Last spring marked our first foray into the area of "keeping" animals. We have had a dog or two, a cat and a few various and sundry fish but that had always been enough.
We decided to follow the example of a few friends and ordered day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery and combined orders with those friends to save on shipping. When we picked up our box of live chicks at the post office our more knowledgeable neighbors sorted the birds and we went home with our little peepers.
This particular hatchery is in the habit of sending a mystery chick along with the others you order and our friends generously told us to keep it. The hatchery does not keep records of the breed or gender of the chicken they send. The "mystery bird" was a great source of excitement around here.
As we watched our chicks grow we all became chicken fanciers. We read up on the different breeds in an attempt to learn what our mystery bird was. All our reading was not without its uses. We realized fairly quickly that our friend had mixed up a couple of the chicks when separating our order. We had ended up with one of their meat birds while they ended up with one of our layer hens. Since they wanted another layer it was agreed that we would simply keep the meat bird and butcher it when that fateful time came.
For those of you who are novices like we were, let me explain. A meat bird is one that is bred from two fast-growing breeds of chicken in order to get large and meaty quickly. They get gigantic in very little time and are usually butchered at between 6 and 8 weeks old. When that time came my kind-hearted husband had a "Charlotte's Web" moment and went all E.B. White on me. He came in the house and said, "I can't do it. Meat Bird just looked at me and I know she was begging me. She lets me pet her beak." And that was that.