Matilda, a fourteen-ounce hen, was the first chicken to receive the title of World's Oldest Living Chicken
from Guinness World Records. She is thought to have been descended from the Red Pyle color variation of
the Old English Game breed. She was a beloved pet of Keith and Donna of Bessemer, Alabama.
Matilda's name was taken from "Waltzing Matilda", an old Australian folk song, and given to her as a
result of her penchant for stepping side to side (as if she were
waltzing) against the wire panels on
the sides of her cage. Unlike most hens, Matilda never produced eggs. Her veterinarians believed Matilda's
lack of egg production contributed significantly to her extraordinarily long lifespan of sixteen years.
Another contributing factor to Matilda's longevity was her having lived the majority of her life indoors, inside a large wire cage, where she enjoyed a stable, protected environment year-round.
It all started on October 19, 1990 when Matilda was bought for $10.00 at the Alabama State Fairgrounds in Fairfield. Keith and Donna were pursuing their goal of becoming professional magicians, and Matilda was to be part of their plan. On June 5, 1991, she made her debut performance in Keith's and Donna's magic show.
To make Matilda magically appear, Keith would produce an egg from two cardboard tubes, which were shown empty and then nested one inside the other. After cracking the egg, dropping its contents into an empty pan, and adding a few drops of hot sauce, Keith would place the lid on the pan and immediately lift the lid to reveal Matilda in all her glory. Her magic career would span well over a decade.
As a direct result of Matilda's receiving the title of World's Oldest Living Chicken; she, Keith, and Donna were guests of Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in an episode that taped and aired on September 9, 2004. Also appearing on the show were Terry Bradshaw, Jim Brown and Howie Long. Musical guests were Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams.
A veteran of the stage, Matilda was perfectly at ease in front of the studio audience. Much to their delight, she strutted on top of Jay's desk, nibbled breadcrumbs, played with her favorite toy, and did a well-received impersonation of the NBC peacock.
Due to age-related health problems, Matilda retired from show business on October 17, 2005, and died, at the age of sixteen, on February 11, 2006. From the time she received the title of World's Oldest Living Chicken, Matilda lived one year, nine months, and fifteen days.
The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association inducted Matilda into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame on September 9, 2006, at a black tie dinner, which was held at Embassy Suites Montgomery Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama. The ceremony was exactly two years to the date of Matilda's appearance on The Tonight Show. Two dogs, Gucci and Muffin, were also inducted.
I hope they didn't fowl-up and make it a chicken dinner!