More than two decades ago, Marsi Parker Darwin was preparing to get rid of an abandoned chicken egg on her Michigan farm when she heard a faint “cheep” coming from inside the cold shell. She looked more closely at the rotten-looking egg, which should have hatched by then, and spotted a thin crack. Darwin began to carefully peel back the shell, and after a few moments, she found herself with a slimy—but very much alive—chick in her hands.
In the years that followed, that little chick grew up to become a healthy adult bantam hen named Peanut. And Peanut, now 21 years old, was officially named the world’s oldest living chicken earlier this year, according to the Guinness World Records. She’s also the star of a new children’s book written and self-published by Darwin, titled My Girl Peanut and Me — On Love and Life From the World’s Oldest Chicken.
Darwin is a retired librarian who runs a 37-acre farm in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband, Bill. On their property, called “Darwin’s Eden,” they’ve raised an array of animals, including Welsh corgis, parrots, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and peafowl.
After Darwin helped Peanut out of her shell back in May 2002, she realized the creature was missing her egg tooth, which is the part of the beak that chicks typically use to break out of their eggs. But otherwise, the little bird seemed healthy. Darwin placed Peanut near her mother, but the hen rejected the baby. So, Darwin decided to take Peanut inside and hand-raise her.
She set up a cage in the living room, where Peanut lived for the first few years of her young life. Eventually, Darwin opted to relocate the hen outside with all the other chickens living on the property. She lived in a coop for 13 years and produced chicks of her own, many with her favorite male suitor, Lance the rooster, per the Guinness World Records statement.
Though Peanut is now too old to breed, in recent years, a one-eyed rooster named Benny has been looking after her.
“I’m sure she has outlived quite a few of her children,” says Darwin in the statement.
say hello to Peanut, the oldest living chicken— Guinness World Records (@GWR) March 1, 2023
Peanut is 20 years old and still happily roams her humans home in Chelsea, Michigan. pic.twitter.com/lehMJ6uDss
About six years ago, however, Peanut seemingly decided she’d had enough of life in the coop. One day, during winter, the hen followed Darwin into the screened-in porch of the house and refused to go back outside.
Once again, Darwin accommodated the plucky chicken by setting up a former parrot cage with food, water and straw on the porch for the winter, reports the Washington Post’s Cathy Free.
Eventually, Darwin decided to allow Peanut and Peanut’s 15-year-old daughter, Millie, to live inside the house full-time. The two hens now inhabit a wire coop in the living room, positioned near the window so they have a view outside.
These days, Peanut spends her time cuddled up on Darwin’s lap while she watches TV or tucked inside Darwin’s jacket while she does chores around the farm. In warm summer weather, she scratches around in the dirt outside and sunbathes.
Peanut chows down on blueberry yogurt—mixed with crushed vitamin D tablets—as well as some occasional bananas, grapes and fresh vegetables.
“She’s healthy, and she’s spoiled,” says Darwin to the Washington Post.
Chickens typically live to be between five and ten years old, though their lifespans can vary greatly, so Peanut’s record-setting age is quite the accomplishment. She far surpassed the previous record for the world’s oldest living chicken, which was set by Cheddar, a 12-year-old clucker, in April 2022, per the Great Lakes Echo’s Jack Armstrong.
The oldest chicken ever documented lived to the age of 23 years and 152 days, according to Guinness World Records. That was a Red Quill Muffed American Game hen named Muffy who died in 2012.
Will Peanut live long enough to set that world record, too? Darwin is optimistic.
“She’s arthritic, she dawdles around a bit and she falls over now and then, but so do I,” she tells NPR’s “All Things Considered.” “So, I think she’s going to be fine.”