly.

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