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Like most farm animals, chickens are labeled according to their end purpose.
A chicken bred for its egg-laying prowess is a “layer.” A chicken bred for plumpness – large drumsticks and breast – is a “broiler.” They grow faster, reaching slaughter weight between 2 and 3 months of age. They behave and walk differently – and spend more time lying down than their layer counterparts.
Most backyard chickens are layers – or considered a “dual” breed. Few people keep broilers as pets. The website backyardchickens.com advises against getting attached to the birds because they overeat and tend to have short lifespans.
But one lucky chicken, a big broiler known affectionately as “Baby,” has bucked that advice. Baby landed at the home of Joe and Irene Mauldin in LaRue County earlier this year.
Joe calls the bird “Big Foot” for obvious reasons. Her foot matches almost perfectly with a turkey track.
Baby was accidentally included in a shipment of larger chickens to a processing plant. A kindhearted person rescued the baby chick and brought it to the Mauldins’ home in the country.
Baby, now a big, white chicken, lives in their backyard. She’s a favorite of one of their great-grandchildren.
They’re not sure if Baby is a hen or a rooster. She “sings” and makes hen noises – and shows no interest in crowing.
However, she has huge feet – as large as a turkey’s – and shows aggression toward other animals, much like some roosters.
Last week, Baby sang as Joe opened her cage. She promptly pecked Princess the dog, who was trying to be friendly, right on top of the head.
Joe placed a plastic chicken, almost as big as Baby, outside her pen. Baby ruffed her neck feathers and started pecking at the intruder. When he set a plastic pink flamingo outside the cage, she ignored it.
“She doesn’t want anything to get her food,” said Irene.
They’re not sure how long Baby will be around, but as long as she’s at their house, she’ll enjoy plenty of food and a safe haven.
And the Mauldins will receive plenty of entertainment.