Waterloo Hen Going for Guinness Record for World’s Oldest
the number of chickens in 2020 to be more than 33 billion worldwide. That’s a lot of chickens, and there’s probably even more than that now. Amazingly, the oldest one may be living right in our backyard.
Marsi Parker Darwin of Waterloo has a 20-year-old chicken living in her house, Peanut. She and Peanut are going for the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest living chicken.
“My friend, Todd, kept prodding me to enter Peanut with the Guinness Book of World Records for oldest living chicken,” Marsi explains. “It’s all done online, and he sent me a link.”
Marsi filled out the form, and instead of the usual 5-12 weeks wait to hear back, Marsi received a reply in two. She has three months to provide evidence, such as witness statements, photos, video, and media coverage, to confirm Peanut’s age.
“I’m hoping they’ll give credence to my witnesses like my niece in her thirties who loved Peanut as a teen and a friend who moved to California 18 years ago and loved Peanut and was astonished when he moved back to see her again, among others,” says Marsi.
Marsi got into the chicken business in the early 1990s as a rescue destination for unwanted birds. It began when a friend’s daughter needed a home for her 4-H project, a bantam Belgian Mille Fleur d’Uccles, a beautiful name for a beautiful breed.
Next, Marsi’s mother-in-law wanted to opt out of raising chickens. Her quaint chicken coop appeared behind Marsi’s house, and life was never the same at the Darwin home. Marsi loved raising chickens. When she went to the feed store, Marsi often returned with even more chicks. Her barnyard quickly filled with a wide range of breeds and sizes.
By the early 2000s, word got around about Marsi’s new interest, and calls began pouring in from people needing to re-home their birds. One rescue included a beautiful little Nankin hen, Nanette. Nankins are a true bantam breed. Bantams are a small breed, the male of which is noted for its feisty attitude.
A barnyard romance ensued when Nanette fell in chicken love with a hunky Mille Fleurs rooster. Soon, Nanette was contentedly sitting on a nest of tiny eggs. Twenty-eight days later, they hatched, with Nanette happily fussing over her chicks. When she moved off the nest to a corner of the coop, Marsi cleaned out the eggshell remains, including an unhatched egg. Having experience with bad eggs and the horrific sulfuric smell, Marsi learned to throw them in the pond for the fish and turtles. But something strange happened when she went to toss this egg. Marsi explains.
“With the egg in hand, I raised my arm to pitch it into the water. But when my hand came up parallel to my ear, I heard a chirp. Putting my hand to my ear, egg cupped in my palm, I heard another chirp, more urgent this time. I examined the egg and thought I had discerned a tiny crack. Tucking the egg inside my shirt to keep it warm, I hurried back to the house. Under strong light, I could see through the shell that the chick inside was struggling to get out.”
“I ended up peeling it out of the egg. As the chirping grew fainter, I feared the chick would not survive. A pitifully wet, wadded-up mess sat in my hand. I wrapped it in a towel and carried it close to my heart as I set up a cage and mounted a heat lamp with one hand.”
The chick survived. But when Marsi tried to reintroduce the new chick to its mother, Nanette wanted nothing to do with it. The hen pecked at the stranger trying to crash her brood. “I realized I had a house chicken, at least for the time being,” says Marsi.
That “time being” became nearly two years, after which Marsi was able to introduce Peanut to the flock. Peanut had imprinted on Marsi and always came running when Marsi called and followed her around. The bird begged to be held and rode on her shoulder while Marsi did chores. The two became inseparable.
After two decades, Peanut now spends winters indoors. “Although doddering, she’s up and around and eats like she’s going to the chair,” says Marsi. “Once again this winter, Peanut is in our living room, watching TV and looking out the window, clucking over treats and sharing her life with our 15-year-old daughter, Millie.”
The Old Farmers Almanac says, “chicken lifespans vary widely, with most hens generally living between 3 and 7 years. However, with ideal care, they may live even longer. If a chicken is kept safe from predators (including dogs) and doesn't have genetic issues, they can certainly live 10 to 12 years old.”
A hen named Matilda got into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest living chicken at 16 in 2004 and made it to The Tonight Show. Fingers and feathers crossed that Guinness crowns Peanut next.
Good luck, Peanut!
Photos courtesy of Marsi Parker Darwin