Peanut, a 21-year-old chicken, has been making headlines lately. In March 2023, the bantam hen from Michigan was crowned the world's oldest living chicken by Guinness World Records. The hen's longevity is even more impressive when you consider that she almost never hatched!
In 2002, Marsi Darwin was preparing to discard what looked like a rotten egg when she realized it contained a living chick inside. The baby lacked an egg tooth — the hard part of the beak used to crack the shell — and was struggling to get out. Acting quickly, Darwin safely removed it from the egg.
She then tried to place the newborn with her mother. But the hen refused to accept her, so Darwin raised the chick herself. Once Peanut was a few years old, she was moved to the chicken coop. She lived there with the other birds for 13 years and even had chicks of her own.
One wintry day in 2017, Peanut wandered into the main house and stubbornly refused to leave. After several failed attempts to return Peanut to the coop, Darwin created a makeshift home for her on the porch where it was warmer.
"We had an old parrot cage stored there, so I put some straw and food and water in it, and that was it. She had picked her home for the winter," Darwin told the Washington Post.
Peanut returned to her coop in the summer but came back the following winter with friends in tow.
"This time, she had a little line behind her — four other chickens also wanted in," Darwin said. "Chickens don't get a lot of credit — they are really smart. They knew it was warmer there."
Peanut and her friends spent the next four winters on the porch. But after the other chickens started to die of old age, Darwin moved Peanut and her 15-year-old daughter, Millie, into her house, where they live to this day.
The birds spend the winter months in a wire coop situated close to a window so they can see the outside. During summer, they relax in an outdoor cage or roam around the lawn pecking at grass. According to Darwin, Peanut's favorite activity is to snuggle with her and watch TV.
Darwin is unsure why Peanut has outlived her species, which typically live for three to seven years. But the 21-year-old's relaxing lifestyle and healthy diet of yogurt, vegetables, and fruits, together with a dose of crushed vitamin D supplements, may have something to do with it.
While Peanut is currently the world's oldest living chicken, she is not the oldest to ever live. That title belongs to Muffy, a male chicken who was 23 years old when he died in 2012. But given Peanut's comfortable and healthy lifestyle, it would not be surprising if she easily outlives Muffy.
Resources: WashingtonPost.com, NPR.com, GuinnessWorldrecords.com