Hi to all the other chicken enthusiasts here. My name is courtney and i live in rural IL, near the WI border, on 5 acres of woods. I have four sons (17, 16. 15, & 8 years old) and a husband of 21 years. It is my husband who started the family raising chickens. We built our own house in the early nineties and it is perpetually under construction, and i had always told him he could not build a coop til the house was completed, lol. A year ago, spring, he came home and said "I ordered chicks today, i decided it is my life and if i want them i can have them!!" Turns out they were delivered on our 20th wedding anniversary so i tease that other women get jewelery and i got chickens. Needless to say they have taken over our lives and hearts. He built a fabulous coop (searching for designs is what led him to to BYC) and we let our girls free range. We started with White leghorns and Barred Rocks the first year and added a number of breeds this last spring (Black Astrolope, Rhode Island Red, Buff Orph, New Hampshire, Egyptian, Gold Lace Wing, Seabright (turned out to be a rooster but a friendly little guy) and Silver Laced Polish (two more roosters - EEKKK!). My littlest son had a lack of control at F&F and did a few impulse buying trips - lol - every time he went he came home with a little box that was peeping. We also have three Red Bantams we adopted from a neighbor who was moving to town. Our chickens free range on the land and are a source of much amusement to watch. They beg at the back door and also follow us as we do chores outside. When i come out the door and walk to the coop they run in a line behind me like i am the Pied Piper which makes visitors to our home laugh. In the summer when i lay in the sun one of our Rocks likes to sit on my stomach and tan with me. Letting them free range is nice but comes with its perils and we have lost a few of our girls to predators, but we feel their general happiness at freedom is worth the loss. Last December i became very ill and spent months in bed culminating with a week long ICU stay and almost complete vision loss in March. When i returned home i used to make my way down to the coop and sit in a chair amongst the hens. It was a very healing experience and they were a support system to me - funny as that sounds. We have names for each one and all are beloved. Two weeks ago the Egyptian hen went broody and she is setting on 5 eggs of mixed types - fertilized from the Polish rooster. They are due to hatch the 21st of November and i am so excited to see if we get any chicks. We were so inspired at her nesting that we bought a incubator and started 15 more eggs on the 8th and 9th of November, which my 8 year old is super excited about. I have a LOT to learn about hatching chicks and i am researching like crazy. I decided to register (after more then a year of being a reader) so i could participate in the hatching parties i see here... it looks like so much fun. I look forward to posting and gaining knowledge from all the wonderful BYC forum members.