Yes, Celtic... agreed. I read several chicken books cover to cover a few months prior to getting my chickens. I'll read those chapters again. And I'm not too paranoid about the coop right now, because it's brand new... they've been pooping in it for 2 weeks, and I'm using the deep litter method of pine shavings on a wooden floor with plans to clean it out every 6 months... putting the old litter on a compost pile or in one of my compost tumblers for use later in the garden.
There seems to be a bit of a contradiction with what I've read so far regarding histoplasmosis. They say it's NOT in the chickens or in their poop, but is a fungus that is in the soil that the poop feeds. So how would it get in my litter in the coop then, if there is no soil in there? On their feet? Seems like a small amount of soil and very little to worry about. Regardless, any kind of poop dust can't be too healthy, so I'll wear a mask if stirring it up too much.
Thanks for helping put my mind at ease. I still think I'm making a wise decision cutting my flock back to 6. In the beginning, I don't want to waste too much on feed, labor, etc... I already spent $1200 on building the most beautiful coop, including a 275-gallon rainwater collection system from the metal roof I installed that waters the garden and my chickens! I can always buy more pullets next year, and I'm selling the 9 for more than I paid for the 15, but breaking about even when you add up the gas to go get them in Virginia and 2 weeks of layer crumbles. Now, I'll be able to afford better feed (whole corn, etc...) for 6 chickens instead of treating 15 chickens like royalty.
I'm rambling... g'nite!