Have you ever heard the expression, “Running around like headless chicken”? How ’bout “Running around like a chicken with its head cut off for 18 months”?
Since the early days of industrialism, farmers have been preparing their meals in typically the same fashion: the cows are milked, the crops are grown, and the livestock is slaughtered. However, on September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado found the process to be a bit trickier than usual.
Lloyd’s mother-in-law was over for supper, and so Mrs Olsen decided she’d prepare a chicken for dinner. Lloyd made his way to the yard and chose his victim: A 5-month old rooster by the name of Mike. However, when Lloyd took aim and swung his axe at the bird’s jugular, the blade missed the target. The head was severed and the only remains intact were one of Mike’s ears and most of his brain stem. Who knew that this is all it took for Mike to continue living a somewhat healthy life?
As it turned out, Mike could still balance on a perch and even walk clumsily after the botched decapitation. His attempts to crow were a different story, however. All that he was capable of were gurgling sounds from his neck. Mr Olsen decided he would continue to care for Mike, and was able to feed Mike a mixture of milk, water and ground up corn through his neckhole with an eye-dropper.
Here’s a video excerpt of a documentary featuring Mike, which aired on PBS:
When word caught on of farmer Olsen and his peculiar chicken, crowds began to gather to witness Mike firsthand. It wasn’t long before the bird was recruited to tour with a sideshow of animal oddities, and even ended up on the cover of Time and Life magazines. During the height of Mike’s popularity, he ended up taking in more than $4,500 a month with admission prices, which would equal roughly $50,000 today.
It all ended in March of 1947, when Mike started choking in the middle of the night. The Olsens could not save him in time because they had mistakenly left their cleaning and feeding syringes at the sideshow the previous day. Theories were stated that Mike’s severed trachea was unable to take in air properly, and he choked as a result.
After Mike’s death, it was revealed that he was capable of living after his life-changing accident due to a clot that prevented him from bleeding to death. And since most of his brain stem was still intact, controlling basic functions such as breathing, heart-rate and reflexes, he was able to live a miraculous life.
To this day, the legend of Mike the Headless Chicken still lives on. The annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” is still held in Fruita, Colorado on the third weekend of May. Such events as “Pin the head on the chicken” and the “5K run like a headless chicken race” are held to commemorate a bird who truly made an impact in the bizarre and twisted subculture of sideshow animals. And to think how different the world would be if Mrs Olsen decided to make lambchops for dinner instead…
You can find out more about Mike on his official website miketheheadlesschicken.org, including photos, video and more information.