Monday, November 6, 2017

Mike The Headless Chicken

Thanksgiving = Turkey. But since one of my favorite holidays is just around the corner, let's talk chicken. I'm not sure why, but I get about 50 hits per day from people searching for "headless chicken." I posted about Mike, the Headless Chicken back in 2006, and it seems to be a favorite among those googling for more information on this spectacle. 

For those who don't know, Mike was a chicken that lived for 18 months without a head.

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. Lloyd 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 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.

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 esophagus. 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. 

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.


Mike did have one major complication. He often choked on his own mucus. 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. 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.



Mike, the Headless Chicken statue in Fruita, Colorado

11 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is just crazy. Brings new meaning to the term bird brain. Obviously one is not needed.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Oh my God! That poor chicken. I bet he was quite a sight to see.

Pat Hatt said...

lol proved to the world that there are many brainless creatures running around.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

That is just freaky. How did it eat?

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I have never heard of Mike before. How amazing. And a little creepy.But definitely worth a share!! LOL

Pat Dilloway said...

Wow, that's a long time. What did they do to Mike when he died? 8 pounds would make a big dinner. 🐓

Intangible Hearts said...

Now I'm wondering if brains are necessary at all? For anyone. World leaders? At least he had his heart. 🙁 What a bizarre story but an interesting post, Jay.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Jay just when I think I’ve heard everything you tell me about a headless chicken who lived for over a year. It’s amazing how much the brain stem contributes to survival

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Loni Townsend said...

Well, Mike certainly earned his keep around the household!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That is so morbid. It's amazing terrible story.

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