Hello, everyone, I have been lurking here for the last few months and trying to absorb as much as I can. I'd be very grateful if you would point me to other places in the forum, if I'd be more appropriate there. I am from and currently live in Miami, FL. At some point in 2011, I am planning to move to the suburban Boston area (where I previously spent 18 years). Part of my "growing roots" there will be to have an organic vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens, both of which I have always wanted and been unable to have. I'll want my chickens to be pets, mostly, with the added benefits of providing manure for my garden, and eggs. I currently have greyhound dogs and previously raised an iguana. I've never had chickens before. The majority of my bird experience has come from my best friend's cockatoo. Perhaps it will be a year before I actually GET my chickens. In the meantime, I'm trying to learn as much as I can. So far, I've researched and decided on: - Coop (~4x8 OR 6x8) and run size (~8x16) - Birds will be free-roaming, with supervision, locked in coop at night - Diet (organic) - Deep-litter substrate - Will vaccinate against both Mareck's and coccidiosis - Have already found a list of avian/chicken vets in the area, for emergencies and fecal tests - Starting with day-old chicks - Breeds, one of each: australorp, delaware, faverolles, orpington, plymouth rock, rhode island red, wyandotte Questions: Flock: I've (randomly) decided on getting a small flock of 8 hens. I've also randomly fallen in love with 8 different cold-hardy breeds. I plan to get day-old chicks all at once, one of each. Would having this kind of "blended family" be less than great idea, for any reason? Is it unwise to mix breeds like this, as chicks? Coop safety: Are regular old surface bolts enough to keep raccoons out of my coop/run, or do I need fancier locking hardware? Sweetness: I'm fairly familiar with parrots, though I'm new to chickens. If I raise my chickens all together from scratch and pick them up and handle them every day, is there a possibility that I may still not wind up with sweet friendly chickens? Deworming: Why doesn't everyone deworm their chickens? And for those who do, why isn't it normal to have a fecal flotation and direct smear done first? I'm trying to understand what looks like a shotgun approach to worming that I'm seeing among chicken keepers. Why would I NOT want a fecal floatation and direct smear first, to determine WHICH, if any, worms or protozoans my flock had? Coccidiosis: Some of you are providing medicated feed to build up immunity to this disease. Why might I, or might not, want to vaccinate, instead? Thank you very much for any and all thoughts you may have. I've learned so much here, already, and I still have a long, long way to go. I hope you are well. Yvette.