Monday, 27 December 2010

Mike the Headless Chicken: Decapitated chicken survives for 18 months

Image showing Miracle Mike, a headless chicken that survived for two years in the 1940s
Mike the Headless Chicken
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Gallus
Species: Gallus Gallus
Common Name: Mike the Headless chicken, Miracle Mike
Born: April 1945
Died: March 1947
Owner: Lloyd Olsen

Everyone has heard that headless cockroaches can survive for days or even weeks. But how about a chicken? Can a decapitated chicken survive for days or even weeks? Sounds  impossible, however there is a story of a decapitated chicken that actually survived for 18 straight months!

Today, we will see the story of Mike the Headless Chicken (also known as Miracle Mike), a Wyandotte rooster born in April 1945. Back in his days, Mike became really famous due to surviving for almost two years after being decapitated!

You may think that the story is a hoax, as many did back then. However, the chicken was examined by scientists at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City while it was still alive and the story has been verified to be 100 % real.

Mike's Beheading - How it all started
On September 10, 1945 somewhere in Fruita, Colorado, U.S, a farmer named Lloyd Olsen had supper with his mother-in-law, when his wife Clara asked him to go out to the yard to get a chicken.

He chose a five-and-a-half-month-old rooster named Mike. Lloyd took his axe and beheaded the animal. However, his aim was a bit off and he missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. This was the day that Olsens' and Mike's life changed once and for all. Experts agree that normally, this should prove to be a fatal blow. But this was not the case with Mike. Mike was a fighter, or just very lucky.

At first, Mike staggered a bit, like many chickens do after being decapitated. Time passed but Mike was still alive. He continued to breath and walk. He was even able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily. He even tried to preen and crow, without being able to do either as he had no beak, whereas his "crowing" was a gurgling sound made through the throat.

Mike couldn't feed by himself so Olsen used an eye dropper to feed Mike with a mixture of milk and water and also fed him very small grains of corn.

Video Excerpt from a documentary about Mike the Headless Chicken

Mike's road to Fame
Olsen was a smart man and he quickly consulted a manager. Soon after, Mike became very famous and he began a career of touring sideshows, along with other bizarre creatures of the time, including a two-headed calf.

He was photographed and featured by numerous magazines and newspapers, including Life and the Time. Olsen had Mike on display to the public for an admission cost of twenty five cents, earning at his career pick about 4,500 $ / month. This in today's money translates to roughly 48,000 $ per month.

Mike's Death
In March 1947, after returning from a tour, Mike died at a motel in Phoenix. Reportedly, the chicken started to choke in the middle of the night. Olsen had left his cleaning syringes and other equipment at the sideshow and was inadvertently unable to clear his throat and save his life.

Excerpt from Ripley's believe it or not about Mike

Is this story actually real? Sounds more like a hoax
A week after Mike's decapitation, Olsen took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, curious why and how his rooster survived the fatal blow. Olsen also brought a jar containing the rest of Mike's head and brain.

The scientists who examined the chicken concluded that the axe had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death, adding that since most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, Mike managed to somehow remain relatively healthy.

It's no wonder that Olsen's monetary success resulted in a wave of copycats, beheading their chickens in a similar fashion to Olsen.  It seems all "efforts" were in vain, as no-one else claimed to have a long-lived, headless chicken.

Mike's Legacy
Mike's legacy is continued by the Mike the Headless Chicken institution in Fruita, Colorado, which holds every third weekend of May the annual "Mike the Headless Chicken Day" in the same place, since 1999. The festival features several events, including:
  • 5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race
  • Egg toss
  • Pin the Head on the Chicken
  • Chicken Cluck-Off
  • Chicken Bingo

Mike is also the inspiration for a relatively unknown, poultry-themed comedy punk band "The Radioactive Chicken Heads", serving as the subject of their 2008 song "Headless Mike". Here's a music video of the song:

As shown in the video, the band features a Headless Mike puppet, which makes frequent appearances in the live shows.

Related Links


  1. Im sad for mike

  2. he is very scary I am going to have bad dresm for the rest of my life

  3. What the, that looks so weird an scare it looks like a headless zombiw chicken

  4. the chicken was alive because the brain stem was still attached to his body. he can move etc but doesnt have a personality or feelings etc...