Hello Everybody - I am new here, as well as new to the world of chickens. I have been reading and gathering information on having a small backyard flock for about two years now. I finally gathered enough confidence to bring home the girls (and I think, a Roo or two). Reading is great for the preliminaries - but there is nothing like hands-on, for really learning the ropes, is there? And as is often the case, the more I have learned --- the more questions I have accumulated. Hence, my post. But first, some background info: - We live in the Midwest, where temperatures at night can still dip into the 40s. - We have four (4) barred rocks age (7) weeks; two Amerucanas age (5) weeks; and two Silver-laced Wyandottes age (5) weeks. - Other chicken people around us are either BIGGER organic operations (w/barns and/or stationary coops) - or - complete free-range, i.e. whatever happens, happens type folk. I suppose we fit on that spectrum somewhere and tend to think of any animals in our care as pets to some degree. - We are working on a cost-effective, economical plan/design for a easy to lift and move tractor with attached pen beneath for predator-protection. Incidentally, we do live near a swamp where there are fox , coons, opossum, skunk and even mink out there. For the present, we have the older chicks in the garage with a heat lamp still on them in the evening, and the younger ones in our inside utility room shower stall, with just a regular lamp for light. I take them all outside in the daytime, in a modular, temporary covered pen until we get the more permanent home figured out. They all, for the most part, have their feathers with the younger ones having some residual down, yet. - This is pretty much my project for eggs, etc., with my husband willing to offer some assistance in building the tractor, etc. I mention this, because there is a limit to how much I have access to, in terms of family member support. Just a few of my questions: 1) AT WHAT AGE (APPROXIMATELY) DO CHICKENS NO LONGER NEED ARTIFICIAL HEAT? Ive seen many varied answers to this concern, with the most common referring to their need for their feathers before they can withstand the cold. At a certain point, we are going to have to withdraw the heatlamp (hopefully in a few more weeks, when the tractor is done). Are they going to be okay with this?? I dont want to make them sick. 2) DO CHICKENS NEED LIGHT AT NIGHT? I¡¦ve seen posts that seem to indicate that chickens are blind in the dark. If this is so - what is the best environment for them, in the nighttime? Do they need moonlight?... or ... 3) ARE MOVABLE TRACTORS REALLY A SAFE, FEASIBLE OPTION? I hope that I dont step on any toes here, but this is a valid question, to me. Many on-line backyard chicken-ers have built moveable tractors. There are endless examples to go by but I am confused on the fencing for these things. Since we have many wild critters about us, it would seem like bottom-fencing would be prudent. But I can also see how this would be a negative, where; - they cant scratch as well, and - they are walking on wire (which a neighbor indicated that they would not like) In some ways, it feels as if they would be better off un-caged, to at least have a chance to escape predators. In some ways it feels like caging them for protection, in reality ¡V traps them for predatory diggers during daylight hours. Has anyone else been able to resolve this? I appreciate any suggestions. I guess that I am a little bit frustrated in that I grew to believe that having backyard chickens could be done without the need for a big, clunky chicken coop w/attached fenced-in poopy area. But now that I have (8) sweet chickens, Im wondering if I can really do this. The last thing I want to do is have them suffer due to my ignorance.