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Meet Peanut, a 21-year–old chicken and world record holder

Marsi Parker Darwin says Peanut loves a good cuddle.
Marsi Parker Darwin
Marsi Parker Darwin says Peanut loves a good cuddle.

Finally old enough to drink, this bantam hen had a rough start to her record-breaking life.

Who is she? Peanut is a 21-year-old hen who has spent her days on a farm in Waterloo, Michigan. Earlier this year, she was crowned the world's oldest living chicken by Guinness World Records, and was recently profiled in The Washington Post.

  • For context, the average lifespan for a chicken is around 5-10 years, but it can vary a lot.
  • And Peanut didn't have the easiest start in life. Her guardian, Marsi Parker Darwin, told All Things Considered's Mary Louise Kelly the story of how she was abandoned by her mother shortly after hatching from her shell:

  • As it turns out, Peanut was missing a part of her beak in development called the egg tooth, which allows chicks to break free from their egg.
  • From then on, Peanut was nursed to health, and taught how to chicken by Parker Darwin, who runs Darwin's Eden, a farm in Waterloo.


Listen to the full conversation with Marsi Parker Darwin by tapping the play button at the top.


What's her secret to a long life? Aside from regular TLC, Parker Darwin isn't quite sure.

  • She treats her hundreds of birds with plenty of attention and care, and makes sure they have a nutritious diet.
  • But she admits it is possible that Peanut may have gotten some special treatment, due to her unusual personality.
  • "Peanut was definitely a favorite, partly because she didn't think she was a chicken," Parker Darwin said. "She would jump into my arms every chance she got. She liked to ride in my pocket if possible."


How can you prove a chicken's old enough to buy a beer?

  • They were able to prove her age mostly using pictures, Parker Darwin said. As she's documented her family growing up, Peanut's presence has been proof for her world record.
  • "I took pictures from day one, through the years, and I photographed her with my nieces [and] nephews that loved to hold her, and she loves to be held. So she's just really an attention monger. So I had a lot of pictures of a lot of people holding her."

Peanut enjoys some time on the croquet court.
/ Marsi Parker Darwin
/
Marsi Parker Darwin
Peanut enjoys some time on the croquet court.

So, what now?

  • The Guinness world record for the oldest chicken ever recorded is still held by Muffy, a red quill muffed American game chicken, who died in 2011 at the age of 23.
  • Parker Darwin thinks Peanut may get there: "I'm really hoping! I mean, 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."


Learn more:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Manuela López Restrepo
Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.
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