First, hello everyone. I've been coming to this site and forum ever since I started keeping outdoor birds--I am relatively new to chickens, starting with two Southern States Easter chicks in 2009 purchased for my three-year old son, though I've kept birds (parakeets, finches, parrotlets) since very young. The passing of a parakeet that never quite got tame was sort of the catalyst for chickens. And in all honesty, I find the behavior and antics of chickens so much more interesting than indoor birds. Also a lot easier and less maintenance! I have 23 chickens and 3 female mallards currently. We just finished off 17 cornish X and processed them today, keeping them in outdoor, open-air coops, and letting them range for their last three weeks on the half acre with my layers and silkie rooster, The Squarks. Meat birds are a new experience, and I don't think I'll do Cornish cross again--my coops have never really stank before, and these birds are pretty hard on the nose. Interestingly enough, I only had two losses, and those two died due to stress when loading on the pickup for processing. I've kept a number of breeds: barred rock, Tractor Supply and Southern State "assorted" reds and whites," leghorns, Ameracauna, blue laced Wyandotte, speckled sussex, silkies, Saipan jungle fowl. Inadvertently I created a pretty neat hybrid strain between blue laying Ameracauna and Saipan jungle fowl. The results have been long-necked, skinny birds who lay blue 60% of the time, and combs and waddles are practically nonexistent. Unfortunately we lose the Saipan sire due to illness or old age and the progenitor mother to a neighbor dog attack. I'm currently in the fourth generation of these hybrids, and I even have some silkie crosses, which are really unique and interesting. They look more like exotic indoor birds than poultry. I'm just hoping the little silkie eggs will turn out blue. The one drawback to this mix is the broodiness--I think it's the jungle fowl as my original blue Am. was never broody a day in her life, but 75% of the hens go broody from time to time, and they're a mean broody and lousy mothers. The silkie genes thrown into the mix will only exacerbate the problem, but at least my silkies are easy to get off the nest. As to how I found the forum.... well, I think it's impossible for any "backyard" chicken owner not to find this place and the wealth of resources. I also keep tropical fish among 7 diverse aquariums. I kept a nano reef system for years but finally gave in after an algae strike that wouldn't quit... and this was after two system shut-downs and nearly full do-overs. I have African cichlids (Lake Malawi), two south American biotopes (a discus, ghost knife, royal pleco tank and a silver dollar and soon to be arrowana 180 g tank), and a planted mixed 20 g long. I look forward to getting to know the regular posters and finally de-lurking and taking part in the community. I love seeing pictures of all the various hybrids (my favorite being a Polish and silkie X) and will share some pics of coop, which is not exactly your standard chicken home. When I first started out in 2009, I was shocked at the outrageous prices for the most basic of chicken coops, ranging from 300 dollars up (for two birds!), and I vowed to DIY and do it as cheaply and efficiently as possible. The result is a McDonald's playgym jumble, constructed of material that could have been found from a heap of plane and cargo ship wreckage. Living in a moderate climate where temps rarely get below 20 degrees, I subscribe to the open air philosophy. I utilize solar and electric lights for nighttime security and also a number of traps which I set regularly, and catch predators regularly (the best defense for a backyard flock in my opinion because no matter how tight your coop is constructed, you can never count for human error such as forgetting to shut them in one night, which I of course fell prety to at wrong time when a fox decided to attack). My avatar pic is Flammie, my original blue Am. who is the mother of my hybrids. She was ripped out of the coop one night by a "family friendly" dog, who earlier that day had attacked and killed two of my silkies right in front of me and my 5 year old son--and these were birds we raised in the house as chicks. Of all the predators I've dealt with and controlled (possum, skunk, raccoon, fox), far and away the worst has been a neighborhood dog. Ultimately we put up a woven wire fence around our entire 1 acre property to stop this on-going threat, as we live in an area without leash laws and neighbors who couldn't give a care about their own pets as well as livestock of others. Anyway, it's been months since our fence went up, and no more dog attacks. Looking forward to meeting everyone!