Fancy getting away from it all for a bit? Need to attend to some family business? How on earth do you go about leaving the place, with all that needs looking after?
Well it can be done with a little prior planning and preparation. Depending on how much needs attending to whilst you are away, will depend on who you can ask and how often they need to visit.
Friends and neighbours can be called upon to put chickens to bed and let out in the mornings, but their level of knowledge and confidence will depend on how much more they feel they can cope with; someone more professional with more experience may be needed, who will come and house-sit full-time. The appointed person will come and ‘live-in’ for the duration of your holiday, giving you peace of mind whilst you are away with regards to security. This works excellently if you have household pets, e.g. dogs and cats, as it means their routine is not disturbed. All your required jobs will be fulfilled by the sitter, i.e. all animal feeding and watering, dog walking, polytunnels/greenhouse watered.
Finding a house sitter, can be a little problematic in itself. Who is capable, knowledgeable and trustworthy? Word of mouth is an excellent way, as you get an instant reference as a bonus. Local smallholding societies who produce monthly magazines may advertise someone local, plus the internet is a good place to hunt too. The person you choose ideally should be CRB checked, have full third party liability insurance and be able to provide references for you to follow up.
Before committing yourself, you should arrange for them to come for a pre-holiday visit, to view the property and you all get to meet in person. This gives you an ideal opportunity to see if the person is suitable, if you like them, (they are staying in your house after all), and if they are willing to take the job. Post visit you can, discuss payment, duties, start and finish dates. Be prepared to pay a reasonable amount, labour is not cheap and they will be responsible for your property twenty four hours a day.
Whoever you choose, you need to make sure the appointed person understands exactly what needs doing. Draw up a comprehensive list of duties, e.g.
AM – Feed and top up water. Collect eggs
PM – Let out. Collect eggs
EVE – Close up run and pop hatch. Remove feed hopper to shed
· Leave contact details for yourself and where you are staying, including any mobile numbers.
· Leave details of where all feed and equipment is kept and where the keys are if any buildings are locked.
· Notify Vets and the knacker man that you are away and who is staying in your place. Also leave their contact details in the house for emergencies.
· Let neighbours/close friends know who is staying, in case they pop in ‘on the off chance’.
· Leave details of household necessities – bin collection days, stop taps, electricity meters.
· Anything else you can think of – Central heating squeaks when first comes on, tap drips in kitchen, any vehicles being left at home, for security purposes.
Your expectations of the house sitter should be reasonable too. Don’t expect them to take your dogs for a five mile walk if you don’t. Make sure your feed and forage supply is adequate for the duration of their stay. Also ensure your fencing is secure – enough said! If it’s winter time, ensure a plentiful supply of heating fuel – oil, coal, logs, whatever it is you use. The easier and more comfortable you make it for them, the more likely they are to want to come back.
The whole process may seem daunting at the outset, for both parties, but if the house-sitter is experienced in these matters, then all will be well, leaving you to relax and enjoy your time away in confidence.