By Stan Maddux
CHELSEA, Mich. – A chicken from Michigan that came within a split second of dying inside the egg abandoned by her mother has shattered a record for longevity. Currently, Peanut is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living chicken. She is 21.
In comparison, the previous oldest living chicken on record was 12.
Marsi Darwin said she believes a diet that includes traditional feed along with yogurt every morning is one reason why her bantam has lived well beyond the usual five-to-10-year life expectancy for a chicken.
“She wants yogurt every morning and if I don’t (give) her a little bit in a dish I hear about it. She gets very vocal,” she said.
Her favorite yogurt is blueberry and strawberry.
Darwin said her beloved chicken also enjoys certain fruits and vegetables along with an occasional hard-boiled egg.
When asked if there were any other secrets behind the long life of her chicken, Darwin said “I think just spoiling her rotten.”
Peanut overcame what might be considered a miraculous yet heartbreaking start to becoming, perhaps, a living legend.
Darwin said the record setting bird’s mother left the nest with her other chicks but abandoned the still unhatched egg containing Peanut.
Suspecting the cold-to-the-touch egg might be rotten, Darwin said she was about to throw it into her pond when she thought a noise came from inside the shell.
She held the egg to her ear and “sure enough it chirped,” she said.
Darwin said she gently opened the egg and inside was Peanut. She was unable to hatch from not having an egg tooth, a hard, sharp object temporarily on the bills of chicks they use to break out of their shells.
“I guess I hatched her,” she said.
Darwin said she presented Peanut to her mother hoping nature would take over but she kept rejecting her.
So, Darwin played mother by placing Peanut under a heat lamp and teaching her how to eat and drink by dipping her beak into some feed and water.
Darwin said she kept her special bird in the house for two years because she didn’t seem to like being with her other chickens.
Some of the chickens kind of bullied Peanut but, eventually, she and the other birds started getting along. “I would take her out with me to do my chores and she gradually found a few friends,” she said.
Darwin said Peanut spent the next 15 years or so inside a coop, but always came to her when called like a pet and was friendly.
Peanut is now living back inside the home with her 15-year-old daughter, Millie. That happened after a cold winter night when the chicken, following Darwin, jumped on an empty parrot cage inside her enclosed porch. “I opened the door and she hopped right inside,” she said.
Darwin said her beloved chicken, who sits in her lap, occasionally, seems to be getting a little stiff in the joints but still moves well.
She hopes Peanut stays around long enough to break the all-time longevity record for chickens.
Muffy, a Red Quill Muffed American Game raised in the U.S., lived for 23 years and 152 days until passing in 2012, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
“If we can keep her alive for a few more years she’ll beat that record. She’s still pretty good,” Darwin said.
Darwin said she was encouraged for several years to apply for Peanut to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. She finally did after her bird turned 20.
Chickens, of course, don’t come with birth certificates.
However, she found pictures of her grown nieces and nephews holding Peanut when they were little kids to help prove the age of her chicken. Peanut was declared an official record setter in the spring.
Darwin said she later received a certificate signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer honoring her bird.
Last year, Darwin also wrote about her life with the chicken in a published book called “My Girl Peanut and Me.” So far, about 200 copies have been sold.
Darwin and her husband, Bill, have about 50 other chickens along with an equal number of ducks, peacocks and other feathered foul on their no-kill farm in the southeast part of the state.
Recently, Darwin said she went away for the weekend, leaving her husband solely responsible for taking care of Peanut.
Darwin said she was not surprised when Peanut gave her a warm welcome back at the front door. “She jumped right into my arms when I got home,” she said.