Monday, February 20, 2006

Mike, The Headless Chicken

This is my 100th post...and Angel Jr. is my 30,000th hit. Thanks so much!

Class, settle down now please. I want to take the last 15 minutes of class to talk about some interesting history - science history. Jim, could you remove your sunglasses? And Ben, please put away your ipod. Thank you.

I want to tell you a story about a very strange chicken named Mike. You see, Mike was a chicken that lived for 18 months without a head.

(Students gasp and whisper amongst themselves).

That's right, his owner chopped off his head...and the chicken survived. Here's how it all began:

On September 10, 1945, Lloyd Olsen picked out a younger but plump rooster out of his chicken coup in Fruita, Colorado. His wife, Clara was going to prepare a wonderful feast - as Lloyd's mother in law was going to be visiting. Lloyed brought his ax down on the chicken's neck, and the poor thing struggled and did all the normal things a chicken would do after having it's head chopped off.

The term "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" is a pretty well known saying. And I'm sure little 5 1/2 month old Mike was doing his share of shaking and staggering. The next few moments would prove to be the strangest most bizzare thing to ever happen in the world of chicken slaughtering.

The bird would not die.

With his head laying on the ground, the rest of Mike walked around quite normally. He flapped his little wings, and probably walked right into the side of the barn. But the darn chicken had survived. I can only imagine the shock Lloyd and Clara experienced. Lloyd decided to leave the chicken alone. Maybe it was the inner scientist in him that wondered, "How long can this chicken live without it's head?"

The next morning, Mike was quite alive. This was a special chicken indeed, and Lloyd devised a method of feeding this headless chicken. He used an eye dropper to feed it water and ground up grain. Lloyd dropped the 'food' right down Mike's esophogus. Sounds strange, but the method worked. Mike continued to thrive.

Mike was able to balance himself on perches without falling. If you can imagine, he was even able to crow - creating a gurgling sound made in his throat. Mike even tried to preen his feathers with his nonexistent head. That's sort of like combing your hair even though you're bald. Pretty useless. Mike acted just as any other chicken would, except for the fact that the bird was headless.

Lloyd brought Mike to a promoter, and soon "Miracle Mike" toured the West Coast. Mike was even featured in Life magazine. At his pinnacle of fame, the chicken was bringing in $4500 per month. Back in the 40s, this was really a ton of money. Mike was estimated to be worth $10,000 and was actually insured for that amount. The sideshows consisted of bringing Mike out to greet the paying customers, and they got to see his head pickled in a jar. Actually, a cat ate Mike's original head, so Lloyd sacrificed another not-so-lucky chicken in order to show the amazed audience.

With fame comes...copycats. In this case, copychickens. Farmers attempted to cut the heads of their chickens in an effort to recreate Mike's Magic. One rooster, Lucky, actually survived for 11 days. Lucky wasn't too lucky, for it died when it was running and slammed into a stove pipe.

Mike did have one major complication. He often choked on his own mucus. Aren't you all glad you have my class just before lunch??? Lloyd and Clara had to use a syringe to suck it out. Otherwise, Mike would die. One evening, the Olsens were at a motel in Phoenix. Mike began to choke on his mucus. They searched in vain for the syringe until they realized that they had left it at the sideshow from the previous day. Sadly, Mike died that night.

So how did Mike survive his own beheading?

Scientists examined Mike and determined that Lloyd had in fact chopped Mike's head off 18 months prior. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. Lloyd's ax actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also unharmed.

Shouldn't Mike have been put out of his misery though? Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering. When Lloyd chopped the chicken's head off, Mike was only 2 1/2 lbs. When he died, Miracle Mike was a robust 8 lbs. Had the Olsens been able to syphon Mike's mucus that fateful night in March of 1947, who knows how long Mike would've survived without his head. His 18 months is still a world record.

But don't worry, Mike's legacy lives on. In his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, they hold a "Mike the Headless Chicken Festival" every spring. This year, it's going to be held on May 19th and 20th. The festival includes: a huge car show, music & entertainment, a chicken dance contest, chicken recipe contest, food and craft vendors, and a costume contest - so Kim C., you should enter. The festival also features the infamous 5K "Run Like a Headless Chicken" race.

When you have time, you can go to Mike's offical website HERE.

Don't forget about your quiz tomorrow on mammals, and...David! Mr. Amulet, please stop making fart noises with your armpit. And your research papers are due Friday.

And no, Siren, Mike the Headless Chicken will not be on your quiz tomrrow.

Class dismissed.

Mike, the Headless Chicken statue in Fruita, Colorado


siren said...

That poor chicken. I still don't see how it's humane to keep a chicken alive with no head. It has no head.

I want to particpate in the "Run Like a Headless Chicken" race. It seems I do that naturally.

Keshi said...

Poor lil chic awww...


Ben Heller said...

I can totally believe that story. When I was a 13 I went to work at a butchers for pocket money after school.

He had a small holding at the back which housed hens, and every couple of months he'd have a "cull".

He'd chop their heads off with a small axe and the poor birds would run around for 5 minutes after.

I was so distraught by this monthly occurance I had to give the job up.

Haas said...

Yep heard this in Ripley's... poor chicken but I wonder if it even noticed :P

DaBich said... did you find this out? Talk about odd.
Oh and YAY! I'm listed in Phoenix's Science Fair Winners :)

Denny Shane said...

Phoenix, you have done it again. Once again you have brought the world's consciousness to take notice of this poor, yet popular, chicken. This is why I enjoy visiting your site.

David Amulet said...

It's just like you, Mr. Phoenix, to crow about this fowl story. You're one cocky teacher.

This post, in other words, was for the birds.

-- david

WonderGirl said...

It's posts like this that make my heart go pitter patter for The Phoenix.

I love headless chicken stories. Call me old-fashioned.

kim said...

I am, for once, jaw droppingly mute.

Congrats on the milestones!!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Awwww...poor fowl! I would've had to "finish the job".

No mucus sucking for me, thanks. ;)

DLAK said...

I first heard of Mike on the Art Bell show 10 years ago. They fed him by stuffing corn into his neck? That my freind is me, I am Mike the headless chicken...

The Phoenix said...

Siren, I'd like to run like a headless chicken too. Maybe they blidfold the runners. If so, none of us would make it the full 5K...I'd slam into a telephone poll after 10 yards.

Keshi, Choking on your own mucus is not fun.

Ben, I would've quit too.

Haas, apparently Mike never noticed.

Dabich, way to go!

Denny, That's my job - and I'm proud to do it.

David, I bet you really can make fart noises with your armpits.

Wondergirl and Kim, Thanks so much.

Stacy, for $4500 a month, which is like $10,000 these days - I bet you would suck that chicken's mucus out with a syringe.

Dlak, I thought you ate brains.

Eve said...

This story is absofreakinglutely horrendous.

Do unto others, right?! That Farmer should have his head on a shelf somewhere.

THat's sick shit, Phoenix...

Tasa said...

Hehehe my mom lived on a farm for most of her childhood so I get to hear funny stories about headless chickens and whatnot, but I've never heard of a chicken living so long! Cool =)

delmer said...

That's an odd one. I've printed it out for my 12-year old.

I'm familiar with Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, but, the chicken thing caught me totally off guard.

It made me excitable. Boy.

Laurie said...

That is really creepy.

I still remember my grandpa bringing a chicken home when I was a young girl.. I thought it was to be a new pet.. and then I saw him chop it's head off, and saw it running around with blood spurting out it's neck.

I didn't eat grandma's chicken dinner that night.

Jenn said...

That was the best story I've read in a long time! Then again that happens just about everytime I come here. You think I could try that with my ex? I could miss that special vein, too. Or at least I'll try.

Congrats on your 100th post and 30,000th hit. You're famous!

KC said...

How could I have never heard of Mike until now? Weird story!

Hmmm... lots of big, bright feathers, some chicken-skin textured fabric, no need to recreate the head. I think the costume is do-able!

The Phoenix said...

NWG, I still think the farmer took advantage of Mike. I would've put the thing out of its misery.

Tasa, chickens really do run around for a little bit after their heads are severed. I've never seen on in person, though. Not sure I want to.

Delmer, Roland? I need to look that up.

Laurie, What's that rule? You can never eat something you've named.

Jenn, Thanks girl! Knowing you, you would definitely NOT miss your ex's jugular.

KC, Last year's costume contest winner was a costume of Mike's head. Some little kid wore just the head and ran around.

What a fun field trip it would be to go to this festival. Maybe I should go and bring you all back pics and audio.

delmer said...

Phoenix, I'll save you some time. It's a Warren Zevon reference.

You may be too young to have been singing Warren Zevon at the top of your lungs while in college.

(Aaaaaaoooooooo werewolves of London)

:P fuzzbox said...

In the wrong hands the secret to the headless chicken could be very dangerous. Imagine all the frat boys trying to come up with something to eliminate the need for beer goggles.

Sherri said...

Oh, bringing back nightmares....

My grandparents used to raise chickens and butcher them every summer. My job was to pluck them.

BrianAlt said...

Just one thing comes to mind -

Get the fuck outta here!

Karen said...


Where there's a will, there's a way!

Jim said...

wow, talk about a KFC dream come true, chickens that could deliver themselves

Mojotek said...

I don't particularly think it's inhumane... if the chicken was thriving (which he appears to have been, quadrupling his weight in 18 months) then I don't see a reason for the farmer to have ended his life early.

One thing I DO think is inhumane though, is trying to recreate Mike's condition by chopping off chicken's heads at 'just the right angle'. The farmer only had theintention of fixing dinner when he first gave Mike the axe, so there's no real 'inhumane' treatment there.

LBseahag said...


You are my hero..

If there was an award for the best subject and writing in bloggerland it would go to you...this was touching...

i'm off to KFC...

The Phoenix said...

Delmer, thanks for the help. Yeah, I wasn't in college until 1991.

Fuzz, Wowza. I never thought of that. Behold the power of chicken.

Sherri, Gross. Sorry to have contributed to your nightmares tonight.

Brianalt, spoken like a true NJ man.
(Or Long Island)

Karen, where there's a jugular, there's a life.

Jim, if they could create walking chicken strips, I'm so there.

Mojotek, My first response to seeing this chicken not dying is to just kill it. Lucikly, Lloyd Olsen held that back that urge. Mike thrived, and acted like any chicken would. Like I said, many different Humane Societies examined Mike and found NO evidence of him suffering.

L.B. Don't forget the slaw and mashed taters. Save me a buttermilk biscuit.

Jamie Dawn said...

The mucus sucking part is gross. I'd like to have seen that chicken though.
$4500 a month isn't bad. I wonder if turtles can live without their heads? I have two turtles, and I'd be willing to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Many people survive even though they have heads.

Anhoni Patel said...

ew. i like how he was going to murder the chicken and when it became a freakshow (i.e. vehicle to make money) he spared it's life.

Pixie said...

That is horrible! Poor Mike.

LBseahag said...

I cannot stop thinking about this poor chicken...

I sat in traffic on the way home calculating 60 years on my fingers, contemplated 1.5 years without a head, and drove past Jack in the Box and decided against the Chicken Chiabatta sandwich...

I think I need therapy...this replaced my obsession from around the same time, The Black Dahlia...

TNChick said...

Ya know... growin' up in the country - I use to see some folks down the road chop their chickens every morning on my way by - via the school bus, to school. Broke my heart... make my stomach weak.

Jenn said...

I so would. At least try. No, really. Quit looking at me like that, Phoenix.

The Phoenix said...

Jamie D., I would venture to think that a turtle's brain is more functional that a chicken's. Call me crazy.

Anhoni, Capitalism - strong even back in 1945.

Pixie, He could have ended up as dinner though.

L.B., If you start shrieking everytime you saw a chicken nugget - THEN it's time to worry.

TN Chick, reminds me of that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where the rancher shoots his cow right when the bus filled with children stops right in front of them.

Jenn, You can't fool me. You have that hot Latina blood in your veins. You'd make a clean cut.

The Lady Muck said...

I love that story. Could've done without the mucus though.... Total genius, I doff my hat to you sir.

Doug said...

You're messing with us, right?

mrshife said...

That story seems almost too good to be true, but it is indeed interesting. Now I can say that I am running around like Mike but then I might have to explain the whole story about the headless chicken every time I say it.

Laura:) said...

That is to cool. I guess its a possibility.

Hey, how did you know Angel, was your 30,000 hit? Can you see who actually reads your blog without them making a comment?

grrrbear said...

I don't think it's that cruel. I mean, to the chicken it probably just seemed like he laid his head down on the stump and then suddenly "Hey! I'm Blind!".

He was probably irritated at first, but like most folks he learned to deal with his disability. Perhaps his lack of sight would have sharpened his other senses and he would have become a great musician.

If not for the mucus.

Kid Jacque said...

When I was young I used to have to help on the farm when they butchered chickens. I remember my grandpa chopping the head off of a chicken and letting it run around for our benefit.

The memory clearly sticks in my mind to this day. We laughed and laughed as it ran into the side of the barn and through the crowd of people helping. It was the weirdest thing I had ever seen. One thing is for sure - they would die within minutes and just flop over.

Mike was a special chicken indeed.

Sar said...

Congrats on your 100th post - and 30,000 hits? Whoooeeee that's awesome, Phoenix!

cube said...

I read about this chicken before. It's an amazing story.

Jillian said...

LOL Phoenix - you promoted no more than three other blogs other than yourself in this blog entry. You going for a record? Thanks for spreading the wealth of your fellow readers around, even though I wasn't one of them (I'm not complaining, it was nice of you to spread it around either way)

On another note, the poor chicken like Siren said. I feel kind of bad for him. But if you think about it for more than 2 seconds, it will start to be funnier and funnier because of the way he fed him a such? 18 month should be a world record sheesh!

Anonymous said...

That's gross! Eww. Why would you want to keep a chicken with its head cut off that long? Sick!

dom said...

wow!!! that's some messed up stuff!

dom said...

yo, that's crazy

Anonymous said...

does anyone have a video of this chicken as i dont believe it. email it to me please

K=oss said...

UNBELIEVABLE!!! I don"t Believe it..No matter who says what, for reasons I have listed below.

#1. I bought, sold & raised Baby Chicks & chickens and they have too long a neck for the story to be true, its impossible for an ear, to have survived that slaughter, since the PIC... shows it cut at its base. (Grown chicken Necks are normaly 4 ins long, & The Ear is located in the head area,)

#2. The brain stem (Spinal Cord) may have survived, but what part of the brain was it attached to so the bird could have sustained normal re/actions, or normal movements which are sent from the "brain signals" back to the limbs etc.
BRAIN WAVES are necessary to walk, run, breath, etc...& Though anything else may have been possible He Had No Brain.
However I do believe he could have fed the chicken straight into the crock "SEE PIC."

#3. All the chickens I ever chopped the heads off, Did Bleed to an extent that we would have, our heads being chopped off. Besides the blood loss alone should have ment death.

#4. You can tell the whole neck was severed because of the location of the birds "Crock" SEE PIC.(food pocket, below the neck = it fills as the bird eats & balloons as he gets full, then it holds the food there until its slowly digested)SEE PICS:
This alone, left no room for the arguement that he may have left an ear. (Located in the head region)


1. How can an ear keep anything alive?
2. How did it move about with normal reflexes?
3. How did it Breath?
4. How did it Survive the other chickens until the next day(the other chickens should have killed it)?
5. How did his limbs get the brain signles to move, when there was no brain (natural action? NO) ?
6. How did it Digest its food(need brain signals for that too)?
7. Even if it did survive the event..It could not have lived 18 months, 1 hr. is stretching it (I think).?
8. How did he know where the barn/hen house was ? & how did he go straight over to it ?
9. How did the complete circulation of its blood system work so that its blood sustained all its body parts & functions ?

Rebecca said...

I came across this story in the middle of a very tense debate in which some of my fellow colleagues became quite belligerent and refused to believe in poor 'lil Mike's vulgar yet inspiring tale.

Coming across this blog was the metaphysical equivalent of Mikey finding a head. What I mean to say, is that, in short, this website has touched Honolulu, Hawaii and the soul of a supple young woman who though that she'd never get by in this cruel and unusual *winks* world we call home. In short, Mike's story has inspired me to not only tears, but poetry:

a head, without
you, in this
lonesome home so
much like my sev
ered jugular.
to need.

to live,
Life doesn't
suck it blow

-- Keely Schneider

Rebecca said...

I came across this story in the middle of a very tense debate in which some of my fellow colleagues became quite belligerent and refused to believe in poor 'lil Mike's vulgar yet inspiring tale.

Coming across this blog was the metaphysical equivalent of Mikey finding a head. What I mean to say, is that, in short, this website has touched Honolulu, Hawaii and the soul of a supple young woman who though that she'd never get by in this cruel and unusual *winks* world we call home. In short, Mike's story has inspired me to not only tears, but poetry:

a head, without
you, in this
lonesome home so
much like my sev
ered jugular.
to need.

to live,
Life doesn't
suck it blow

-- Keely Schneider

The Phoenix said...

This continues to be my most popular story. Thanks for coming here and reading!

The Phoenix

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