Mike the Headless Chicken

November 13th, 2018

On September 10, 1945 Lloyd Olsen of Fruita Colorado was sent out to the yard by his wife to get dinner. Lloyd took the first chicken he found, swung the axe down and chopped the chicken’s head off. But much to his surprise, the chicken did not die but moved around the yard dancing without his head until he was so tired that he went and sat next to his chicken friends on the perch. Alive! He even attempted to preen and crow. It was a miracle!

Lloyd Olsen decided to give a name to his headless Chicken: Mike, and to take care of him feeding him a mixture of milk and water with an eyedropper.

He began touring with Mike in sideshows where he was on display to the public for the admission price of twenty-five cents. Once he got used to the new and unusual balancing act, Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling. His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat, leaving him unable to crow at dawn. Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck.

At the height of his popularity, he was earning $4,500 a month and was photographed for both Time and Life magazines which made him famous around the country. His success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheadings, but no other chicken ever lived more than a day or two.

In March 1947, at a motel in Phoenix while traveling home from tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night. The Olsens had inadvertently left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day before and were unable to save him.

After Mike’s death, it was determined that the axe had missed the carotid artery 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 (breathing, heart-rate, etc.) as well as most of a chicken’s reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy.