Hiring a Farm Sitter for Your Homestead

When you have a farm, it can be difficult to leave the animals behind for a vacation or other trip, but sometimes life necessitates that you get away. While many people offer pet sitting and house sitting services, farm chores and animal care requires specific skills and experience, so finding great farm sitters can be a little more challenging.

If you know that you're going to have to leave your farm, start looking for a farm sitter early on. Finding someone with the skills necessary to step into your role can be a challenge, but with perseverance and a clear understanding of the care your facility and animals need, you can find someone who's the right fit and who is willing to embrace your farm life.

Start with clear expectations.

When you're preparing to hire a farm sitter, be upfront with just what type of work they'll be doing. Will your facility require full-time care, with the farm sitter spending most of their day and all of their night at the homestead? Or do you have more of a hobby farm that requires just a few check-ins throughout the day? Spell out the types of care that your animals will need, from milking to dog walking to holding horses for the farrier.

Sit down and write out these responsibilities, since this will help you to determine the skills and experience that your ideal pet sitter or farm sitter needs. Farm animals require specialized care, so a general pet sitter may not have the skill set necessary to identify when a horse is in the midst of a colic episode or to spot when a cow's calving is going wrong.

Spelling out the details of what you need from your farm sitter will also help you to arrive at a fair price. Farm sitting rates vary from location to location, and the number of animals and the type of care that they require will also affect the rate that you can expect to pay. While there is no set universal farm sitting rate, ask your farm sitter what they would charge. If they do a great job, give them a tip to encourage them to farm sit for you again in the future.

Look for the right fit.

You can find farm sitters in any number of ways. One of the best ways may be to ask other farm owners for referrals and recommendations of good farm sitters in your area. Ideally, ask for these referrals from farmers who have the same types of animals that you do, so you'll know that the sitter has the experience you're looking for. You might also ask your local feed store for any recommendations, and your vet may know of farm sitters in your area.

You might choose to have your neighbors or friends step in to farm sit. If they have experience working with your animals already, this may be an ideal situation for short trips. For longer trips, though, it can be difficult for neighbors or friends to be able to take on that larger workload.

Some pet sitting companies may have sitters who also have experience with farm animals. This can be more of a stretch, but you may be able to find a good fit for a smaller hobby farm.

Set your farm sitter up for success.

Your job isn't over once you've found your farm sitter - now you need to set them up for a successful stay. Have your farm sitter over for a visit or two so that they can meet the animals, tour your farm, and see the ins and outs of how your property works. Walk them through anything they might find difficult, like starting the pellet stove or identifying which horse goes into which stall at night. Be sure to also show them where emergency shutoffs, like your power main and your water cutoff, are located, just in case.

When it's time to leave, write out a detailed list of directions. Organize this list by time of day so that it's easy for your farm sitter to navigate. Provide contact information for your neighbors or local friends who can help out in an emergency, and leave a phone number where you'll be available for questions or in the case of an emergency. Don't forget to also provide contact information for your animals' vets in case the sitter can't reach you.

Leaving your farm in someone else's hands can be an unsettling feeling, but a great farm sitter can make the experience low-stress. By taking the time to hire a talented sitter, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your property and all of your animals will receive the care and attention they need while you're away.

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