Mike the Headless Chicken, also known as Miracle Mike, was a Wyandotte chicken who lived for 18 months afτᴇr his head had been cut off. This seemingly unbelievable story is true, and the bird’s owner even took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to establish the facts.
On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken for supper with his mother-in-law. Olsen chose a five-and-a-half-month-old Wyandotte chicken named Mike. The axe removed most of the head, but missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact.
Due to Olsen’s failed attempt to behead Mike, the chicken was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. He attempted to preen, peck for food, and crow, though with limited success; his “crowing” consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat. When Mike did not die, Olsen instead decided to care for the bird. He fed it a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper, and gave it small grains of corn and worms.
Once his fame had been established, Mike began a career of touring sideshows in the company of other creatures, such as a two-headed baby. He was also photographed for dozens of magazines and papers, and was featured in Time and Life magazines. Mike was put on display to the public for an admission cost of 25 cents. At the height of his popularity, the chicken’s owner earned US$4,500 per month ($50,500 today); Mike was valued at $10,000.
In March 1947, while on tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night at a motel in Phoenix. He had managed to get a kernel of corn in his throat, and the Olsens were unable to save him as they had inadvertently left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day bᴇforᴇ. Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike still touring the country as late as 1949. Other sources say that the chicken’s severed trachea could not properly take in enough air to be able to breathe, and it therefore choked to death in the motel.bᴇforᴇ. Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike still touring the country as late as 1949. Other sources say that the chicken’s severed trachea could not properly take in enough air to bebᴇforᴇ. Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike
It was determined that the axe had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was severed, most of his brain stem and one ear were left on his body. Since basic functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and most reflex actions, are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy. This is a good example of central motor generators enabling basic homeostatic functions to be carried out in the absence of higher brain centers.
Today, Mike the Headless Chicken is an institution in Fruita, Colorado, with an annual “Mike the Headless Chicken Day,” the third weekend of May, starting in 1999. Events held include the “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.