The Headless Chicken Who Lived For Over A Year!

Mike the cockerel was your usual chicken. He pecked at everything, nibbled around and pooped everywhere. Until one day everything changed for him.

Lloyd Olsen, a farmer of Fruita, Colorado maintained a farm of cattle and poultry. A clutch of Wyandotte eggs hatched on April 20, 1945 on his farm. Among those chicks was Mike. Of course he did not have a name till he became famous. Till then, Mike was a happily growing chicken on the Olsen farm. But all chickens eventually become the family’s meal someday.

That day arrived on September 10, 1945 when Mrs. Olsen decided to have chicken meat for dinner and told Lloyd to get one. He chose Mike, then a five and a half year old cockerel. He got on the gory job of beheading the chicken with an axe. But alas! The chicken was alive even after its head was cut off! Since the bird was alive, the farmer decided to let go of the chicken and instead began to care for him.

Mike walked clumsily after losing his head. Of course he was blind. Incredibly, the axe had detached his head but missed the jugular vein; hence he did not lose much blood. One ear was intact and so was most of the brain stem. This kept him alive since the primary bodily functions of breathing, heart rate and reflexes are maintained by the brain stem. Mike was also able to preen, peck and crow to a minimal extent. The farmer fed him a mixture of milk and water through an eyedropper. He also gave him small grains of corn.

The Olsens cashed in on this improbable life and began to exhibit Mike in fairs and exhibitions and toured the country. He was kept on display and allowed to be viewed at 25 cents per person. At the height of his popularity, Mike earned his owners a whopping 4,500$ a month, which today converts to 48,300$! Mike was also on the cover of the Time and Life magazines!

Unfortunately, all life must end. And the unbelievable second life of Mike came to an end on September 10, 1945 when the Olsens were staying at a motel during a tour. During that night, Mike choked on a kernel of corn in his throat and died. The Olsens would have been able to revive Mike if they had the syringes, but unfortunately they had left them at the show.

How much pain did he go through after losing his head? How difficult was it for him without eyesight, complete hearing, without being able to eat by himself? We will not know. Would it have been better for him if Mike had lost his life when he was beheaded? Probably. He is still remembered today though. Every 3rd weekend of May from 1999 in Fruita, Colorado is celebrated as the “Mike, the Headless Chicken Day”.


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