The key to having a good experience with a backyard flock is careful planning and breed selection. The first step is to select a coop. Although more expensive, the plastic coops - Eglu, Formex, Brinsea - have fewer issues with mites and are incredibly easy to clean. A good run is also a necessity; the average backyard does not have anything remotely resembling adequate forage. Free ranging in the average tree lawn means starvation and nutritional imbalances. Breed selection is also paramount. To have the least drama in the coop, select birds of all the same breed and color. Birds that are a different color, different temperament, or different comb shape will be attacked by the others. Crested breeds should not be kept with non-crested breeds as they will probably be victimized since they can't always see a more aggressive bird approaching. Leghorns will happily kill meat hybrids and less aggressive dual purpose breeds. Choose breeds from the calmer, quieter more traditional small farm and courtyard breeds. These include many of the classic American dual purpose breeds, and those British breeds that descend from the chickens brought inside at night by cottagers. Very good birds for this purpose are the Dominiques - who can be very lively and may not be a good choice with small children; California Grays, Plymouth Rocks, Orpingtons, Sussex, Buckeyes, Iowa Blues, and a few others - Cochins and Brahmas are good if your interests run more to pets than eggs; Jersey Giants are fine if you provide housing large enough for these fascinating birds. Remember that larger birds eat more feed. Most of the Mediterranean breeds and many Continental breeds are too high strung and noisy for the average backyard; they also tend to have a nasty tendency to cannibalism, even when uncrowded. Feather legged birds seem more likely to have mite problems and have difficulty foraging since it is more difficult for them to scratch. Feeding is simple. Chickens eat chicken feed. Purchase starter feed or starter and grower feed for chicks. Be careful to purchase the correct kind - broiler feed is too high in protein and calories for egg layers. Layers need a complete layer ration and supplemental oyster shell. They will also need grit if you feed them greens and other treats. Do not trust a backyard to have adequate grit in the soil for chickens. Follow manufacturer's directions on which life stage to feed a specific feed. Generally I switch from a starter/grower to laying chow after the first pullet begins to lay. Chicks should be immunized for Marek's. Find a supplier who immunizes for Marek's in order to avoid heartbreak. Chicks should either be immunized for coccidiosis or should receive a feed containing a coccidiostat - otherwise your young chickens may die horrible early deaths. I currently keep an older Black Star hen and some replacement Dominique pullets hatched last spring. Dominique pullets are very "gamey", and if you have Dominiques, you may begin to wonder if your birds are cockerels as they fluff up and hold dramatic fights worthy of a game cock. No birds seem to get injured, but it can be a shock if you are more used to staid Barred Rocks or Sussex. I have kept white Leghorns. Like most Mediterranean breeds they are nervous, noisy, tend to be human avoidant, and enjoy flying over fences into neighboring yards. They are also highly cannibalistic and will literally amputate each others toes. Unless you are prepared to deal with severely injured chicken feet, complaining neighbors, and animal control, they are not the best choice for the backyard unless confined to prevent escape or you are willing to clip their wings. You must also be willing to undertake drastic measures to prevent cannibalism - be it chicken bits or beak trimming to dull the end of the beak. Chicken bits mean you must use a wide trough type feeder. I kept Leghorns as part of a project that involved earning money with their high egg production - but I would never keep them for fun. White Leghorn bantams are less cannibalistic and far less human avoidant; but they still sail like a witch over fences.