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Cooking With Myra: Fascination with chickens, eggs

By By Myra Starkey
March 18, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 17, 2014 at 10:18 p.m.

Fried Perch Sandwich

Fried Perch

• 11/2 cups flour

• 2 Tbsp. paprika

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1 egg

• 11/2 cup milk

• Canola oil

• 1 pound perch filets or similar fish filets

Mix flour, paprika and salt in bowl and set aside. Mix egg and milk together. Heat oil in a frying pan. Dip filets in egg wash and then flour mixture. Deep fry until crispy. Serve on a hoagie bun with lettuce, tomato, red onions and tartar sauce.

For the last two years, I have been enamored with the idea of fresh eggs. A neighbor in the old part of town where we live had a rather large chicken coop. She brought me eggs every week. I made cakes, custards, cookies and beautiful omelets.

But as time passed and she no longer kept chickens, I began to purchase them once again at the store. That was cheaper, although the eggs just didn't seem as fresh or natural. It may be that I felt better about knowing that my previous eggs actually came from my neighborhood. I longed to have my own hens.

My sister-in-law, Loree, is my hen consultant. She has incubated her own brood and now has enough eggs to share with friends. She must have about 30 chickens. I went to the property where she has her coop one evening and sat where the patio as the baby chickens jumped in my lap and flew up to my shoulder, pecking cautiously and looking for food.

They were unafraid of human hands and seemed to respond to her voice. As she called out "girls," they ran after her, knowing it was snack time. Her brood has grown to include all kinds of girls: red, yellow, black and white. Some of the hens lay brown eggs and others creamy white. I have stopped by several times with the hope of receiving fresh eggs, and I am never disappointed.

Another friend, Myra, has some chickens and is always eager to share her knowledge and eggs as well. She has several exotic hens that lay light greenish-blue eggs, which are lovely in a bowl on the table.

I felt that I was starting to develop an unhealthy chicken envy. Maybe it was simply that all our children have grown up and left home, and I have a type of empty nest syndrome.

I suggested to Taylor that maybe I could get a few hens. He sort of discouraged me by giving the same worn out excuses that logical people always say when you want to have barnyard animals in your in-town yard, such as they require feeding, you have to clean their pen, and it's probably against the law.

It was not like I wanted to have a milk cow. My desire for a chicken coop never became an obsession, although I did have Taylor design one on paper just in case he ever decided to give in to the project. I tore out a few articles in magazines on raising backyard chickens and left them out for him to read, but still no coop.

A couple of weeks ago, I lost my credit card at Sam's Club. I received a call letting me know that it had been found. Thank heavens for the honest person who turned it in. I was busy giving a wedding shower at our house, so I sent Taylor, the chicken dream killer, to Sam's to retrieve the card.

As fate would have it, on the main aisle on display was a pre-fabricated chicken coop that would hold four to six chickens. It came in a box and only required simple assembly, chickens not included. Taylor, feeling total love and adoration for me, purchased the kit, had two guys load it in the back of his pick-up truck and brought it home.

I was as happy as a calf in clover. It did not matter whether it ever got put together or not, it was the thought that counted and Taylor knew how happy that coop made me.

Another week passed, and he finally decided to put the thing together. It was made in China, or some other country, that has lax hole-drilling standards and so that made it a bit of a challenge to assemble.

As for the location in which I wanted to put it, the doors had to be on the opposite side from where they were designed, and the ground wasn't leveled. And the sprinkler system had to be capped off there.

The coop is small, and I'll only have about four hens. In the best-case scenario, I could have a dozen eggs every three days. The coop is a legal distance from my neighbors. I won't have a rooster so there should not be a noise issue.

Once my coop was finished, I went over to Dierlam Feed to talk to David. If you have an agriculture or ranch question and know someone whose last name is Dierlam, ask them because they probably know the answer. To my delight, he had Barred Rock chicks, which are the gray and white striped ones I was looking for.

He boxed them up with feed and the other necessities, and off I went as a new chicken mama. I borrowed a brooder pen from Loree and am now raising chickens. Since it is cold outside, they are in the den in their pen, and this is very entertaining for my two poodles that I think would like to hold one in their mouth.

With summer coming, I am planting my garden with my friend, Charlotte, so I am searching for new, healthy dishes with fresh ingredients and, of course, new ways to make omelets. It is going to be awhile before the chicks lay eggs, but I will be ready.

On Sunday night, my brother-in-law, Mike, made perch sandwiches. They were delicious filets delicately fried and then sandwiched on hoagie buns with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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