New to chickens and the BYC site, happened to find it from another thread. Appears to be very useful for newbies like me and from the posts that I have seen everyone appears very friendly and helpful. I have 5 acres in a rural area of Southern Indiana. I'm looking to buy a few (I'm thinking 5 or 6) hens and a rooster in the spring. My wife is a stay at home mom and I have a 2 year old son. They are the main reason for the birds as I think they will both enjoy them. I'm mainly looking for good egg layers but would also like something that is a meat bird as we may thin or do away with the flock and stock the freezer before winter starts. Can anyone suggest the best bird for this? I want to stay away from anything flighty or aggressive as I want something my son can be around. I really like the look of the Rhode Island Reds but not sure if they would fit our needs. I also have some coop/run questions. I plan on building a large, well protected run with coop. During the day the birds will be able to free range throughout our yard/property and go back into the coop/run in the evening. I'm planning on building the coop/run on nice days over the winter so I'm ready for birds in early spring. When the hens sleep at night, do they each need an individual nesting box or do they only go to a box when they are laying? Should each hen have its own nesting box? I have seen several coops with wooden rod perches and poop boards below. This would appear to make for easy cleanup but a fellow I work with told me in the winter months (if I keep them through the winter) their feet will freeze to the perches. For this reason should I go with all nesting boxes? Will they sleep anywhere on the floor if there is no perch and limited nesting boxes? I'm not saying I would go that route, just trying to understand. I'm also curious about the best ideas for watering. From what I have read there are as many different ways to care for chickens as there are breeds. I've read some people use a trough or pan while others use "cleaner" systems. One system I saw for sale on amazon was a 5 gallon bucket with a few nipples on the bottom. Chickens can drink from these? I liked the idea of that system as the water would stay clean and you would not have to refill as often. I even saw one lady post that she uses an old crock pot in the winter to keep water from freezing up. I also had a question on feed. Normally they will be feeding free range along with some feed for an evening treat. If we happen to go on vacation and my neighbor takes care of them then they won't be able to free range during the day and will be confined to the run. How much feed would they need daily? I plan on the run bring anywhere from 10'x10' to 10'x30' depending on how excited I get when I build it so they would have some area to scavenge when in the coop. And lastly, should the chickens be confined to the coop at night or is it suitable for them to access the run as well? Thanks for any help!