Five-star hotel for chickens opens in Kent - with soft bedding, full menu and Wendy house and swings
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A woman has opened an all-inclusive, five-star hotel for chickens - where classical music plays and "no cocks" are allowed.
Katriona Shovlin, who has eight of her own birds, launched her female-only 'hennels' after noticing a gap in the market. She allows hens and ducks to her retreat in Upchurch, Kent - but has had to refuse roosters due to noise problems and the subsequent re-homing required.
She charges £3 per bird per day - for which they get soft bedding, a full menu and unlimited access to a Wendy house and swings. Soothing tunes also play on a loop - including Classic FM and the soundtrack from the hit film Up - and there is a dust bath where the chickens can wash. Animal science grad Katriona, 31, also offers 'chick-in' visits where she goes to look after larger flocks that can't be moved from their surroundings.
Katriona, who also does admin for a limousine company, said: "We launched in September and it's been really good so far. My first booking was a 'chick-in visit' which went really well and I've just had some hens come to stay for three weeks. I would say the food products I use and activities I have make it five-star,
"[It has] everything else that they need to be happy and safe away from home. It's just a nice area with lots of activities. They have a swing they can swing on, a disco ball, classical music - it does act like a holiday resort."
Katriona got a flock of hens a few years ago after she looked after them for a neighbour. She said: "My neighbour would go away on business quite often and she would always ask me to look after them. In the end she asked me if I wanted them - she only had two left.
"I jumped at the chance - although my partner wasn't so pleased! I'm obsessed with them. They're like little dinosaurs. They're just really lovely, endearing and quirky."
She then realised there was a business opportunity in chicken care - and opened her hennels. But her own birds now have automatic sliding doors from their hen house into their run, and are kept separate from other visiting flocks.
Katriona said: "Hens can't be mixed because a flock is a flock and they're very territorial. So they're away from mine out of sight. It's a very peaceful, non-stressful environment."
Katriona said her first guests - who stayed for three weeks - left relaxed and rejuvenated.
She said: "It was lovely, they were busy little hens, always up to something and inquisitive which is what a chicken should be. They do get quite spoilt actually. On a cold morning they have poultry porridge for breakfast then some Layers Mash [chicken feed] or pellets. In the afternoon they get a treat of corn which keeps them warmer throughout the night. Of course, any treat has to be given in moderation otherwise they won't eat their food!"
She has had to refuse any cockerels due to the problems that are caused with noise. Her Facebook page says "hen parties only, no cocks".
Katriona said: "Cockerels are lovely and they're just doing their job. But the only problem is even where I am, which is quite rural, if people complain about the noise and authorities come round and they tell you to get rid of it, you're in the cycle of re-homing."
But she says she is happy to look after any female flock for as long as is required - and will take ducks too. She said: "I haven't had in yet, but I do have some coming in soon. I make some adaptations for ducks, putting the sleeping quarters on the floor, pools of water and ramps to get in and out.
"As long as it doesn't clash with another booking I can take any flock in for as long as needed. And I'm always there - this is 24-hour care, I don't just go out there once a day."
Katriona said her favourite thing about chickens is their ability to make her smile. She added: "We humans are quite lucky to have the privilege of having pets and chickens are no different. They're so rewarding and that's priceless."