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Severance Pays

Updated on November 9, 2014

Mike The Headless Chicken

There have been days when we have all felt like we’d lose our head if it wasn't attached to our necks. Sadly for a Fruita, Colorado chicken named Mike, his head was separated from his neck and he did in fact lose it. He ran about, as chickens without heads are wont to do, but instead of falling over dead after realizing that this is no way to live, Mike shook off the ax's kiss and went about his lifelong pastime of looking for food. It did prove difficult for him as his eyes were still attached to that part of his body that was no longer part of his body. This did not deter Mike and he went on to live eighteen long and glorious months…without a head.

Lloyd Olsen, the farmer whose stubborn chicken declined to become Sunday dinner, was puzzled by Mike’s blatant refusal to fall over dead like a good fowl, figured that if Mike’s will to live was that strong, who was he to stand in his way. He continued to feed Mike grain and water with an eyedropper and eventually got curious enough to go and seek answers to the mystery that was Mike. He took the Wyandotte rooster to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where some initially skeptical scientists ruffled the chicken’s feathers in an attempt to unravel the mystery. It was concluded that the ax has narrowly missed Mike’s jugular vein and a clot had almost immediately formed, thereby stanching the flow of blood. Most of Mike’s brain stem and one ear remained intact and with a chicken’s autonomic reflex actions being controlled by the brain stem, Mike remained a cheerful chicken.

Mike became a national celebrity and in 1946, he went on a national tour. Since he had no head for business, Mike took on a manager and, along with the Olsens, traveled across the country to be gawked at in such exotic American locales as New York, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Mike was featured in newspapers and even appeared in the magazines Life and Time. He must have felt like the cock of the walk as an unending flock of fans inevitably lined up to see him and he was eventually valued and insured for $10,000. He grew from a scrawny 2 ½ pounds to almost eight pounds during his eighteen month heyday, but it came to an end all too soon. After returning from one of his appearances, Mike’s esophagus became blocked and Lloyd Olsen was unable to find the eyedropper to clear it in time. Even in death, Mike proved that he was still able to give some of himself to humanity. He was delicious.

Mike’s legacy lives on to this day as Fruita pays homage to this headless hero of the henhouse with a festival in his honor. There is a Chicken Dance competition, chicken games, a chicken recipe contest, lots of fried chicken and, of course, the Run Like A Chicken With Your Head Cut Off 5K race. For more information, pictures, video and merchandise, just go to


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    • misterhollywood profile image

      John Hollywood 3 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Informative hub!