Photo of Mike
|First Sighting||April 1945|
|Last Sighting||March 1947|
Beheading and "Resurrection"
On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, United States, had his mother-in-law around for supper and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen chose a five-and-a-half-month-old cockerel named Mike. The ax missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. Despite Olsen's botched handiwork, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily; he even attempted to preen and crow, although he could do neither. When the bird did not die, a surprised Mr. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn.
When used to his new and unusual center of mass, 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. Mike also spent his time attempting to preen and peck for food with his neck.
Once his fame had been established, Mike began a career of touring sideshows in the company of such other creatures as a two-headed calf. He was also photographed for dozens of magazines and papers, featuring in Time and Life magazines. Mike was on display to the public for an admission cost of twenty five cents. At the height of his popularity, the chicken earned US$4,500 per month ($48,000 in 2010 dollars) and was valued at $10,000. Olsen's success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheading, but no other chicken lived for more than a day or two. September 10th, 1945 finds a strapping (but tender) young rooster pecking through the dust of Fruita, Colorado. The unsuspecting bird had never looked so delicious as he did that, now famous, day. Clara Olsen was planning on featuring the plump chicken in the evening meal. Husband Lloyd Olsen was sent out, on a very routine mission, to prepare the designated fryer for the pan. Nothing about this task turned out to be routine. Lloyd knew his mother-in-law would be dining with them and would savor the neck. He positioned his ax precisely, estimating just the right tolerances, to leave a generous neck bone. "It was as important to suck-up to your mother-in-law in the 40's as it is today." A skillful blow was executed and the chicken staggered around like most freshly terminated poultry.
Then the determined bird shook off the traumatic event and never looked back. Mike (it is unclear when the famous rooster took on the name) returned to his job of being a chicken. He pecked for food and preened his feathers just like the rest of his barnyard buddies.
When Olsen found Mike the next morning, sleeping with his "head" under his wing, he decided that if Mike had that much will to live, he would figure out a way to feed and water him. With an eyedropper Mike was given grain and water. It was becoming obvious that Mike was special. A week into Mike's new life Olsen packed him up and took him 250 miles to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City . The skeptical scientists were eager to answer all the questions regarding Mike's amazing ability to survive with no head. It was determined that ax blade had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was in a jar, most of his brain stem and one ear was left on his body. Since most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem Mike was able to remain quite healthy.
18 MONTHS that Mike lived as "The Headless Wonder Chicken" he grew from a mere 2 1/2 lbs. to nearly 8 lbs. In an interview, Olsen said Mike was a "robust chicken - a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head." Miracle Mike took on a manager, and with the Olsens in tow, set out on a national tour. Curious sideshow patrons in New York , Atlantic City , Los Angeles , and San Diego lined up to pay 25 cents to see Mike. The "Wonder Chicken" was valued at $10,000 and insured for the same. His fame and fortune would earn him recognition in Life and Time Magazines. It goes without saying there was a Guinness World Record in all this. While returning from one of these road trips the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert. In the middle of the night Mike began to choke. Unable to find the eyedropper used to clear Mike's open esophagus Miracle Mike passed on.
It was proposed by tabloids and news-clips that Mike was no ordinary chicken. One tabloid even stated that the reason Mike survived the beheading was because it was an different type of bird, as nearly all chickens do not survive beheading; with Mike as the only known example.
Later on, it was proposed that Mike may have been a type of mutation, which had a different brain structure than the typical Wyandotte Chicken. Mutations in chickens have reoccurred naturally since the domestication of the chicken. These mutations, once noticed by herdsman, are cultivated and reproduced as breeds. Many of theses breeds are mutations of the types of chicken. From China to Norway, all breeds of chicken are in the same subspecies (Gallus gallus domesticus); however, their genetic makeups are all quite different. Whether Mike had a mutation that effected the brain is unknown. Unfortunately the whereabouts of his remains are unknown; it is believed that mike was eaten or sold to be eaten by his owner.
Historic accounts state that Mike resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheading, in which the chickens were beheaded in the same manner as Mike. None of these other chickens lived for more than a day or two, indicating that Mike's survival may have been attributed to a genetic mutation rater than just the way he was cut.
- http://miketheheadlesschicken.org/ for more information.