Four chickens 1 RIR 1 BO and 2 EE I got them 2/05/09 and they started laying 07/02/09. All four were laying in 2 - 3 weeks. Right now the EE seem to be the better layers. I think the BO is the worst both BO and RIR occasionally lay soft shelled eggs. I think they are better suited for cold weather so might do better in the winter.
We tried to build a VERY cheap coop but it did ad up. I am guessing it ended up costing around $400.00 - $450.00 It is nothing fancy.
If you want pictures of anything in particular or would like to come see it just let me know. I live in Mesa. This week Friday - Monday won't work. But most days I am flexible. You can email me at email@example.com if you want to.
No floor it is just on the ground.
We aren't worried about dogs getting in or any other predators. Might have to worry about mice at some point but not so far. Both the food and water hang so it seems to stay cleaner that way.
We do use pine shavings on the floor and on a board under their perch. But they have been sleeping on top of a nesting box so I just scrap that clean every morning and put it in the compost pile.
I kept a cover (like a metal grate) over the top of the tub. The dog did kill one of my hens later on, we were out of town and she got into the coop and killed and partially ate one hen and injured the other 2. Needless to say I DO NOT trust that dog. She lunges against the chicken wire sometimes when I'm in there gathering eggs. It's a 1 yr old Lab, still really a rambunctios puppy, but now that she had a taste I don't trust her around the hens at all. You just have to always watch, hopefully your dogs are calm and listen well when you tell them No. My dog doesn't seem to know what No means. It was pretty awful when she got the hen. It belonged to my 5 yr old and he was so upset.
Your garden looks great. That's my next step. I only have container plants now. We have a really destructive rambunctious labrador so I don't dare plant in the ground until we put up a little fence.
I wanted to tell you when I first got my chicks I kept them in my house with a clamp light for warmth. They stayed in a rubber tub (like the kind with the rope handles) with pine shavings or Feline pine cat litter on the bottom. They stayed that way for almost 4 wks. It can get a little dusty, but if you have a spare room or laundry room it wouldn't be bad. So maybe you can get some towards end of summer and by fall they will be old enough to move outside to a coop. They're so much fun and amazingly relaxing to watch. I really enjoy them, and even my stubborn husband does but he'll never admit it.
Good luck with everything, and you really found a priceless resource by joining this group. They are all loads of help!