You are not dense, just learning. Scratch is a mix of grains (corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, and usually another type), this can be sprouted in water and this allows proteins to form and maximize the nutrition of the same feed. Scratch as a dry grain mix is poor protein (8 to 10 percent, usually) and this allows the girls to get more protein from the same food for the same cost. Chickens, and most other poultry will generally go back to their home at night usually after a few days of being locked in it. They will do it for sure if they are penned up and if not can be herded into the building. You don't have to have a rooster, totally optional. I like one to have because they usually keep the girls together, help them find natural foods, and make fertlilized eggs which can be incubated by broody mothers or incubators (fertilized eggs are fine to eat, nothing wrong with them). If I were you, I would do my research and get started this spring. Get a GREAT place fixed up and ready, then buy baby chicks to grow out. That way you know how they were raised, if they were raised the right way and you don't inherit somebody's mess. They also get to know you better and used to your feeding/husbandry practices. I also advise a light in the coop we put one up Saturday because of poor production (2/26 a day), since then we went to 4/26 yesterday, 7/26 today, and I a msure as they get more used to the lighting and it helps there system they will lay more and more. Then I will have to fix up heated waterers so they keep production steady. As for not enough rest, it is the same amount they wouyld get in Summertime. You just lengthen the day to a 14 hour summer day, which they would be up then as well. Hope this helps!DebFred said:I really don't mean to sound dense. But....I still don't get the sprouting. By scratch, is that the feed you give them? Or something totally different. I can't believe how little I know, considering I lived in Kentucky when I was small. We fed our chickens scraps and I think dried corn. And fed the hogs slop. I can't remember if we fed them anything else.... And when you sprout the scratch, do you just put it in water till they sprout roots like a potato will? We will use cages for the bunnies. I want a coop for the chickens with an area for them to get outside in the sun and peck and scratch. They will go to the coop when it gets dark to roost for the night, correct? I know I have to keep it secure from critters of the night. Also, we will use the chickens primarily for eggs, but I will still need a rooster to kinda look after the hens, correct? And when should I start this? In the spring or could we do it now? I know if we do the chickens now we will have to buy grown hens. I also know they don't lay much in the winter. Unless you put a light in the coop, and I don't want to do that all the time so they get enough rest.