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Still cluckin': Meet Esperanza, Austin's oldest chicken and biggest celebrity

Esperanza is said to be the oldest chicken in Austin. (Edward Gottschalk)

Austin is quickly becoming the land of influencers—including those of the feathered variety.

Esperanza, a 12-year-old chicken from Austin's Highland neighborhood, has a reputation that precedes her. According to her owner, Edward Gottschalk, there's a solid chance she's the oldest chicken in Austin.

While it may seem a bold claim to make, Gottschalk has done his research. He said he found an old clip of a late-night television show (he's thinking David Letterman) that featured an ancient chicken from Austin that was 13 or 14 years old, and Esperanza isn't far off. He's asked around Reddit to see if any other geriatric chickens are still around, and no one fought for the esteemed title.

While "Austin's oldest chicken" may have an endearing ring to it, she's fought hard for her fame. Esperanza's backstory includes old-lady crankiness, family feuds and even chicken-on-chicken murder.

"She's not that nice, you really shouldn't like her that much," Gottschalk told Austonia. "She's an old lady, she's stubborn."

Gottschalk and his wife, Liath Appleton, got Esperanza from a friend in 2009, about a year after they moved to Austin.

Esperanza as a young hen in 2009. (Edward Gottschalk)

She's had companion chickens, some of which have flown away or died of natural causes. In the chicken world, however, weakness is never tolerated. The couple had to separate any sick chickens for fear of the other hens killing their weakest link, but some, unfortunately, fell through the cracks.

"Those chickens usually don't even last a week because they would kill that chicken," Gottschalk said. "Esperanza personally has probably killed a chicken or two."

Esperanza isn't the only family member who has fought for her spot at the top. Gottschalk's brother, Mark, is a champion pumpkin grower who has produced competition winners that are several hundred pounds. In true brotherly competition, Gottschalk decided he would make sure Esperanza was well-known as the oldest chicken in the Texas capital.

Esperanza has been with the couple since 2009. (Edward Gottschalk)

Gottschalk essentially boiled it down to an in-family Hatfield vs. McCoys dispute.

"I was like, 'let's not talk about my brother,'" Gottschalk said. "'Why are we talking about pumpkins? (Esperanza's) a celebrity.'"

Despite all of his talk, Gottschalk and Appleton have lots of love for their eldest (and now only) feathered friend. In bad weather, Appleton brings Esperanza inside the house for a few days, watches TV with her and even puts her on her lap. The coop, which is fully enclosed to prevent any attacks from predators, sits just outside a bedroom window so the two can give her treats and feed when needed.

Esperanza's coop is attached to a nearby bedroom window for easier access. (Edward Gottschalk)

Aside from bouts of ringworm and scuffles with former companions, Austin's oldest chicken could get even older. Some of her feathers have bent or fallen out, but she's otherwise perfectly healthy.

All jokes aside, Gottschalk said he's grown to love his grouchiest family member.

"She's pretty sweet with age," Gottschalk said. "It's been nice to have her. I will definitely miss her when she's gone."


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