hello fabulous fowl-folk! i haven't had chickens since i was a kid- and now that i have kids i am excited to be a good chicken-owner again. there is so much knowledge on this forum- so thank you in advance for any insight or advice you can offer. here's my plan: four laying hens to start. a buff and ameraucana for sure, maybe a white crested polish, perhaps a silver wyandotte...not sure. suggestions? side note: i have two boys, ages 2 and 8 who adore all pets and will be helping out quite a bit in the chicken care. the coop: well, we live in northwest washington state in an argicultural area. our lot is 1/4 acre; however, until we get fencing up around our lot and garden areas- the birds will need to be in some type of run or tractor unless we are outside w/them. we have all sorts of predators of land and sky around here. our neighbors have lost birds to eagles before- my vision is of a modified A frame tractor. the base would be about 4 by 9 ft- with a coop w/roost and nesting box on both ends- each one measuring 3 by 4 ft- with room under the coop area for additional run space. the top would be flat with tight predator-proof wire over it and then covered with an arch of plastic roofing stuff- the kind on patios- whatever that is called. i've read about the "skirt" idea for keeping rodents out of the run area- and will probably go for this. the chickens will be tight in their coop area- but i don't want to feed the rodents and rascals anymore than i already do! so i'd like to keep them out of the chicken feed. i like the look of a double coop- however, i have no idea if this is a good idea! if i were a chicken i would like this idea, me thinks. an optional coop if some other hen was being too broody or what not. but if all 4 hens wanted to be in one of the coops it might be kind of a tight squeeze. comments? inside the coop area i plan to have a solid wood floor covered in linoleum and go for the "deep litter" concept. i plan for one nesting box in each coop area (or is 2 a better idea?) with two roosts at different heights. i was playing with the idea of having a wire or slated wood floor but seems like most folks comment that it creates more problems than it solves. however- wondering if having vent holes drilled in along the perimeter of the floor would be a good idea for vents? also was planning on having a small plexiglass window for light- was curious if this would be frowned upon by chickens in the nesting area? do they prefer darkness? another question- i'd like to be able to have the chickens out of the run while we are outside- with run/coop area open if they want to chill out in there- but i'm wondering if the door for the chickens should only be chicken size in case a random farm dog comes bounding after a bird? lastly- anyone have ways to save the $20 for a feeder and a waterer? i'd like to fashion my own if possible. thanks again- so inspired by all of you!