We are getting 4 or 6 (haven't decided yet) 2-week-old chicks next week. This is our first time owning chickens. We only want hens (if we guess the sex wrong and get roosters, we will immediately find them new homes) and we only want them for laying eggs and as beloved pets. I have lots of questions: 1. Any recommended chick food brand? We like to eat/feed as naturally as possible, but at the same time we can't afford the most expensive stuff on the market. Looking for good quality and good price. 2. I know to keep food available 24/7, so if I leave out a decent size bowl for 4-6 baby chicks, how often do you think I'll need to fill the bowl? 3. We live in central Florida in a neighborhood, so large predators will never be a problem. Maybe hawks, owls, and cats will be the most dangerous predators. At what age/size will it be safe to let the chicks free range in our large fenced-in back yard unattended? 4. For a first timer with new chicks, what would you recommend as far as number of chicks: 4 or 6? I've read that chickens can be aggressive with each other, and I don't want a lot for fear of them getting in fights. Would 4 be less likely to fight than 6? 5. I know their poop can be composted and put to good use. Will they poop anywhere and everywhere in the yard to where maybe I won't be able to find it in the grass? Or do they normally poop in the coop (haha) in a specific place where I can easily collect it to add to compost pile? 6. I read that to get them to lay eggs in the next box, I should put a golf ball in there so they will think it's an egg and always lay their eggs in the box like they're supposed to? Is this really true? Should I always have a golf ball in there from day 1, or wait until they are egg-laying age? 7. When do they start laying eggs? 8. Beside their regular chicken feed, how often should they have treats (healthy table scraps) and how much? What about scratch and meal worms, how often and how much? Again, we like natural and healthy, and I read somewhere that scratch is like candy...is that true? 9. I am so worried they will get mites and lice and get our dog infested then our house will be infested and everything will be disgusting. I was told that they give themselves dust baths and that's enough to keep them mite and lice free. Is that really true though? Is there any other natural preventative (besides pesticides) I can use to PREVENT mites and lice? And natural preventative to GET RID OF mites and lice if the chickens get them? If they get mites and lice, will the bugs jump on me or my family without us knowing/seeing? I am REALLY concerned about this possibility, any advice on how to prevent bug problems is much appreciated! 10. For added calcium from oyster shells, do I just put whole oyster shells in the coop in a dish or on the ground? Do they just peck at it and get calcium, or do they actually somehow eat oyster shells? How long should I leave oyster shells out there for them? 11. Is it common for them to get all these chicken diseases you read about in chicken magazines, or is disease rare and unlikely? We do not have a lot of wild birds around, other than small birds like mocking birds, blue jays, cardinals, and ground doves. There may be hawks and owls around, but we've never seen them in our yard. There are no other chicken around except far down the road and they never come out of that person's back yard. Should I vaccinate my chickens or are they probably safe from disease? 12. We have 3 cats. I will obviously keep the baby chicks safe in their coop and box while they are still small. At what age/size would it be safe for them to be around the cats? Two of our cats are very docile and I know would never try to attack the chickens, but I could see them scratching if a chicken came close to them. One cat is a meany and might try to attack? I know if the chickens fought back all 3 cats would run away. Do chickens normally defend themselves against cats or just get attacked? 14. The person I am getting the chicks from has chickens and roosters. Does this mean that the eggs my hens will eventually lay will be fertilized for sure, meaning they'll definitely hatch baby chicks if I let them get to that point? Again, we only want eggs for eating. Is there a chance that if we take the egg and leave it in the fridge for a week or so, will it have that red dot thing inside that I've been told is a baby chicken fetus and should not be eaten? Please advise on this, I don't want us to eat a bad egg or put an egg in the fridge only to crack it and find a dead baby chicken fall out. Yikes! 15. Any other suggestions or advice for a first-time chicken raiser only wanting hens for laying eggs and being sweet, cuddly pets? Thank you!