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or those that haven’t lived on a farm, the myth of chickens still living a few seconds after having their heads chopped off is actually true, but living a whole year is another story. This is the story of a young rooster that became famous from 1945 to 1946. So famous that it even has its own memorial website where people celebrate the wonder rooster every year on the first weekend of June.

How Mike became headless

On the 10th of September, 1945, Lloyd Olsen, a farmer from Fruita, Colorado, wanted to prepare the evening meal as his mother-in-law was coming to visit. When looking at what chicken to pick for dinner he went for young Mike (as named by Olsen) as he looked about the right size.

As Clara Olsen (the wife) prepared the fryer, Lloyd was getting ready to give Mike an express ticket to the afterlife. Lloyd was a somewhat experienced farmer who had decapitated many chickens beforehand so this wasn’t his first rodeo. With a skillful chop of his ax, he decapitated Mike and as normal the animal was flinching for a few seconds. After a few seconds, Mike sat down as if nothing had happened whilst still moving his neck.

Mike the Headless Chicken with his head that had been cut of months before (Source: www.miketheheadlesschicken.org)

The Olsen family watched all day in shock as the rooster moved around as if his head was still there. On the second day after the decapitation, Mike tried to eat some corn from the ground as if he still had a head. Seeing this, Lloyd decided to spare him and let him live the way he was.

Living headless for 18 months

As you can see from the image, Mike was able to survive for so long because Lloyd missed the jugular vein on the rooster’s neck and only hacked off his face and a small part of his brain. Mike wasn’t able to eat by himself so the farmers would feed him by stuffing corn down his neck as well as water with a tube. Interestingly enough, Mike managed to put on 2lbs whilst decapitated.

Soon after the word got out, the Guinness World Records came to see Mike for themselves. This brought even more attention and everyone from Colorado was gathering at the small farm to see Mike. The rooster even got its own manager and started going on tours around America (New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlantics City) where he would host shows for people to see him for 25 cents. Lloyd Olsen signed a contract with this manager for $10,000 (with inflation that is $147,000 today), whilst receiving $4,000 every month.

Photo of Mike the headless chicken from the Life Magazine (Source: The Gazette)

Scientists even had a closer look at Mike and concluded that this was no miracle, but the farmer only chopping off the rooster’s face whilst missing the neck or the brain which still allowed him to move. As the brain was not affected much by the “decapitation” Mike was able to live a healthy life until one night when he was on his famous tour and choked to his death.

This actually happens more often than we think, however, the media does not really report such news anymore. There was even a case not long ago where a chicken had most of its head chopped off and still managed to live for nine days. Despite all this, it is interesting to see how despite having his face chopped off, Mike still lived quite a long period of time for a rooster.

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