Hens come in all different sizes, colors and breeds. Some even lay colored eggs! Here are a few to get prospective chicken-raisers started:
• Araucanas/Americanas aka the "Easter Egger": This breed, which lays blue and green eggs, is Martha Stewart's favorite. These small-to-medium hardy birds come in a variety of shades. $3-$4 per chick.
• Silkies: Small Bantams that almost look like they have fur instead of feathers. They're known to be extremely sweet. $3-$4 per chick.
• Appenzeller Spithauben: It is the national breed of Switzerland, noted for its v-shaped comb. They are well-adapted to life in the mountains and want to roam freely throughout the day. $4.25 per chick.
• Blue or Black Copper Maran: A French breed, lays very dark, "chocolate" brown eggs. Marans are also known to be calm and hardy. $4-$20 per chick.
• Black Sumatra: These are not the best layers, but they are good-looking, with a long swooping tail and glimmering coat. Cold hardy but can "become quiet and clingy in winter." $4-$5 per chick.
Top 3 things to know if you want to raise chickens:
• Check the law! Municipal codes address whether chickens are allowed, how many you can have, where you can keep the coop and whether you need to talk to your neighbors first.
• Buy or build a good coop. Raccoons, hawks and foxes love chickens, but as long as you have a good coop, these predators won't have chicken for dinner.
• Fit your chickens to your climate. Martha Stewart's Egyptian Fayoumi froze to death!
• Online hatcheries: MyPetChicken.com and mcmurrayhatchery.com.
• Local tours: Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People (http://pittsburghpropoultrypeople.blogspot.com) tours city coops in June.
• "Sewick's Chicks," a tour of a dozen coops in the Sewickley area, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 8. Tickets: $10 at Penguin Bookshop, 420 Beaver St. (www.italiangardenproject.org)lifestyle