The Strange but True case of Mike the Headless Zombie Chicken - Mystery Files

Mike the Zombie Chicken - Sans Head
Mike the Zombie Chicken - Sans Head | Source

A True Horror Story

I can remember as a child being horrified and fascinated by tales of farmyard chickens having their heads chopped off by the farmer, in readiness for a Sunday dinner, and hearing that the now headless chicken's body would continue to run around the yard for a couple of seconds until it ran out of blood.

I had always suspected that such tales of horror were merely concocted by adults in order to entertain children with macabre tales of slightly comical horror.

I was flabbergasted to discover as an adult that such tales were actually true - A decapitated chicken can indeed run around for some seconds without the benefit of it's head.

The Zombie Chicken

But how long do you think a decapitated chicken could survive and walk about?

A minute?

An Hour?

A Day?

How about a year and a half? Yes, you read that correctly - A year and a half! I am going to tell you the true story of a zombie chicken who had it's head cut off, and not only did the chicken survive, but it also acquired fame and a stage career to boot!

The young Wyandotte rooster who was to achieve fame as "Mike the Headless Wonder" began life as an ordinary farmyard chicken in Fruita, Colorado, USA. The date was September 10th 1945. The war had just ended, and although Mike had come through the conflict without a scratch, his days were nevertheless numbered.

The farmer Lloyd Olsen, was having a friend over for dinner. The friend was partial to chicken, and especially chicken neck. The farmer strode into his yard and selected the sacrifice for the forthcoming dinner - it was Mike.

The chicken was to be dispatched with an axe and the farmer, in defference to his guests gastronomic peccadilloes tried to leave as much neck as possible by chopping very close to the skull. The axe fell, and Mike's headless body scurried off into the farmyard - he was left for dead.

The next morning, the farmer came to collect the body for cooking, but was astonished to find mike sleeping with the other chickens, his head (or at least it's neck) tucked under it's wing. On "Awakening", mike continued to strut about the yard, attempting to groom and scratching and foraging for food in the dirt.

In his attempt to leave maximum neck on the bird, his executioner had left a fragment of brain-stem attached to it's spine, and this was enough to allow the chicken to continue, sans head, in the manner to which it had become accustomed. The Zombie Chicken was born.

Mike the Zombie chicken, scratching around
Mike the Zombie chicken, scratching around | Source

Mike the Zombie Chicken finds Fame and Fortune.

His astonished owner abandoned all thoughts of dispatching the Zombie bird and instead, did his best to keep him going. Feeding is very difficult when you have no head, so the farmer fed Mike with an eye-dropper, dripping the sustenance into the orifice in the birds neck.

When word first travelled about the "Headless Wonder Chicken" there were suspicions that it might be a hoax. This prompted Lloyd Olsen to take the bird to Salt lake City where it's authenticity was established by the University of Utah.

Mike grew big and strong, putting on weight until he reached eight pounds. Word spread quickly about the Zombie bird, and people flocked to see the "Headless Wonder Chicken" and were happy to pay 25 cents a pop to see the phenomenon.

Zombie Bird Mike became an entertainment sensation and embarked on a tour of the USA. He became such a hot property that he was insured for the sum of $10,000.

The Sad Final Demise of the Zombie Chicken

Although Mike had coped well with having no head, the fact that his neck was topped only with a fleshy orifice, unguarded by beak or tongue, open to the air - and infection, took it's toll.

The bird was, unsurprisingly, prone to choking, and this was usually remedied by his owners clearing the passage by means of an eye-dropper. However, one night the encrustation and inflammation on the neck made the opening impossible to find.

And so Mike, The Zombie Chicken, eighteen months after his decapitation, finally slipped away, leaving behind the legend of "Mike. The Headless Wonder Chicken"

Zombie Chicken - The Post Mortem

After Mikes demise, a Post Mortem examination (Autopsy) was carried out on the bird. It found that the Axe blow had missed the carotid artery, and the rest of the wound quickly clotted preventing Mike from bleeding to death.

Although his head had been removed, a large portion of brain stem (and one ear) remained. Because the brain stem controls basic functions such as heart beat, breathing, reflex-actions etc. this allowed the chicken to continue in the way he did.

Mike the chicken continues to be celebrated in his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, where they hold an annual "Mike the headless chicken" day on every third weekend of May. The festivities consist of games, events and music.

Mike the Zombie chicken may be gone - But he is not forgotten.

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Comments 25 comments

Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

Now I have seen chickens with heads cut off and I am sure at many different locations and I must tell you I do not believe this tale. But it was entertaining.


QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 5 years ago

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ pollyannalana - It is hard to believe I know, but it is well documented. Check out this wikipidea link for more info:

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ QuidsiaP1 - It is indeed.

Electro-Denizen profile image

Electro-Denizen 5 years ago from Wales, UK

Wow! Grim though. I read a human decapitation story once, relating to the guillotine. A doctor at the time was intrigued as to how long someone could live without a body. Apparently, someone he knew was due to be executed, and he shouted the person's name into his bodiless head a while afterward. Apparently, there was a look of recognition in the person's face.

This is of course, an opposite story to the chicken :-)

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Electro-Denizen - Grim it is! - I'm going to have to find some lighter stuff to write about ;)

Skeptimommy 5 years ago

I actually live in Colorado and have been to this festival, so it was hilarious for me to find this HUB. Everything in it is actually true. Great job!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

That is insane! I have heard tales of chickens running around with their heads cut off, but a chicken living for over a year with no head is astonishing! If I am ever in Colorado, I will have to check out the zombie chicken festival - that has to be the most bizarre festival in the nation!

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Skeptimommy - Thanks for the confirmation - I'm sure people think I made this all up. Lol!

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@Leahlefler - I think it's official title is the "Mike the Headless Chicken Day" - Not that it makes it any the less bizzare.

Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan

I feel a bit queasy now!

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Brie Hoffman - Best not have chicken for lunch then ;)

Literary Geisha profile image

Literary Geisha 5 years ago from Philippines

poor thing. i guess if PETA had already existed then, Mike would have been put to sleep. you reckon? :)

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Literary Geisha - I'm guessing you're right, although I suppose it's arguable whether something with no brain can experience pain or discomfort (or indeed anything).

samantha stacia profile image

samantha stacia 5 years ago from Arizona

For years I would stumble upon this story and wouldn't really read the details but finally checked out your article. With the biological explanation there's no reason to believe otherwise since people saw him being fed by a dropper and was checked out by official investigation. Its just so so sad, I actually feel bad for the lil chicken.

Samantha Stacia

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ samantha stacia - I too felt sorry for the poor little thing, although I'm guessing that without a brain, it was little more that an automaton and was unable to feel pain or discomfort.

Joyful Read profile image

Joyful Read 5 years ago from Boise, ID

Strange... but AWESOME!

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Joyful Read - Yes. There are some stories out there that are truly stranger than fiction.

skye2day profile image

skye2day 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Yikes. Yuks. Goes to show that some will market anything for a nickle. Too much fun or not?? I am not sure. I dont know if I am going to laugh or be sick. A bit of both I believe. This took allot of courage to write I do not think I could have done the research. JK NOT!!

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ skye2day - True. If there is a way to make money out of something (tragic or not), then someone somewhere will do it.

Zzyzackis 5 years ago

It's true. I used to live near Fruita and worked as a reporter for The Daily Sentinel, the largest newspaper in the region. When I heard about the chicken, I had to investigate -- and it's all authenticated. Strange as it seems, believe it.

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@ Zzyzackis - Thanks for the confirmation.

profile image

jenubouka 5 years ago

Truly amazing! Though I have witnessed chickens running with heads cut off on a normal basis. Also know as the kitchen staff running a muck with a full restaurant and freaking out, and we got the hen house in the front with the wait staff, which is probably more likely to resemble the first moments of the decapitating.

I may take a break from chicken for awhile, well at least whole chickens :)

Gaizy profile image

Gaizy 5 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK Author

@jenubouka - Yes, it's enough to put you off chicken for good.

Aj 4 years ago

Science is awesome! Doubt you will ever see PETA on a farm though. Farm life is a world of reality only the hardened can muster, my great-grandmother lived on a farm her whole life and she is still the toughest ladies I have ever known or met... :)

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