Of course, it will be surprising to know that a chicken lived for 18 months (nearly two years) after its head was chopped off. This is the story of Mike the Headless Chicken (April 20, 1945 – March 17, 1947) which refused to die after its head had been cut until 18 months.
Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, in 1945 made a decision to eat chicken in an anticipated supper with his mother-in-law, and he chose Mike, a five-and-a-half-month-old chicken. An attempt to kill Mike was not an effective one, according to popular publications on the internet; the axe removed the bulk of the head but missed the jugular vein (Wikipedia), this made Mike lose an ear but had the brain stem intact.
In another story, it is narrated that Olsen was beheading chickens for the market on his family farm in Fruita, Colorado when one of the beheaded chickens, Mike, raised its feet and started running around the yard.
Notably, there are many publications on the event that actually led to Mike’s story but it is of course a happened story.
As Olsen’s attempt failed, the chicken strove to survive; it was able to hold itself balance on a perch and staggered. Mike kept performing other functions as the rest but its own seemed weird, or unique (if one can consider it this way).
Olsen rather started to care for the chicken; he fed it milk and water (including other liquid food) through an eyedropper into its oesophagus, and also gave it small grains and worms. Olsen felt bad for the chicken and decided to rather save its life.
Due to its established fame, Mike began a slideshows career, and its photo was shown in several magazines and papers including its feature in Time and Life Magazines. Olsen was exhibiting his headless chicken at different shows, carnivals and other public events. Its popularity earned Olsen owner $4,500 per month (equivalent to $52,156 in 2020) and mike itself was valued at $10,000 (equivalent to $115,902 in 2020) (2)
Causes of its Survival
It is claimed that Mike survived because the brain of the chicken is in the back of its head, behind the eyes (3). As stated above, the lobbed off axe by Olsen only cut most of its head but left the brain intact, which controls the overall body functions.
On March 17, 1947, Mike died while on tour in Phoenix, Arizona. It had been accidentally left at the sideshow where it had been on display. It choked on mucous till it suffocated (4).
According to Wikipedia, Mike the Headless Chicken is now a cultural institution in Fruita, Colorado; there is annually a celebrated ‘Mike the Headless Chicken Day’ in the weekend of May. This celebration started in 1999, with many events including “5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race”, egg toss, “Pin the Head on the Chicken”, the “Chicken Cluck-Off”, and “Chicken Bingo”, “in which chicken droppings on a numbered grid choose the numbers” (Wikipedia)
- Mike the Headless Chicken – Wikipedia
- Vaughan, Don. “How Mike the Chicken Survived Without a Head”. Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/story/how-mike-the-chicken-survived-without-a-head. Accessed 10 December 2021.
- The chicken that lived for 18 months without a head – BBC News