Hello: I just came onboard yesterday. I also bid on eggs and won the bid yesterday. I guess you'd call me initiated. *G* I have been raising chickens on and off for 30 years (or somewhere in there). I keep getting into chickens, and then I move or a predator gets into them. I've lived in the mountains of Idaho, rural Arizona, rural Nevada, rural Washington, and now am in rural California (and many places inbetween). (I am shocked how many predators are in this close to Sacramento! We have coyotes and weasels and some say that we have ex-pet predators out here--ferrets.) I love chickens, and I've owned Marans, Ameraucanas (and EEs), D'Uccles, Spitzhauben (which are some of my favorites), Silkies, RR Reds, Production Reds, Leghorns, Buff Orpingtons, Blue Andalusians, Favorelles, Seremas, several colors of Rocks and probably others I don't remember right now. Two years ago, I tried repeatedly to purchase eggs and use my newly purchased, used incubator to hatch eggs. They never hatched. I could not figure out what I might have done wrong. I had spent a lot of money on chicken eggs that year--and I hatched out less than 20! Last year, I put my own eggs in, and I tried again, but I had absolutely no luck. I was so frustrated. Everyone else had hatches of 80-95% with these incubators. Why couldn't I? So I called the manufacturer, and they said I had an ostrich incubator! (The seller didn't bother to tell me that when he sold it.) The fan was blowing too hard for chicken eggs! My husband wanted me to never run it again, he was so mad at me for the cost of running it. But I was undaunted, and I have just recently replaced the motor, so I'm going to try again! I have Buff Orpingtons (hatchery grown and a few show bred birds), D'Uccles, Cuckoo Marans (unfortunately that's another story), Silver Pencil Rocks (hatchery and coming show quality chicks Friday) and some hatchery Orpingtons along with some shortly coming Lavender Americauna eggs (hoping I will get babies). I also had Spitzhauben, Silkies and Silver Ameraucanas (until a people predator got into them, and they were gone.) I love chickens. I hate predators. We live across the street from a small swampy area (that the county won't clean up), covered with cattails, and we have Norway rats that are as big as a small cat. When I put out chicks, the rats eat the pullets (until they are fully feathered). Everyone tells me that it can't be rats, but nothing else gets in with no predator signs, and the babies are often found dragged down to or partially in the rat holes. I have poisoned (and killed another of my own animals and a couple of chickens), trapped (even my own cats), shocked, sprayed, shot, used a dog (who killed some of the chickens), used electronic rat scare tactics, tried the water barrel, tried glue traps (which were a joke), bought numerous cats and done about everything I can think of to get rid of them, but apparently I have a neverending supply of rats from the cattails. I have considered but not tried ferret droppings (fearful that I might call in another ferret--which I'm fairly sure I've had before). I've decided when I put out the chicks I am getting Friday that they are going to go into a chicken tractor (once old enough) that I can drag around. The rats won't have a chance to get a hole in their pen because I will be dragging the tractor around every few days. I hope this works. If I can get them old enough and fully feathered, the rats don't eat them, but they will eat the babies heads off if they are not adult feathered. (The rats don't bother them once they are fully feathered--but when they still have baby feathers even on their butts, the rats eat them alive through the butts--its a sickening sight. I found one 14 week old pullet with its butt chewed and bloody--the hole was just larger than the size of a silver dollar. She had to be put down.) Since I moved here, I have had dogs get into my chickens, cows step on them, owls and hawks take them, rats, weasels (probably) or maybe ferrets, skunks, cats and maybe some other creatures (including people) kill or eat my chicks and chickens. One owl that either got a hen or chicks and most of my cats had a wingspan of at least six feet! I was actually terrified one night when I saw him flying over my car as I neared home. He took most of my cats. I've finally just given up letting chickens out to run because they are so easily taken. Hawks are very bad, and they see any movement, and they are circling in pairs to take out whatever it is. There is absolutely NO shooting of predators in California (I think it is because the predators are too close in kind to our politicians). They're all protected. So the chickens sadly stay inside the coops and small runs which was never my intention. But at least I can go out and see them and enjoy them in the pens. I'm hoping to change that with portable pens--tractors. My prototype will be built this weekend. I've been studying for weeks to try to figure out how to make an easily moved, effective tractor, and although mine won't be cheap, it should keep out the larger predators and, hopefully, moving them regularly, will keep out the rats. If the tractors work, I will move the chickens entirely out of the coops and maybe be somewhat freed of the rats (though they will stay in the cattle grain I'm sure). I'm excited to get it done, and I hope that all will work with it keeping out predators. I would love for my chickens to be "free range" sort of. I think that's the real ideal of a chicken life. (But here, ideal may never be completely had.) Well, that's my chicken story. I hope to learn enough here that I can be a better chicken caretaker (and figure out how to control the rats and keep out other predators). I'm hoping to replace my Cuckoo Marans with some dark eggs. I bought from a person who sells lots of eggs and who had purchased some excellent birds from a man who had raised them for years. They swore that the Maran eggs they would send me chicks from the ones they got from him that had the really dark eggs (which his did). I excitedly got the chicks, raised them carefully, and had about eight hens. Several of my hens died that winter, and I ended up with most of their hens, and my dark egg producing male. When the hens were a year old, I realized the woman had lied. The eggs of these hens are light brown--very light brown--lighter than Orpingtons. I'm so disappointed. So I need to replace the Maran hens with some good hens. I sure do hate being cheated, but what can you do on Marans when you purchase chicks (when you can't see the eggs)? I will never purchase Maran chicks again unless it is from a person who is part of the Maran club, and someone who has a reputation. I'm excited to be on this forum. I hope to spend some time in the breeding area. I probably will be looking for some good Cuckoo eggs.