Can a chicken live as long as a human? Well, not quite, but if Peanut the chicken is any indicator of what TLC from a human caregiver can do, it's clear that backyard chickens can live much longer than chickens raised using factory farming.
Peanut was the record holder for oldest living chicken at 21 years old, until Peanut's guardian announced that she passed away on Dec. 25, 2023.
How did Peanut reach such a ripe old age? The average chicken's lifespan is cut terribly short due to the fact that they're raised for their eggs and meat. Here are the details of how Peanut came to the the oldest living chicken, per Guinness World Records.
Peanut, former title holder of "Oldest Living Chicken," has died at age 21.
Peanut held the record for the world's oldest living chicken, having been confirmed with the title in March of 2023. As Guinness World Records explained, Peanut was a bantam, which is a breed that's smaller than the typical chicken. She was born in the spring of 2002, and turned 21 years old in September 2023.
Sadly, Peanut's pet parent, Marsi Parker Darwin, announced on her blog on Dec. 27, 2023, that Peanut had died on Dec. 25. "I’ve dreaded sharing this news. My sweet Peanut the Chicken perished Christmas morning," Darwin wrote.
"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."
Peanut was not an average chicken, not only in terms of how old she was, but in how she was raised. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Darwin raised Peanut after hearing a "cheep" coming from an abandoned chicken egg at her farm in Michigan. The egg looked rotten, but when Darwin peeled open the egg, she found a chick who was missing an egg tooth, which is necessary for a chick to peck her way out.
Smithsonian Magazine noted that Peanut lived her entire life at Darwin's Eden, the 37-acre farm where Marsi Parker Darwin and her husband raise a variety of animals. She hand-raised Peanut indoors for the first few years of her life, then moved her to live outdoors for another 13 years with other chickens.
According to Guinness World Records, Peanut laid her own eggs during her years outdoors and some of her descendants live in Darwin's chicken coop. At the time of her death, she was living a cushy indoor life with her daughter Millie.
Although Darwin provides a nutritious diet and loving care to all of her animals, she admitted to NPR that she may have given Peanut some special treatment. "Peanut was definitely a favorite, partly because she didn't think she was a chicken." Peanut happened to be the oldest living chicken, but she was also near the world record for the oldest chicken to ever live. Muffy, who died in 2011 at age 23, held the title of world's oldest chicken.
How long do chickens live?
Most chickens born today don't live very long. According to FOUR PAWS International, the average laying hen lives around 20 months, and the average broiler chicken (raised for meat) lives just 40 days. Perhaps even sadder is the fact that male chicks born into the egg industry are killed at one day old — since they're not meaty enough to be raised as broiler chickens, and unable to lay eggs since they're male.
Despite what farming does to chickens, the average life expectancy of a domestic chicken is about eight to 15 years, per FOUR PAWS International. Peanut is an example of how chickens raised this way, rather than as commodity, can live astonishingly long lives. That's just one of many compelling reasons to try veganism.
This article, originally published on Sept. 7, 2023, has been updated.