A CHICKEN hotel may seem like an unusual business idea, but it’s one that is providing a nest egg for former bank workers Peter and Glenda Stoneman.

Set up in 2008, the couple’s Cosy Hen Company in Earlswood near Usk specialises in both breeding and boarding chickens.

Running alongside their alpaca breeding business ‘Amazing Alpacas,’ Mr and Mrs Stoneman decided to provide chicken homes for owners to leave their birds when they go away.

Operating like a dog kennel, Mr and Mrs Stoneman have seen a huge demand for the service and are booked up at peak times such as Christmas and school holidays.

“We have been breeding chickens for about seven years now and we have a range of birds that we breed and sell,” Mr Stoneman said.

“A few years in to it, a couple of people came back to us explaining that their neighbours were going to look after them, but they had been eaten by a fox or whatever, and that got us thinking that maybe we could keep the chickens for them when they were away.”

The chickens are kept in separate plastic housing units instead of wooden, as they are easier to clean and create a bio-secure environment, reducing the risk of contamination.

“It’s increasingly popular, and we are getting repeat business,” Mr Stoneman continued.

“When people go away, they just give us a ring. We have seven units and each is a plastic chicken house which we get from Green Flag Designs made from recycled Dutch bottle tops. They have a nice old life.”

To complete their stay, the Cosy Hen Company also provides the chickens with corn, water, grit and bedding.

Chickens typically stay for two to three days, but they also have the option to stay for much longer periods.

“Chickens are hugely popular due to the whole ‘grow your own’ message in the media,” Mr Stoneman added.

“It has raised the profile for people keeping chickens. What we have seen is people coming back to keeping chickens after years away and young families are buying chickens as a working pet for their children.”

The farm has around 150 chickens and around 30 boarding chickens which stay in different sized houses.

Houses are also cleaned out regularly and each new group is moved onto fresh grass. At the end of their stay, owners are given a selection of eggs laid over their boarding period.

The boarding chickens can be let out each morning and securely locked up at dusk.

Owners of boarding chickens are charged £1.25 + VAT per bird per night, with a 10 percent discount for groups of birds staying for eight nights or more.

Visit www.cosyhens.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @cosyhens