My wife and I started with 7 hens two years ago. (We had a rooster, but he was really too noisy for the middle of town. Neighbors never complained, but I think they were just being nice.) They're all still alive, and just started kicking out eggs again after taking the winter off. I grew up on a farm with chickens, and ours are the healthiest I've ever seen. The eggs are big, with firm, dark yellow yolks, and the hens all still have a full growth of glossy feathers. Even on humane, pastured farms, chickens this old will frequently be missing clumps of feathers.
We keep a feeder full of the standard layer ration from the feed store, but we also give them all our kitchen and garden scraps (except egg shells; don't want to start any bad habits) and let them graze as much as possible. When the snow melted and they could start getting outside, their consumption of the layer feed dropped to maybe 20% of what it was when they were cooped up. We keep kelp meal and oyster shell in front of them too for nutrition, but they don't touch it much. Apparently they get their nutritional needs pretty well covered by the bugs and grass they eat. We just moved to a new 1-acre place in the country, and they stay busy all day long, roaming our yard and the neighboring field. It's amazing to watch them hunt for worms; they'll scratch the ground a couple times and then wham! -- the beak goes down and comes up with a worm.
The purposes of a chicken tractor are A) to make them work on a particular patch of ground, and B) to keep them from picking some other patch of ground (like your rose garden) and overworking it. If you're not worried about them making a dust hole in your yard or wandering into the road, you can skip the tractor and let them roam. The other issue is predators; we have to shut ours up at night or raccoons and owls would get them in no time.
Oh, and you don't need a rooster, unless you want fertilized eggs to raise your own chicks, which is really not for novices. Most common breeds today don't have good mothering instincts, so they won't sit reliably on a nest, making an incubator a necessity.
+1 on the recommendation of the Storey book.