Checkpoint Chicken

New to raising backyard chickens, we had underestimated the inconvenience of having them share space with our dogs. Turns out they poop an incredible amount and two of our dogs decided rolling in chicken poop was absolutley the most fun a dog could have!  At least until they tried to come near us and the screaming, holding our noses and dumping them in the bath commenced – then it wasn’t quite so much fun – not for them or us. Still the horror of frequent baths did not deter them from running back out next chance they got – rinse and repeat…

Posts are in - laying out the baseplates - the taller posts are for the gate

Posts are in – laying out the baseplates – the taller posts are for the gate

Added to that challenge, we also were letting the dogs out in the morning first, then the chickens and waiting till they went home to roost to let the dogs back out – as the days got longer this was more and more impractical and who has time for a juggling act like that?

Alright chicken this is the last time you cross the border without showing me some papers

Alright chicken this is the last time you cross the border without showing me some papers

So I devised a cunning plan to save my sanity – divide the back yard in half – East and West separated by a fence and gate – Checkpoint Chicken!

Last weekend, Eric and I did the obligatory Home Depot run for supplies and I drew up one of my famous scribbled plans on paper for what I wanted to build – you know the ones my husband hates because it is not a blueprint with measurements, front and side elevations and a supply list….

I however had a crystal clear plan in my head – I wanted a wood and wire fence so we could grow climbing plants on it – nothing could be simpler, right?

Coming together - all the wire panels are up

Coming together – all the wire panels are up

Actually day one went well even though Eric wanted to do a simple straight line fence and I wanted an angle so the gate opened up into the rest of the yard – I had a vision people! Straight lines are boring! LOL Florida’s sandy soil took it easy on us and we only had to move one post a little to avoid some massive tree roots.

capping off each panel with a 1 x 4 notching around the posts - looking good!

capping off each panel with a 1 x 4 notching around the posts – looking good!

The next day started out great we got the baseplates in and leveled them, close to the ground so no chickens or dogs could squirm under. We had a little issue deciding on the best way to frame in the panels so we could attach our field fencing without it looking ugly but we figured it out and the panels went up pretty easily and neither of us tried to kill the other – at least not with any real effort…

Fence done - now for the gate

Fence done – now for the gate

We did some nice detail on the top, capping each panel off and notching it around the posts – this was beginning to look like we knew what we were doing…

Gatsby and Charlie patrolling the perimeter before the permanent gate went up

Gatsby and Charlie patrolling the perimeter before the permanent gate went up

Then we got to the gate – the original plan was for lots of vertical 1 x 2 pieces on a 2 x 4 frame however it quickly became clear that it was going to be too heavy – the 1 x 2’s were completely warped and our nail gun was acting up. It was late in the day, we were hot and cranky and had just reached our limit so I tacked a piece of field fencing over the gate opening for the time being and went back to the drawing board.

building the gate frame

building the gate frame

I decided a lighter frame of 1x 4’s with the same field fencing would be a better solution – so back to Home Depot we went the following weekend to pick up new supplies. We found solar post caps for only $4, which I was convinced was a mistake since the plain wood ones were $8!!!! Whatever –  no one stopped us for shoplifting as we walked out the door with our $4 deals. We also picked up a guide to help us drill angled holes in our thinner wood frame. The right tools can prevent and frustration and family dispute – trust me!

Gate & solar caps installed

Gate & solar caps installed

The frame came together pretty quickly and we stapled the same field fencing on to match the rest of the fence. Add some hinges and a latch and we were off to the races – Checkpoint Chicken is now fully operational – show me your papers!

Close up of solar caps from hell

Close up of solar caps from hell

Next up was trimming down the fence posts and adding the solar caps which should have been an easy task except we found out why they were only $4  – they were too tight to fit on the posts without Herculean effort!!! We had to sand the suckers down and my poor husband used brute force and muscle to get them on – most people probably returned them but Eric is nothing if not determined LOL Once on, a couple screws hold them in place (my job) and they give off a nice glow in the evenings.

Part two will be building the trellis over the gate – but that will have to wait for another post LOL

All in all, I am delighted with how it turned out and my life is much easier with separation of dog and chicken – they can both be out at the same time and our dogs no longer smell like chicken poop 3 times a week. A blood pressure lowering solution all around 🙂

Getting creative with the egg recipes

Eggstravaganza - every day....

Eggstravaganza – every day….

Since our chickens are now in full laying mode we get on average of 9 to 12 fresh eggs a day and although I give away many to friends and neighbors I am determined to make the most of the delicious product of our hen’s labor LOL

If you have never eaten truly fresh eggs you don’t know what you are missing – the taste is so much better than what you get in the store. Even if they say cage free or farm fresh that is generally not what you think it is – the chickens’ living conditions are still not much better than the poor battery hens. Pastured is the correct term, apparently, for what we all probably have in our heads when we think of farm fresh.

Our chickens roam around all day eating bugs and weeds and scratching in the yard to their hearts content. They are more like pampered feather pets since my husband like to give them sunflower seeds and sprout lentils for them LOL

Happy hens lay the best eggs – the taste is richer and firmer than any store bought egg and I won’t waste a single one

Fortunately we are an egg loving family but lets face it there are only so many scrambled or fried egg breakfasts you can fit in to a week so here are some of my favorite recipes that use plenty of eggs.

Of course we do all the basics like omelets and hard boiled eggs chopped up in salads etc but I also make a mean fritatta LOL


Fritatta - Yum

Fritatta – Yum

Years ago in Boise Idaho I had an awesome fritatta with spaghetti noodles that I had to reverse engineer. It varies depending on whats in the fridge but here are the basics.

  • Cook up some thick cut diced pancetta or regular bacon in a large cast iron pan
  • Add in your favorite veggies – I usually saute up some mushrooms, onions and spinach
  • Boil a handful of angel hair pasta and toss into the pan
  • Season to taste
  • In a mixing bowl crack at least 6 – 8 eggs
  • Add about a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you really must)
  • Add a couple cups of your favorite shredded cheese and whisk
  • Pour your egg mixture into the pan and mix thoroughly
  • Transfer the whole pan to the oven set to 350 and cook for about 35 – 40 minutes
  • Slice into wedges and serve from the skillet

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza - only 4 eggs on this one - I usually do 6 these days

Breakfast Pizza – only 4 eggs on this one – I usually do 6 these days – Thanks Alicia!

This was inspired by a friend on Facebook and turned out to be a family fav. It is quick and so very easy.

  • Spread out pizza dough on a large baking pan sprayed with PAM (I totally cheat and use the Pillsbury store bought stuff in a tube)
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little garlic and parsley salt on it
  • Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Layer with finely cut red onion, thin slices of pancetta, sauteed mushrooms and uncooked spinach (Don’t go too thick with the toppings or the dough wont cook properly)
  • Crack 4 – 6 eggs on top and sprinkle with some seasoning to taste – I use a Johnny’s seasoning salt, which is unfortunately hard to get here in Florida – I just have a stockpile)
  • Pop in the oven at 400 and keep an eye on it – it should be ready in 15 – 20 minutes however ovens vary and I just jiggle it to make sure the eggs are set but not to hard
  • Slice with a pizza cutter and serve


Yum Quiche - before my fancy fluted pans

Yum Quiche – before my fancy fluted pans

I love quiche and have been making it for years – again it is one of those recipes that you can switch up to your heart’s content but this is my favorite version and will yield a couple decent sized quiches depending on your dish sizes. I have a couple of 9 in cake pans but recently switched to some great fluted pans with removable bottoms that way I can pop it right out and the fluted pastry edge looks perfect – easier to cut too. If you make too much or don’t want crust you can just cook it in the baking pan for a crust-less quiche – still delicious and cooks up a little faster – presentation is not quite as nice however…

  • In a large pan cut up and cook about  1lb of your fav bacon till crispy
  • Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon and let drain on some paper towels – DO NOT waste all that bacon grease
  • Toss some minced garlic and one large or two small finely sliced white onions into the pan (you may need to add more butter depending on how much bacon grease you have left)
  • Saute for a good three or four minutes till soft and golden
  • Toss in a container of sliced mushrooms and keep sauteeing – season to taste
  • Toss in a couple handfuls of baby spinach near the end and cook till it softens – set aside
  • After pressing your pastry into your pans (see below for that recipe)
  • Crack 7 or 8 eggs in a large mixing bowl and add one and a half cups of heavy cream
  • Add two cups of your favorite shredded cheese and season to taste – I usually add garlic, parsley, black pepper and Johnny’s seasoning salt
  • Whisk thoroughly and then pour in all your other ingredients
  • Divide the mixture between your two pans and pop in the oven at 400 for approx 35 – 55 minutes – the reason the range is so wide it will depend on how deep your quiche pans are…I basically check in after 30 minutes and you want the top to be getting lightly golden and the center to be just about set – a little jiggle is good – you don’t want the egg mix to be rock hard – but it does need to be firm enough to slice.
  • Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving

Homemade Pastry
I learned to make pastry from my grandmother and she didn’t use recipes – it was all by eye – basically twice as much flour as butter, a pinch of salt, dash of vinegar and a couple spoonfuls of water as needed… Chill for an hour and use…. I recognize that most people are not comfortable with recipes that are quite that free form LOL so Pioneer Woman has one that is as close to my grandmothers as I can find, but with actual measurements and directions 🙂 She also turned me on to the fluted quiche pans.

Deviled Eggs

Love the sign - love the eggs

Love the sign – love the eggs – this was a small batch we usually make way more…

We love deviled eggs in this house – as proven by the cool hand lettered sign I got for my husband for Christmas and now hangs proudly in the kitchen. There are million recipes out there and I know everyone has their favorites but I am not a fan of the sweet pickle that many people put in theirs, so I make mine with Parmesan cheese instead and they are usually a big hit

  • Boil a dozen eggs – make sure they are at least a week to ten days old – very fresh eggs do not peel well – the membrane is too tight and you end up peeling little chunks of the white off and they look cratered –  like the surface of the moon – delicious but not so pretty. If you are using store bought eggs this is not a problem you will face – I just have to plan in advance and set some aside to “age” LOL
  • Peel and slice in half – remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl – get yourself a deviled egg plate – makes things so much easier…
  • Add mayo and seasoning to taste – I prefer garlic salt, black pepper and a couple heaping tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Use a food processor if you have one – I use a little hand held one that makes sure the mixture has no lumps
  • Place in a piping bag and fill the egg halves (I use a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off  because piping bags are too annoying to clean – this way I toss the bag and only have to clean the tip)
  • Sprinkle with paprika and add garnish of bacon crumbles, chives or caviar, depends on your tastes

Homemade Pasta

Rolling the pasta

Rolling the pasta

I got a Kitchenaid mixer finally about two years ago and treated myself to the pasta set to go with it. It is a little tricky to do, but lots of fun and you definitely feel like a fancy chef when you make your own homemade pasta. Last time I made too much and so have frozen some in Ziplock bags.

Making spahgetti

Making spahgetti

I am told it keeps really well in the freezer but I have yet to boil up any of the frozen batches yet so can’t confirm that. Also there is a special Italian pasta flour very fine called 00 that I plan to try soon – supposed to make the best pasta

Pasta ready to cook or freeze...

Pasta ready to cook or freeze…

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups of semolina flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together then make a well in the middle
  • Add eggs and olive oil and whisk together
  • My mixer makes it easy to knead the dough but if you do it by hand it takes about 12 minutes and some muscle
  • Wrap in plastic and allow to rest for about 30 minutes
  • Either roll out by hand using lots of flour or use a handy dandy pasta roller to get it to the desired thickness – remember I said lots of flour or it will stick to itself
  • My pasta cutter does fettuccine and spaghetti shapes so I just feed it through the blades and make little floury piles of pasta – some I froze, the rest I cooked
  • Boil your pasta for a few minutes in salted water with a splash of olive oil (to prevent sticking) Toss in your favorite pasta sauce and serve

IMG_8491I like Alfredo sauces so I make my own with heavy whipping cream, Parmesan cheese, chicken, mushrooms, peas and pancetta  – Yum!

Strawberry Cake

worlds best strawberry cake - thanks Wendy!

World’s best strawberry cake – thanks Wendy!

I got this recipe from my blogging friend Wendy – I loved the look of it an filed it away for future use – took me a year to get around to it but now I make it all the time – it is soooo good and I am not actually much of a cake fan – usually too sweet for me. But this is light and fresh and tastes like summer on a plate. Not to mention how impressed everyone is at the sight of it. I made the first time over a year ago for my teenager’s birthday and everyone loved it – plus it uses 8 eggs LOL
Check out Wendy’s recipe and instructions she is so much more detailed than I would ever be and her photos are amazing 🙂 (BTW save the left over egg whites from this recipe to make the meringue below)


Mmmmm - Pavlova

Mmmmm – Pavlova

This was one of my favorite desserts growing up – I love meringue! But you just don’t see it in the US very often. So given my abundance of eggs I thought I would try it. Everyone loved it and I was impresssed  that my first time effort at meringue went so well

Goes fast LOL

Goes fast LOL

Here’s the recipe I used, only I used strawberries, blackberries and raspberries – since that is my fav version. Also I put a a couple tabsp of sugar and a tspn of vanilla in the whipped cream…

French toast
My teen has a sweet tooth so loves french toast – this has been a great way to use up eggs and have the family clean their plates. I have not picture of this – it goes fast…

  • Crack 6 eggs in a bowl
  • Add a dash of vanilla essence
  • Add a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you must)
  • Add a couple tablespoons of cinnamon
  • Add about a quarter cup of maple sugar if you have it (brown sugar if you don’t)  and whisk
  • Dip your bread of choice and toss onto a medium hot skillet
  • Flip and serve with maple syrup and or other favorite fixings




This was a new one for me – I had never made them myself before and they could have been a little thinner to be honest but they were a big hit – I served mine with a ricotta cheese filling, sliced fresh strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. They didn’t use that many eggs unfortunately, but I owed my guys a sweet, rather than savory weekend breakfast LOL

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest or 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 pint strawberries sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 to 6 tsp. unsalted butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • In a blender, combine the milk, egg, flour, salt, oil and zest and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours.
  • In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of the granulated sugar, or to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta and the remaining 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a small pan over medium heat, melt 1 tsp. of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Pour in little of the batter and spread with a spatula. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat to make 4 to 6 crepes.
  • Cover half of each crepe with the ricotta mixture and fold in half. Place 2 crepes on each plate. Top with the berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

Dutch Apple Pancake

Dutch Apple Pancake - start to deflate as soon as you take it out

Dutch Apple Pancake – starts to deflate as soon as you take it out of the oven

Another experiment – I had never made before and it looked so cool but my guys were honestly not that impressed. It is a good recipe and looks amazing as it expands up over the sides of the skillet – but I think they would have preferred more sugar LOL
here is the recipe I used

Creme Brulee

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish – need to caramelize sugar more

This is hands down my favorite dessert of all time – I love it! I had to replace my creme brulee torch this year since the old one was appropriated by my guys a long time ago to light fireworks, create mini flamethrowers, you name it – they got up to it! So I bought a new little set form Amazon that has the water bath and ramekins etc. My men have been informed that they are not to touch it- not even look in it’s general direction or there will be hell to pay – Lets see how long it lasts…
This is the recipe that I like to use – although I just put vanilla essence in not the actual bean – I am lazy…

Key Lime Pie

Teen's first Key Lime Pie - it was delicious

Teen’s first Key Lime Pie – it was delicious

Honestly, both my guys normally like to make this one for us – Yay – Make the men cook pie! We are now growing our own key limes and hopefully there will be enough soon for a pie 🙂 You can also put some meringue on top (as pictured above) if you like – uses a few egg whites too 🙂
Here’s a good recipe

Ceasar salad dressing
One of my favorite salads of all time – I could eat it anytime – Toss some grilled chicken or shrimp on it and you are good to go
Here is a great recipe

I am open to other suggestions if you have them – what are some of your favorite egg heavy recipes?

Chicken Update – Eggs! – or at least one

First Egg!!!!!!

First Egg!!!!!!

Today was the big day after a week or so of thinking about it our Leghorn laid our first egg!

Foghorn - our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

Foghorn – our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

For the past week or so my husband has been obsessively checking in on the chickens – we knew it could be any day now. This morning Foghorn the leghorn started sing the egg song  (seriously look it up –  its a thing LOL) and scratching around in the nest boxes so we were very hopeful and sure enough when we went out to check on her – there it was – our first fresh egg from our own hens 🙂

First egg in the nest box  - I am so excited to have been home to see this

First egg in the nest box – I am so excited to have been home to see this

Still warm and actually larger than I expected. The proud mom is doing fine and got some yummy treats for her hard work

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

I have been home sick all weekend but I am actually almost glad I caught this wretched cold from my last business trip – since that was the only reason I was at home today to witness this momentous occasion LOL

More pics 🙂

Lily - our Barred Rock

Lily – our Barred Rock

"Not Legorn" - we think she is a Delaware

“Not Legorn” – we think she is a Delaware

One of the two Black Sex Links

One of the two Black Sex Links

Cleo - Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix

Cleo – Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix

Grand Chicken Coop Caper

The Chicken Palace

The Chicken Palace

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had planned to only have 4 chickens so I bought a small chicken coop kit to house that sensible number of chickens to be but then apparently chicks are like Pringles – you can’t have just one and our plan for only 4 turned into 14 – don’t judge me!

In order to deal with this complete lack of restraint a larger coop was in order. We decided to reuse what may have been an old dog run that the previous owners had left in the backyard. A nice big 10 x 10 x 6 ft high enclosure with gate – all we had to do was build a coop onto the side of it and we would be off to the races!

Love love my nail gun

Love love my nail gun

After some online research I sketched out the perfect coop for our needs – Eric kept asking for “detailed plans” and I was all like “no need –  we can wing it – this will be fun!” Two trips to the hardware store later we were mostly still on speaking terms and we had just about managed to get a basic frame put together.

This Chicken Palace will be hurricane proof due to Eric’s love of lag bolts – this is what happens when you don’t give your husband detailed plans, measurements and front and side elevations LOL

Basic Frame

Basic Frame

I had the perfect plan in my head of course but building this in the backyard with a fairly uneven surface was a little tricky – but hey – its for chickens if the floor slants a teeny bit I doubt they will mind!

The first weekend we got the thing mostly framed in before the heat was too much and we went inside to the glorious AC. A busy work week followed and we had no time to touch it.

Rafters up

Rafters up

The following weekend we finished framing in walls and then started on the the roof rafters and shingles – of course we ran out of shingles right at the end but between the heat and the damn mosquitos eating me alive we were done.  I had to fly to Phoenix for business for a week so once again we were on hold – the chicks kept getting bigger and we were anxious to get them out of our garage….

Roof Shingles

Roof Shingles

The following weekend we had stormy weather and all we managed to do was get the doors on – the rest of the time we spent painting the master bedroom (the whispering scribbles could no longer be ignored…)

Doors on

Doors on

Finally the weekend of the 4th we put our noses to the grindstone and busted it out – these chickens must vacate the garage. The black sex links are escape artists and I would frequently find them running lose around the garage!

Shingles and nestboxes

Shingles and nestboxes

The heat and humidity are crazy this time of year an naturally everything takes a little longer than you think – frankly we have probably made the Fort Knox of chicken coops due to paranoia that raccoons will eat them LOL  I put up some nice cedar shingles since it is in my backyard and I will be looking at it every day I wanted it to be attractive.

Interior view

Interior view

Finally on Sunday – hot, dirty sweaty, exhausted – we transported the chickens out to their new home and they love it!!! It was fun to watch them explore their new home and find themselves a nice spot for a dustbath  – of course we feed them some grapes as a treat 🙂

Whole new world

Whole new world

Chicken liberty –  garage reclaimed for humanity – husband and wife still speaking – success all round LOL

Time to explore

Time to explore