Spotlight on… Ruffles Hen Hotel
Are you interested in running a Chicken Hotel, but unsure whether it’s for you? Come and meet some of the people who are successfully running their Chicken Hotel business on Betsy.
Bex Maynard – Ruffles Hen Hotel
Bex is the owner of Ruffles Hen Hotel. She has looked after chickens all her life, so running a Chicken Hotel was an easy decision to make. It combined her hobby and love of chickens with a side business that she could enjoy.
Bex is always happy to help with advice and care ideas for her customers. She was happy to be interviewed by us to share her thoughts on running a Chicken Hotel business. Hopefully, this might answer a few questions for you, and perhaps get you started on setting up your very own Chicken Hotel business!
Why start a Chicken Boarding business?
Bex told me that when she first heard about it through an advert she thought it sounded like a really good idea. After moving to her new home in the countryside she missed keeping chickens and wanted some more. Having a chicken boarding business meant that she didn’t have to go anywhere, they could come to her! When she needs to go away she can just block out the dates on her Betsy calendar, it’s so simple.
Getting started with chicken keeping
All her life she has had hens. Bex spent her early life on a farm, so they had hens on and off over the years. Thankfully now she has a bit more space so she has added Eggmerelda, Lucky, and LoulouBelle to her family. Bex took them on last year, they were re-homed ex-commercial hens that she knew she could give a better life to. She has had some ups and downs with them as the flock got established in their new home. Every experience has helped her to become a better chicken keeper and more aware of what to look out for.
So far (touching wood) Bex says that they haven’t had any trouble with foxes or vermin. Their home is on the edge of a very small village in the country and they haven’t even seen a fox yet. However, she understands how important it is to shut her hens away at night and to make sure that someone is taking good care to do the same when she is away. Bex says she thinks that’s one of the most important things you can do for their protection.
What is it like keeping chickens?
Bex just adores them, she says that you will always get really attached to your hens, they’re really fun animals with so many quirks. She has often re-homed ex-commercial hens, it’s so nice to give them a real home and see them thrive in a loving environment. Bex has also bought different breeds in the past. Some of her favourites have been Speckled Sussex, she describes them as being really friendly and just lovely birds. Bex also had Ameraucanas which she just loved for their beautiful blue eggs. Black copper Marans are on a future wish list, the dark mahogany eggs are just gorgeous.
Quite often Bex will give her own hens some sweetcorn as a treat, or put lettuce or cucumber in a hanging feeder which gives them a bit more interest in their runs. This is particularly important during Flockdown [government imposed movement restriction due to seasonal avian flu]. The feeders are hung up on part of a kid’s climbing frame. Bex excitedly describes how her chickens just love it! Often jumping on to perch or just playing around it. Her customers often ask where they can get it from. Keeping her guests happy is clearly a priority for this first-class Chicken Hotelier.
There are always funny moments with chickens, that’s why they make such great pets according to her. Bex recalls how one day she had let her own chickens out to roam free. As usual, she used her trick of going out with some sweetcorn to entice them back into roost, but she couldn’t find one. It turned out the third one was in the middle of laying an egg in the nest box. She wasn’t about to miss out on her treats though so she ran out of the coop, with her egg falling out of her as she ran to get her corn!
What housing do you need?
At the moment Bex has 4 runs and 5 houses, soon she hopes to have another house free. All the houses that she has are Eglus. When she first came across this brand she just thought they were a gimmick, but she says that they are just excellent. They are so easy to clean and they last for a long time with no place for nasties to hide in. So they are particularly good for Chicken Hotels and doing quicker changeovers. She doesn’t
like the wheels though. They might be good on level ground but on the bumpy farmland they get stuck. Being a handy person she has made some adjustments to the runs and houses to enable them to be more easily moved. Her runs are made using heavy-duty welded mesh to make them really strong. Bex is not a fan of the modern weak chicken wire that just would not stand up to a fox attack. The security for our chickens and our guests is our top priority, they rely on us to take care of them, Bex says.
Her most recent purchase is a flexible nest box mat that will cushion eggs as they get laid. It makes it easier to clean and wash down and also stops them from getting cracked and then eaten. She says that this is particularly important for her own chickens who are getting a bit old and their eggs are getting a bit thinner. Bex tries to give them the calcium they need through their feed and grit supplements, but due to their age they are getting thinner or even shelless!
What about feeding chickens?
As a standard Bex uses corn and smallholders layers pellets because they don’t have soya. Through her own experience and research, she has decided that soya should not be a part of her pet’s diets and not for her. Bex says that she uses a lovely local feed supplier and tries to keep the feed as natural and simple as possible.
In her experience, Bex says that Bantams have become very popular as pets, perhaps due to their size and how easy they are to keep. As a result, the smallholders feed is ideal as the size is quite small so it’s suitable for them and for any larger size. If customers want to bring their own feed or special treats for
their hens, then she is willing to give that to them too. Bex is very conscious of not wanting to change a hen’s diet when the change of location and environment is enough of a change for them already.
When it’s the right time of the year Bex likes to supplement her chicken’s diet with “Cleavers”, otherwise known as goosegrass. It has a lot of natural nutrients in it and her chickens love it. She says that wilted nettles are also a good natural food, full of iron, that is great for their diet. Her top tip is to try to teach your own chickens to use a (“grandpa”) treadle feeder. Bex says that it was very entertaining teaching her chickens how to use it, but it’s worth it in the end as it stops vermin or wild birds from eating the feed and spreading diseases. Bex takes their food in every night for the same reason, she also hangs their water up (stopping muck and rats from drinking it)
Any problems you have come across?
Some of her customers aren’t used to catching their chickens. Bex will always explain that the best thing to do is to wait until they have gone to roost to catch them on their perches. Otherwise, they can be very difficult to catch indeed. Another problem that customers sometimes have is working out what to bring them in. Some come in cardboard boxes or dog crates. People need to think about how they transport them, she says, for instance, if it’s a metal crate make sure that there’s cardboard on the bottom so that their feet don’t go through and get caught when you move them. In fact, there is a helpful article on Betsy’s blog page about transporting chickens.
Disinfecting the coops and runs is really important for her business but Bex will go that extra mile to ensure no cross-contamination. She puts all her feeders and waterers through the dishwasher to ensure they are thoroughly clear. This is just one of the ways in which she cares for her customers and their chickens. Bex wants her customers to know that their pets are being well cared for, so she sends them lots of photos during their stay, they always appreciate them. She has also been known to make cakes for her customers using their own eggs!
Using Betsy for your Chicken Hotel
Overall Bex says that the Betsy website works really well for her, “It does just what I need” she says. Being able to block out dates that she can’t do is something she finds really useful. Listening to our Chicken Hotel owners is really important to us at Betsy. Bex has already made a couple of suggestions that we have happily listened to. Her latest request is to have somewhere for customers to leave reviews for her Hotel. We think that’s an excellent idea, so we will be looking to establish a connection with Trust pilot so that reviews are independent and customers know they can trust them. Bex has had nothing but glowing recommendations from her customers. She says that the fact that customers keep coming back is the best testimonial for her. One customer even booked up for three visits this year, “I think that says it all!” she says.
How should you manage your listing on Betsy?
Bex says that if people have the space to set up with an extra run and coop, they should definitely join Betsy. Particularly if they didn’t want to have the tie of having their own chickens. Her recommendation is to really think about the photographs you use in your advert. She suggests that when you’re taking photos of your set up you have to think about how you frame your pictures. You’ve got to think of it as – would you be happy for your hens to be in that environment? If not then how could you improve it or present it in a photo to best show it off? Think of the descriptions as well, tell people about yourself and your experience. To customers, their chickens are their beloved pets, they have never met you so make sure they understand that you know what you’re doing and that your hotel will take the very best care of their needs.