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The world's oldest chicken is a Michigander

Cate Weiser
Michigan Radio
Peanut relaxes with her caretaker, Marsi Parker Darwin.

The world's oldest living chicken hails from Waterloo, Michigan. Peanut, the 21-year-old Nankin Bantam and Mille Fleur mix, lives there with her caretaker, Marsi Parker Darwin.

The chick had a “rough start” in the world, Darwin said. She was the only egg of her mother’s nest that didn’t hatch. Darwin had planned on pitching the cold egg in the pond, until she heard chirping coming from within the shell.

“So I thought, Well, it's just going to die anyway," Darwin said. "I might as well try to peel it out of the egg. So I did. And there was Peanut."

Rejected by her mother and outcast by her chicken peers, Peanut had a nontraditional childhood and spending her early years living in Darwin’s house.

“She seemed to really enjoy living in our home," Darwin said. "She would watch TV, she would interact with our dogs and cats and parrots, and obviously we kind of live in a zoo. So she was very much at home."

However, after a couple of years, as a full grown chicken, Darwin started reintroducing Peanut to the other chickens. After finally finding fellow feathered friends, she spent her next 15 years living outside.

Cate Weiser
Michigan Radio
Peanut peruses the lawn.

On one unassuming winter’s night, Peanut followed Darwin back inside, as if to reclaim her previous dwelling. She's lived indoors ever since. At 21 years of age, Peanut primarily spends her days sleeping and eating.

Peanut's breakfast of choice is yogurt, and she will happily enjoy a grape if offered. Peanut seems to have a flair for drama.

“She's always been kind of a rascal," Darwin said. "She's always been energetic and vocal and, you know, she kind of tells you what she wants and she gets what she wants. She's a spoiled little brat, to be honest.”

As Peanut spent several of her formative years living indoors with Darwin, she hasn’t followed the typical chicken life trajectory. She’s quite the intelligent chicken as well. Peanut responds to her name being called — even when one of Darwin’s parrots calls her name.

“I think Peanut thinks she's a human,” Darwin said.

Darwin decided to see if she could get Peanut in the Guinness World Records in the fall of 2022. Peanut's age was verified through a combination of eyewitness accounts, dated photographs, and a veterinarian's testimony.

On March 1, 2023, Guinness World Records officially verified Peanut as the world’s oldest chicken.

Cate Weiser
Michigan Radio
Peanut shows of her World Record certificate.

Since this verification, Peanut has attracted local and national attention. Darwin also wrote a book about their time together, titled “My Girl Peanut and Me.”

“It's a story of hope, and it's also a story of holler for help when you need it,” Darwin said. “I think that's one of the biggest messages. If she hadn't chirped inside that egg, none of this would have happened.”

Part of Darwin’s bond with Peanut is rooted in the experiences they share. Darwin, too, was bullied as a child, and remarked how she should have asked for help in those moments.

“I thought it was important for children, especially, and adults — if you're having a problem, you know, get some help.”

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Cate Weiser joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2023, and is a second-year at the University of Chicago.
Olivia Mouradian recently graduated from the University of Michigan and joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2023.