OK, now that I'm ready (I think) and have compiled tons of information, I still have a few questions before I embark on this brand new adventure. 1. Is there another reason (other than for a heat source) for the bright light in the brooder? Don't the chicks think it's day all the time? And if not, why not? And how do they transition to a day/night (light/dark) environment? Or is this not even an issue? 2. Is it OK to have a penned in coop and let the chickens out for a few hours a day to free range? I'm thinking of only allowing my chickens out of the pen when I am home. This means permenantly giving up a section of my yard. How much space do you think is needed for a pen to contain 6 - 8 chickens comfortably? And the coop should have 4 nesting boxes? 3. Will the chickens know enough to go in their penned in coop at night, or do they have to be put in their coop each night and locked in until morning? Or can we just leave the door to the coop open and they just do as they please? Also we live in upstate NY, do I need a heater for our coop? 4. We're going to have a garden, do I need to keep the chickens out of the garden? Or just until the plants are hearty enough to endure chicken scratchin' etc.? I'm thinking they would be good at keeping the bugs down and they would be able to do some dusting, but I'm not sure. 5. I've decided against roosters for now, until I'm more experienced. So I'd like to start with maybe a total of 6 - 8 hens of various breeds. I would like a few good egg layers like RIR's. But I love the cochins and crested breeds and would also like a few of those. Am I reaching too far for my first time out? I realize I may have to purchase 25, and I imagine 50% will be roosters. I feel terrible that they may come to an early demise though? But not sure how to prevent it. Unless there are sex-linked breeds of RIR's, cochins and cresteds? I can probably find that out for myself, but what are your thoughts on the best sort to start with? I really want chickens that are sweet by nature and not afraid of people. I would appreciate all of your thoughts and advice. Finding this website/forum was a wonderful gift and has convinced me to pursue a dream I've had since childhood.