We bought our first chickens this past spring, in March. They were mature laying chickens, and we bought them and their coop: five hens and one rooster. They were mixed breeds: one Ameraucana (sp?) and one Buff Orpington and then three mixed breed ones, along with the rooster... I think he's a RIR cross: he has feathered feet. The coop was one of those that you commonly see Amish made. Here's a picture: We made a run into the garden, under that raised bed you see behind the coop. At first, the Ameraucana and the Buff Orpinton were the regular layers, and one of the others layed every other day. So, we had 2-3 eggs per day. As soon as they were acclimated to "this is your new home" we let them free range for half of each day, after the eggs were laid. They had been used to free range in their former home, and we love having them do it, but we are getting 1-2 eggs per day, even though the Ameraucana soon chose to run to the old barn to lay. We found her clutch after about three days, and took them, and after that she started to hide her eggs and I don't think we've gotten one from her since, despite shutting her in for a full half day (up till 3 PM) most days of the summer. She just crosses her legs and waits! The Buff Orpington hen went broody in one of the nesting boxes after about six weeks here. We thought it was great. She gathered and sat on 11 eggs, and successfully hatched and raised four of them! They are super cute, and now they run in a mob all by themselves during the day. We call them "The Teenagers." At night they sleep in the above coop with the eldest birds. Meanwhile, we loved having chickens so much that we decided to convert an old grain barn on our property to a chicken coop. We call it "Chez Poulez" because it's so roomy...and we bought new peeps in early June. We bought and raised 7 guinea fowl and 8 chickens, a few of which are, of course, roosters. Along with these chicks, we bought a beautiful hen (Goldie, we call her) who is a mixed breed but lays greenish eggs, who faithfully laid her eggs in Chez Poulez behind a board in the corner, on the floor all summer. As these chicks have neared aldulthood, they have about 14' X 14' interior, a small run, and free range for most of the day. On warm days they like to hang out under Chez Poulez or roam the farm. (Thanks for reading this far... I'm getting to the discouraging part...) Well, we're now getting ready for winter. We need to kill the roosters... and I can't figure out how to identify them. How do you effectively tell the hens from the roosters? Then, as I was deep cleaning the coop in preparation for winter, I created better (I thought) nesting boxes. I made them out of plastic milk crates, covered by a board for darkness, and filled with shavings and straw... not completely clean. Now, Goldie has begun to hide her eggs... she won't lay in the boxes. Any ideas on how to get her laying in the new boxes? For all the feed we give these birds, I'm getting one egg per day, total. Doesn't seem like a sustainable situation to us... Finally, I'm completely confused about bedding. After we butcher the roosters, we'll have 7 guineas and 5-7 chickens... I think (again, I can't tell you how many are roosters...?). From what I read of the delicate balance needed for deep bed method, and the drawbacks of sand... I'm confused. Help?