We don’t think of chickens as having particularly long or interesting lives, but one lucky hen has been going strong for decades, defying the odds and breaking records.
Peanut, a bantam breed who lives on a no-kill farm on Waterloo, Michigan, is 21 years old, making her officially the oldest chicken in the world, setting the Guinness World Record earlier this year.
“Peanut is a doddering old lady now but she has had quite a life,” Peanut’s owner Marsi Darwin, a retired librarian, told Guinness. “She has enjoyed vigorous good health all her life … outliving many of her offspring as well as her parents and quite a few dogs, cats, and feathered friends.”
Peanut’s longevity is especially remarkable given that she almost didn’t survive at all: the chicken was abandoned in the nest by her mother and Marsi initially assumed it was dead.
“Her mother had hatched several chicks and was busy with them and the egg was cold, and I assumed dead,” Marsi told All Things Considered’s Mary Louise Kelly. But just as she was about to discard the egg into the water, she heard a faint cheep.
“And sure enough, the egg was chirping — and against all odds, because I’m sure it had been sitting in the nest for at least a day. It was cold to the touch, but somebody was alive and well inside.”
Baby Peanut was missing her “egg tooth,” the part of her beak chicks use to break free from the egg, so Marsi helped her out. “I gently peeled her out of the egg, and there was this wet little mess, sitting in my hand,” she recalled to the Washington Post.
The newborn wasn’t accepted by her mother, so Marsi hand-raised the baby chicken in the house, teaching her to eat and drink and giving her the chance to survive. She named the chick “Peanut” because she was so much smaller than the other chickens.
But against all odds, Peanut thrived and has been going strong for over two decades. Chickens usually only last five to eight years on average, so she’s blown past expectations and outlived most other farm animals.
Perhaps it helps that this chicken is living the good life: “Peanut is a sassy little chicken — if she doesn’t get her blueberry yogurt in the morning, I definitely hear about it,” Marsi told the Post. “She’s healthy and she’s spoiled.”
“Peanut was definitely a favorite, partly because she didn’t think she was a chicken,” she told All Things Considered. “She would jump into my arms every chance she got. She liked to ride in my pocket if possible.”
According to Guinness, Peanut laid eggs until she was 8 years old, which is 2 years longer than average. She now has grandchildren and great-grandchildren from her nests in the coop, and has likely outlived many of her children. In her old age, she spends her winters indoors with her 15-year-old daughter Millie; they enjoy sleeping, eating and watching TV with Marsi.
According to the Post, a friend named Todd Gillihan recently told Marsi that Peanut could be a record-holder: he had read about a hen named Matilda who held the Guinness World Record for oldest chicken at 14. “He knew that Peanut had that record beat,” Marsi recalled.
Peanut is still shy of the all-time record, however: that honor belongs to Muffy, a hen who was 23 years and 152 days old when she passed in 2011, making her the official oldest chicken ever.
But Peanut has been defying expectations her entire life and is still going strong, so there’s a chance she can hold on and break that record in two years. “She’s arthritic, she dawdles around a bit, and she falls over now and then, but so do I, you know. So I think she’s going to be fine,” Marsi told All Things Considered.
Congratulations to Peanut on becoming the oldest chicken in the world! She’s defied all the odds since birth and we hope she continues to thrive!
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