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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DW is considering starting an animal caretaking business as a sideline to make some extra money.

She has experience with most typical farm animals from having grown up on a small-scale farm. We are not talking about a boarding service; this would occur in the clients home/farm/ranch.

Does anyone do this type of service?

What are the ins and outs?

How do you come to knowing what to charge? We want to keep it affordable and figure some money coming in is better than no money.

Thanks in advance.
 

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I have a friend who does this full time in the Austin, Texas, area. If you don't get any response here, I'll see if she would be willing to email with you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have a friend who does this full time in the Austin, Texas, area. If you don't get any response here, I'll see if she would be willing to email with you.
Thanks!

I don't see any major drawbacks. DW is pretty available most of the time and it's been our experience in the past that people always need someone to look after their animals when they are gone and may have a hard time finding someone.
 

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I did it whe I lived in Fl.
First, know your area. I did it where I used to live, and would have had no trouble starting up in a few other places, but wouldn't dare do it in my current location. There are too many people who think their meal ticket should come from "setting up" pet sitters, housesitters, handymen, housecleaner. The only one's who do anything like that around here are sure to start or join a corporation and carry a huge insurance policy and are lisenced and bonded. So just something to be aware of.

Places that I've done it, my advertising has all been word of mouth. I do an interview with the family and visit the home/farm before I agree to sit. Taking care of three horses in different set ups can take hugely different amounts of time. Also, often someone will say on the phone something like, "Oh, I just have 2 dogs and a cat."And then you get there and there are 3 fishtanks that they want you to feed, and Juniors snake doesn't really need anything but please make sure the water's clean and the light stays on, oh, and could you water the plants?? So never give a price over the phone, and never say you'll take the job over the phone.

About pricing. I never had ayone offended when I said pricing was on a case-by-case basis depeding on the needs of the animal. If someone has 4 large dogs, but they all get on well and you can exersize them in thir own fenced yard and they happily nosh kibble, and another person has 2 small dogs, but they both need specially prepared food and individual walks on leash and are long coated and need brushed every day, guess who is getting charged more even though they have less animals?

You want to start pricing by giving yourself a good hourly wage. Estimate how many hours each client will take and be sure to include drive time in that. If they are distant, add a little to cover gas. Then determine a per-pet charge based on how difficult each pet will be. Some households will get a significant multiple pet discount but for some it won't be worth it. Unless someone has a huge and/or expensive collection always offer to water plants and feed fish for free. Do the courtesy of bringing in mail and papers and if you are giving in-house care of pets (as opposed to barnyard only) it is highly appreciated if you sweep out the kitchen or quickly run the vac the day before they get home - pets still drag dirt in and shed. BUT if ever at any time a client takes advantage of your excellent service - drop them like a hot rock!!!

Unless it is an emergency for a long-established client never, ever agree to watch any animal that needs medical care or has severe age-related condition. The very last thing you want is for some poor creature to die on your watch. If anyone mentions pills, find out what they're for. Giving an old-timer a glucosamine pill is fine, but anything serious, sorry, you can't do it. Even if everyone is in perfect health, get the vet's name and number, permission to call them and an agreement in writing from the owners that you have their permission to bring the animal to the vet (or call the vet out for big guys) for any reason you deem neccesary and the owner will pay for it. But unless the animal is in dire straights - don't call the vet. You call if they are bleeding, need stitches, have a broken limb, have siezures, if you come in and Fuffy has been chewing on the bottles under the kitchen sink, etc.
You do not call if they seem depressed, don't want to eat, have thrown up or have diarrhea (unless it is bloody or excessive, loose movements in the yard or tossing back dinner don't count, foul little piles everywhere, a nasty tail or a lethargic vomiting pet with pale gums are an emergency). You don't call if they're off their feed or little things. That could simply be the stress of a new caregiver and different routine. For the little things, you spend a little more time there, observe closely, come back earlier the next day and if the pet hasn't improved, call the owners. You often will not find out that Bosco always does that when the owner leaves until you call because the owner is really hoping that this time Bosco won't and they will not appreciate the vet bill.
Also, keep in mind that horses will often take the opportunity of a different care take to attempt suicide. Some animals are just like that and horses are the worst, followed by goats. So even if they always feed them all from one pile and always turn them out with halters on, seperate them and take off the halters before they go in the pasture. I would so much rather explain that windy had no grain because I couldn't catch him then explain that Windy is gone now because he got a hind leg caught behind his ear (in one of those freak accidents horses are famous for) panicked, broke a leg thrashing and there was nothing the vet could do. Explain to clients before hand that for your and the animals safety there are certain things you will not do. If they begin to brush you off with "oh, no, we've done it for xx years...." Politely say that they were there and they won't be now, tht accidents happen and you have your policy to prevent them. If they insist, stand your ground and tell them that perhaps their vet or farrier knows someone else and leave. Better to lose a client by standing your ground. I guarantee that the person who forcefully insisted that the yearlings will be fine at night in the barb-wire paddock will be bad mouthing you from here to forever if one of those yearlings got( predictably) tangled in the wire.

So be even more considerate of the animals safety then the owner at times.
Best of luck in your endeavor!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Boy, lots of great advice there! Thanks! I'll take time and go through the post more carefully when the time comes.

Anyone else?

I really want all the angles; good and bad.
 

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Otter-
Thank you for the eye opening advice!!!!! I have thought about doing this service for farmers needing a vacation...makes me think twice now!!!

Clove
 

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I'm very glad if my experience can help someone!
Clovis, sitting for a commercial farm or a dairy operation is a really serious endeaver. It's not a good idea to try it alone, you need a crew of at least 2 or 3 people. The most animals I ever took care of was 28 ponies, 2 on foal watch. The farm also had 2 dogs and some chicks. That could have been a very intensive job, but the way the farm was set up made it easy, the dogs were outdoor dogs and very good, but the chicks were a PITA. Things like that are why I say you need to see the operation. Bringing hay to the lean-tos in several paddocks and filling water troughs with faucets right there is a very different thing from cleaning out 28 stalls a day and carrying water buckets :O

My advice is to start very small, word of mouth, a weekend here, a few days there. Don't count on it to be a steady income for a while, have a part-time job and think of it as a bonus. This way you can see if it's something you enjoy and if it is you can slowly build a client base and reputation.
 

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I tried to do it while I was out of work a few years ago (just dogs and cats - house animals). I didn't get very far though because everyone asked me if I was 'insured' and I wasn't. Just be prepared that you might get that question. Best of luck to your DW - keep us posted! :)
 
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