Hi there! New to the forum and new to raising chickens. Would really appreciate some opinions and help getting started. We live in northeastern Colorado close to the Nebraska border. We rent an old homestead that was once part of a larger farm, and are interested in keeping chickens. The property we actually rent is about 2 acres (unfenced). About 1/4 acre is lawn, another acre of ragweed that we keep mowed down during the summer, about 1/2 acre of elm grove with tall grass underneath, and about 1/4 acre that is an old corral next to an unused horse barn. The chickens will also have the run of a small 1/2 acre hay field, and a huge (160 acre) unfenced corn field that but up against our yard. There are several old coops on the property in various states of disrepair that can be renovated, or I have room to build a new one. We're planning on brooding our peeps in the garage next spring and at some point turning them loose on the property with a minimum of husbandry other than providing water, feed when necessary, and keeping the coop clean. We have a 300 sq foot fenced garden that we can cover and use to acclimate the birds to being outside during the day for a few weeks in the spring before we plant. We're not interested in raising show birds. Mainly interested in eggs, meat, and the entertainment of having them on the property. Concerns: I guess mainly we're looking for hardy low-maintenance birds that can fend for themselves for the most part during the day when we're at work. We live in farm country on semi wild property several miles from the nearest town, and there will be exposure to predators. With the exception of rattlers, I have actually seen all of the following on the property - Skunks, Coons, Dogs, Cats, Hawks, Owls, Turkey Vultures, Coyotes, Garter Snakes, Bull Snakes, Rattlesnakes (haven't actually seen one yet, but we're on their natural range and I'm at least 75% sure there are at least a couple on the property). The birds will have exposure to wild bird flocks that live in our elm trees. Doves mostly, but some sparrows, larks, blackbirds, ravens, jays, geese, ducks, et cetera. Are there any vaccinations that we should consider a must for our chicks? The weather here is predominantly windy, with large seasonal swings. Temps can range anywhere from -20 in the winter to 110 in the summer. I suppose we can insulate the coop(s) and provide some heat for them in winter, but we can't really justify the expense of AC for the coop in the summer. There is plenty of shade on the property thanks to the elm trees, but also plenty of cover for predators to use back in there. The coops are towards the back of the property, but we do have a paved county road that runs in front of the house that gets moderate traffic in the mornings and evenings. We do not use pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers on the property as most of our food in summer comes out of our garden. The farmer we rent from is another story. He did not spray this year, but did have a cropduster buzz his corn last year when it looked like he might lose his entire crop to a hopper infestation, and we got a small amount of overspray. Other considerations: Bugs, bugs, bugs!!! There are truly staggering numbers of insects from late spring through early fall. Grasshoppers alone get as numerous as a dozen per square foot. We live about 1/2 mile from a river, and less than 3 miles from a large irrigation reservoir. Tons of flies, beetles, worms, whatever. We also have a large uncovered compost heap where we throw grass clippings, table scraps, and garden waste. During the winter, we have 160 acres of corn stubble behind the house they can rummage through. We really want birds that will help themselves to the forage available in the yard to cut down on feed costs and help us out with pest control in the process. We have lots of mice on the property. I understand some chicken breeds may mouse, and that would be a welcome help. We have two dogs. One (very smart) professionally-trained German Shepherd who for the most part does a pretty good job keeping the other neighborhood dogs and coyotes out of our yard. She also chases cats. We tried bringing home a cat to help out with the mice, but she chased it up a tree immediately and we haven't seen a kitty around here since. We also have a very laid back Chinese Pug. I'm sure the pug is no danger to grown chickens, but we're a little worried about him getting bullied and hen pecked. We don't have any children living with us, but family members do come visit us here on the farm all the time. We need something plucky enough to survive around here, but don't want something that will get vicious with preschoolers or the pug dog. The German Shepherd can be left outside to help guard the chickens during the day while we're gone, but she does come inside at night. Any help with training to get the chickens to imprint on the Shepherd and vice-versa would be much appreciated. We've done a little basic reading on breeds, and are looking into Buckeyes, Wyandottes, Jersey Giants, Plymouth Rocks, EE's, Ameracaunas, Sussex, Brahma, and Welsummers. Really need help from experienced folks narrowing our choices down a little. Please feel free to add to the list if you think there's a bird that would be a better fit for us. Also need ideas or resources for predator-proofing the coop. Thanks in advance for any help and comments, and look forward to being a part of this board in the future.