Ok, I need help. New to keeping chickens this year, and have some questions. Background - Bought 5 Buff Orpingtons and 5 Speckled Sussex hatched April 29. They shipped fine including an extra BO. I read this board like it was the chicken bible, made a nice little brooder, kept them warm and happy and well fed. Played with them, trained them, several managed to name themselves. Samantha (BO) and Thumbelina (SS runt) in particular were very sweet, loving little fuzzy butts. They learned to jump up onto my hand on cue. Pretty stupid thing to do if you realize that in a few weeks one chicken foot isn't going to fit in the palm of my hand, but as I said I'm new to this. At about 12 - 14 weeks, my growing suspicions were confirmed when Samantha began to crow. He turned out to be an arrogant little twit, but we came to an understanding and the other chickens put up with him. Precocious, too - he was desperate to jump the girls, but the girls were just not interested. He never tried to jump one of the BO's, though - yep, a second roo. Sam was a good provider and guard for the flock, with Big Bird's help bringing up the rear. The chickens are cooped at night, but are totally free to explore our property all day. They stay near the house, within a few hundred yards usually. There's lawn, meadow, and scrub woodland with trees about 25-35 ft high and they like it all. We lost Thumbelina first, to a raccoon I think judging from the remains. I was hysterical. We buried her on the hill where our dogs are sleeping the long sleep. This chicken came when I called, sat on my lap for petting, pecked at the front door if she didn't think she'd had enough treats that day. She loved learning new things, especially when the trade off was mealworms. She was a pet just as much as the cats or dogs. We lost her between the hours of 4 and 6 in daylight. We spent a few nights laying in wait for raccoons to show up, as we had seen a mom and two little ones a couple of weeks prior to losing Thumbelina, but they never appeared again. We figured it was a single incident, and we were right. About the raccoons. A few weeks later, we heard a huge squawking and to-do behind the house while we were at the bottom of the driveway. I ran up to find a big puff of feathers on the ground, and very upset chickens, one of whom was terrified, wouldn't come near me and kept trying to hide in the woods. I finally got Barbie to come to me and found a huge gash in her back, which we washed and treated and put her in a dog crate for a couple of nights. My DH said that as I turned the corner to the back of the house, a huge hawk rose and circled around. We had never seen such a large hawk in the area, and identifed it as a Broadwing Hawk, one that migrates through this area in early fall. We had kept the chickens in the coop unless one of us was right there for a couple of days, but hadn't seen the hawk again so let them out all day again. Barbie was beginning to heal, so we put her back with the flock to range again. The next day we got home just at dusk to find that instead of 10 chickens we only had 5. There were some feather explosions around, and I don't think much else. Not sure as I couldn't go look, made the DH do it. He's sure it was hawks, plural, and it turns out they do stay in this area for several days, collecting into a larger group before continuing south. Good riddance. We bought a Mossberg and keep it by the door. Now, we have Big Bird the roo, Dirty Bird the BO (she keeps going under the Jeep and coming out with stains all over her tail feathers) and three Sussex girls. Yes, the hawks got Barbie before she was even healed. The flock dynamics have changed. Big Bird tries to keep them in line, but he isn't a very assertive roo, whereas Sam used to make them march, literally. They went where he said, ate when and what he said - he was a little Napoleon. They all seem to think I am the head rooster now, as they all come running full tilt whenever they see me. Sam seemed to instill them with more of a spirit of distrust, because now they come closer as a flock than they did when he was alive. So, first question - is this bad? I've taught them not to follow the Jeep when I drive away, but I can't go check the mail without them following me and I don't want them near the road. I can send them back, but they insist on following again once my back is turned. Do they think I'm the boss roo because I feed them and give them treats, or are they just being social as well as looking for handouts? They hang around my DH when he is working around the place, but don't mob him like they do me. Second question - when are these little remaining freeloaders going to start giving me eggs??? They are 23 weeks now. If they are laying them outside, they are well hidden. They are not under the porch, or the shed, or any of the places chickens have been observed to go. And they've been in the coop sometimes til late morning - does no one lay a morning egg? This morning some of the hay had been pulled out of one of the nest boxes and there might have been someone trying to make a little nest in it, otherwise no interest in the nest boxes. (I haven't curtained them off yet, but it's pretty dark and private in that corner of the coop anyway). Is it possible that the trauma of losing half the flock put them off egg production? Shouldn't they be laying by now? I know it varies, but by all reports both Orps and Sussex are early, good layers, and good winter layers as well. Question - do even breeds purported to be good winter layers need extra light to do so? I'm in Maine, so days are short and nights chilly already. And if they do need extra light to lay, I'm not sure I want to do that. I'm free ranging them and allowing them to live as natural a life as possible while still protecting them at night - isn't adding artificial light going against that idea? Are there any ill effects reported from lengthening their day? Does it shorten their life spans, reduce their useful egg-laying years? Or just keep them from having Seasonal Affective Disorder? (kidding). Last question - why isn't Big Bird trying to jump the girls? All he does is peck nastily at the other Orp sometimes, lets them all take treats from his beak, and get upset and holler for them to get back together when the flock becomes too separated for his liking. Not much in the way of leadership qualities never mind having sex on his brain. Does he not think he's entitled if he thinks I'm the boss? Oh, and the girls don't show any of the signs of maturity that I've read about - squatting and such. So, are my birds developmentally challenged, will they not lay til spring unless I give them light, and should I? And if Big Bird figures out the whole sex thing, are 4 hens too few? Whew! Sorry this is so long, but I've got all these months of chicken ownership and I've hardly posted at all. Making up for lost opportunities, I guess. Thanks in advance for any insights or suggestions.