Greetings! I have never owned chickens, nor did I ever believe I would have the desire to do so! In recent months I have been doing research and am now excited to get my first chickens in the very near future! My family lives on 15 acres in a rural area. We have horses, cats, and a rescue cockapoo. We are in the process of converting one of our smaller buildings into a chicken coop and as soon as it is ready I hope to bring home some hens! I am most excited about their insect control! We have had terrible ticks in recent years. In fact, my now-15-year-old son was hospitalized last summer (2013) with a tick-borne illness. The bonus of having natural bug predators is fresh eggs! We have a friend who is interested in culling his flock of bantam salmon favorelles, so I am hoping he is still interested when my coop is ready. My concerns are keeping my hens safe from hawks (we see them in our area) as well as keeping them happy during our cold midwestern winters. My desire is to allow the chickens to free range during the day (to maximize our insect patrol) and securing them in their safe coop at night. I have spent many hours on BYC gathering information for keeping our new family members healthy, happy, and safe! Thank you to all for your ideas, suggestions, creativity, and sharing!