Waterloo Says Goodbye to Its Unlikely Celebrity
Editor’s Note: The heartfelt story of "Peanut" by Marsi Parker Darwin is a reminder of the profound connections that can form between humans and animals. As many pet owners already know, companionship can come in many shapes and forms, and as you are about to read, sometimes in the most surprising ways. Whether it's a traditional pet like a dog or cat or a more unconventional companion like Peanut, these bonds hold a special place in our lives. They teach us about empathy, resilience, and the unspoken language of love that knows no corporeal boundaries.
By Marsi Parker Darwin
I’ve dreaded sharing this news. My sweet Peanut the Chicken perished Christmas morning.
I’m well aware that bad news abounds everywhere, and that many people lost close family members over the holidays, and my heart aches for the world. But to me Peanut was a close family member, and I’m grieving her loss. We bonded 21 and a half years ago when I peeled her out of an egg, and although I realize she had a phenomenally long life for a chicken, I’m heartbroken nonetheless.
She took us on a wild ride this past year and a half, garnering worldwide attention with her Guinness title, World’s Oldest Living Chicken, at age 20. My life has been focused on her story ever since, with newspaper interviews, appearances on television, and being heard on numerous radio programs and podcasts.
I was inspired to tell her story and mine in a picture book, “My Girl Peanut and Me,” which has been circulated all over the United States and a few foreign countries. I received numerous notes from people who were touched by the book, and the kindness of strangers touched me in turn.
Peanut’s spirit and antics delighted viewers online and in the media. She was an incredible little bird. My mind goes to the many moments in her life spent outdoors and in our home, interacting with other birds, cats, dogs, and humans. I recall the day I filed the application with Guinness at my friend Todd Gillihan’s urging and the months spent “proving” her age.
Highlights of the past year include reporters in our living room, on the floor filming Peanut in the early winter a year ago. Then carrying her in her travel basket up to the croquet court in spring and summer so she could peck at the short green grass while being “interviewed” - she loved it there, where she rarely stumbled, enjoying the sunshine and a bug or two.
There was a visit from state Senator Sue Shink, who delivered an official Tribute to Peanut in the form of a framed document signed by the governor. An article by Jack Armstrong was picked up by the Washington Post, and many other news outlets followed, spurring book orders from across the country. London Times reporter Will Pavia filmed her frolicking with her longtime beau Benny on the grounds of Darwin’s Eden. We rode in the Chelsea Fair parade, with my sister Laura and our friend Todd tossing candy, while Peanut’s head jerked side to side as she heard the crowds call her name. She was in her glory.
This past fall, we turned down offers of a documentary from an Indian film crew, and increasing requests from individuals wanting to meet her, as we wanted to guard her health. Her popularity seemed to spring from her story of hope, help, and love in a harsh world. That’s a message that I hope will continue to spread in her memory.
On Halloween night this year, Peanut’s daughter Millie, with whom she had shared quarters in our family room the past year and a half, died at the ripe age of fifteen. We could tell it took a toll on Peanut. In an effort to comfort her, I brought another old bantam hen friend, Luna, in to join her. But she passed a few days later!
When I noticed Peanut’s old boyfriend Benny looking chilly on his outdoor perch a few days later, I brought him inside in a last ditch effort to cheer Peanut. This decision was not well thought out on my part. Having an indoor rooster is not ideal. His crowing began in the wee hours and continued throughout the day. I prayed that our parrots would not begin to mimic him.
The week after Thanksgiving, Benny began to fail. He too was incredibly old for a chicken - somewhere between twelve and fifteen, we believe. He was found in a tree by our friend George, where he had probably been dropped off. Although he only had one eye, he was extremely popular with the ladies and had quite a harem of bantam hens at one time, including Peanut. We called them Benny and his Jets.
I did everything I could think of to save him, but Benny died on December 7th. At first, Peanut appeared to be bereft, staring out the window, with very little appetite. I was worried. But after extra attention, treats, decorating her hutch with lights and colorful additions from our online friend Tricia, (who also has house chickens with a message, and has written about them in her Poppy books) Peanut seemed to revive. She snuggled with me every evening and with her microwave-warmed stuffed bird at night. However, I could see that she was becoming increasingly frail, and last weekend, she refused to eat even scrambled egg or yogurt, her favorites.
My mother made a decision a week after New Years 2022 to stop eating, drinking, and taking her medications. At age 94, she had been missing our father terribly, decided it was her time to go, and died a week later. I believe Peanut was grieving the loss of her friends, old age was catching up with her, and she too simply checked out. I honestly believe that the time spent with Peanut, and all the craziness surrounding her fame, helped me tremendously in my grief over my mother’s death these past two years.
I spent the night of the 23rd holding Peanut, and on Christmas Eve, exhausted, I took her to bed with me, wrapped in a soft blanket, and held her close to my chest. I could feel her little head resting on my shoulder as she had done for years, and around 5 a.m. her neck relaxed into mine, and I knew she had died peacefully in her sleep, her final gift to me.
Right now a cloud hangs over Darwin’s Eden. I’ve dismantled her hutch on the window seat, and each time I find a feather as I clean around her area, it brings me to tears. Even with two corgis, a cat, and three parrots, the house feels strangely quiet and empty.
I know brighter days will come in time. But she will be forever missed.
Photos courtesy of Marsi Parker Darwin
Peanut's full story can be found at https://thesuntimesnews.com/g/chelsea-mi/n/135829/waterloo-hen-going-guinness-record-worlds-oldest