Hi. i've been lurking and reading, and i think this is the best place to add these questions. i'm new to the chicken thing, and have some really basic and probably stupid questions: i live at the edge of the woods, in a non-fenced area. i own 13 acres (tho 1 neighbor is very close) and most of that is forested, with at least 30 forested acres behind me - translation: lots of potentially chicken-muching wildlife. i've raised chickens to "teenage" phase, but then had to give them away, so i've never *kept* chickens. i'm looking at Buff Orfingtons (sp) because i live in upstate NY and it gets freaking cold here, about 6 of them, plus maybe 2 or so ginae fowl to munch on local ticks. i'm looking at some pretty serious coops (henspas etc) and thinking about seriously fenced runs for the (potential) girls.... but i'm worried i might just be damning them to unhappy birdy deaths because of where i live. The hope is for bug reduction, eggs, and general compost from the birds. (As well as the delight i would totally take in their very existence and care.) My questions: (they are probably really dumb) 1. i've been told once they reach maturity, hens only lay for...3 years, tho they live much longer.... is that true and erm... what do you do with them after they stop laying? i'm a big sucker and not sure i could send them to be butchered... The very idea makes me....well, i'm a big sucker and i get attached..and let's leave it at that. 2. Do they realize that the coop = Home/Safe? As in, if i were to say let them free range around the yard while i'm out and about around the house.... will they take off into the woods and vanish? Do they come home? How do i get them into the coop at night? Or once i establish that coop = home will they come home out of habit?