Spooky Chickens Part II: Mike the Headless Chicken


In September 1945, a Colorado farmer named Lloyd Olsen went out to the chicken coop to bring back a chicken for dinner. He chose Mike, a young Wyandotte rooster. After the ax fell, the bird was able to stand up and walk around a little unsteadily, sans head!

Olsen decided to keep the headless chicken and exhibit it at sideshows. He was able to feed Mike using an eyedropper. According to Wikipedia, at the peak of Mike’s earning power, he brought in $4,500 per month (equivalent to $51,525 in 2019).

Apparently, in his clumsy attempt to cut off the rooster’s head, Olsen left most of the brain stem intact. For an explanation of the science behind Mike’s survival, see the video below. Mike still attempted to preen, peck for food, and crow, although his “crowing” resulted in a strange gurgling sound in his throat.

This Crunch video explores the science behind Mike’s ability to live without a head.

Unfortunately, Mike passed away a year and a half later. But his fame outlives him, and every spring the city of Fruita, Colorado holds a Mike the Headless Chicken Festival.

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