On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, United States, had his mother-in-law around for supper. He went out to chop off a rooster for supper and choose a five and a half months cockerel called Mike. But destiny had other plans for Mike. Olsen chopped off Mike’s head but Mike didn’t seem to mind it all that much! He went around pecking for food headless and even attempted to preen and crow, though he could do neither. So how did Miracle Mike survive after being beheaded?

Mike: The Headless Chicken
Mike: The Headless Chicken

Though most of Mike’s head was cut off; the axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. And a clot prevented Mike from bleeding to death. The chicken with no head was able to survive because basic functions like breathing, heart rate and most of chicken’s reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem.

Miracle Mike being fed
Miracle Mike being fed

Lloyd Olsen was amazed by the incident and decided to care permanently for Miracle Mike. He fed him a mixture of milk and water through an eyedropper. He also gave him small grains of corn. Mike now had an unusual centre of mass and could get to highest perches without falling.

After featuring in several magazines and newspapers, Miracle Mike became famous. He was on display to the public for a cost of twenty five cents. At the height of his popularity he earned US$ 4,500 per month. He was valued at $10,000 and many people tried to copy the beheading of Miracle Mike but none of the chicken survived for more than 2 days. Mike, the chicken with no head, went on to live for 18 months after being beheaded.

Miracle Mike was added to the Guinness Book of Records, became the subject of a documentary and featured in Life and Time magazines. Since 1999, “Mike the Headless Chicken Day” is celebrated every year on the third weekend in May in Fruita, Colorado.

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